Maybe the filter will become less focused as time passes, but for right now at least, can’t help but process things through a “we’re living through a natural disaster” set of lenses. “Unprecedented,” still a word that works. “Surreal,” still a feeling that persists. And that, I think, because of how we’re “suffering” as a first-world nation. While everything has been turned upside down, so much has kind of stayed the same.
Yeah, we’re sheltered in place, but how many of us are still working, though from home? We’re no longer gathering, but I still get face-to-face contact with friends, families, and study groups, though via video-conferencing. I’m isolated, but I’ve spent more time on the phone talking to people over the last couple of days than I don’t know when and that’s because, while still working, my calendar is less cluttered.
But there’s a sense of opportunity in all this, isn’t there? The opportunity to reflect, reassess, and as appropriate, realign. And, can’t help thinking, an opportunity, perhaps, for revival. To return to putting first things first. And should that happen in the church, it will be because we have been tested. Our focus tested. Our priorities tested. Our comfort tested. Our endurance tested. Our obedience tested. Our readiness to minister to those around us who are feeling the effects of this slow moving tsunami rolling through our land tested.
Reading in Judges this morning reminds me our God is a God of testing.
“Because this people have transgressed My covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed My voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.”
(Judges 2:20b-22 ESV)
After Joshua’s land-conquering generation, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel” (2:10). They’d had the promised land handed to them on a silver platter. As such, they had become loose with the things of God. Slack concerning the ways of God. Comfortable with rubbing shoulders with the enemies of God, even to the point of pursuing their way of life and their objects of worship.
And God loved them too much to leave them. And so, He declared an end to the “take the land” campaign and determined to no longer drive out those who Joshua had warned could be thorns in their sides and their gods a snare for their hearts (Josh. 1:11-13, Jud. 2:3).
And these thorns and snares would provide opportunity to test His people, testing whether or not they would respond by walking in The Way or continuing to walk in the world. And they would toughen up His people, teaching a generation that had never really known what it was to enter into battle how to battle with the Lord on their side (Josh. 3:1-2). ‘Cause our God, is a God of testing.
Not saying that God explicitly sent this virus to test His people, but I think we miss an opportunity if we aren’t at least open to God permitting this natural disaster to, among other things, awaken His people. To refocus His people. To reveal to His people how comfortable we’ve become living like the “nations around us.” To remind His people that we are to have no other gods but this God, the God of heaven and earth. To rebuild His people’s spiritual muscle as we enter the fray, whether the battle is against fear, or it becomes a daily determination to remain faithful.
I don’t know. I’m not God. But I am reminded that our God is a testing God. A refining God. A God who wants to present His Son’s bride to Him “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
“And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are My people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”
(Zechariah 13:9 ESV)
Refiner’s fire . . . my heart’s one desire . . . is to be holy . . . set apart for You, Lord. (Thanx Brian Doerksen).
Tested in His grace. Tested for His glory.