Wherever we look in the news, the headlines are about COVID-19 and Coronavirus. This infection seems to spread with ease, and measures taken by the authorities (some of them drastic) have done little to stop the virus reaching many countries. Scientists are working at full speed to find a vaccine; already over-stretched hospitals are challenged even more to treat patients, and governments wrestle with action plans to reduce the spread. It’s not quite panic – although behaviour in some supermarkets suggests otherwise – but there is worry and concern.
God in His mercy made provision in the Law of Moses, 3500 years ago, to protect against infection diseases. This included making a separation between clean and unclean animals (Leviticus 11). Like ebola, coronavirus started from people handling and eating bats.
Poor hygiene has been responsible for its spread. By contrast, washing is emphasised over and over in the Bible (Leviticus 11:24-38) along with quarantine measures for those who contract disease. The current outbreak is the consequence of people ignoring God's laws. Now, of course, Health Authorities are urging people to wash their hands as the key to reducing the contagion.
(There are spiritual lessons in this, of course, for we are all ‘unclean’ and need to be washed from sin - see Psalm 51:7; John 13:8; Ephesians 5:25,26.)
When telling the disciples about events which would precede his return, Jesus listed diseases, or pestilences, as one of the many signs that would come during ‘a time of trouble, such as never has been’ (Daniel 12:1):
“There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences.” (Luke 21:11)
Any suffering is unpleasant, and those with loved ones who are struck down by this virus, or affected themselves, need our sympathy and help.
But the message from the Lord Jesus is that faithful believers need not worry as others do. We are not immune from this infection. But we know we can trust in God’s plan to deal with illness and suffering - when Jesus returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. If we are washed clean by baptism into Jesus, at His return he will give us new life – a life free of suffering and disease.