This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)
The coronavirus pandemic has, if nothing else, revealed to us the fragility of life. It has challenged the things we held as unchangeable, unbreakable and impenetrable. And it has caused us to re-evaluate our priorities in light of the newly-underscored reality that anything can change…and it can change in an instant. All the wisdom of man and medical expertise is, as of yet, unable to come up with a cure or even a speedy treatment. The wealth of great men and nations has not prevented economies from grinding to a halt in only a matter of days. And powerful men, like even the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, have shown themselves to be just as susceptible to this illness and disease as the humble factory worker living in a hut somewhere in the Chinese mountains.
Jeremiah faced a similar situation. The Lord would judge the kings and people of Israel because they had forsaken Him and rejected dependence upon their Maker, and had considered themselves immune to sudden disaster. They trusted in their intellect, their military strength, their wealth, their religious systems, their leaders, rather than casting themselves upon the One who had always promised to carry them, protect them, and be with them in trouble. Through Jeremiah, God reminds Israel (and us!) that no amount of boasting or dependence upon our modern science and understanding, our bank account and investment balances, or our personal or national strength and power, will insulate us in a day of real trouble.
God exhorts Israel (and us!) to look again. To reevaluate her priorities. To take stock of her situation. To consider carefully upon what systems or assets she has placed her trust up until this point. And to come to the good, right, and life-saving conclusion that the best, wisest, most powerful, and most valuable treasure and refuge we could possess in this world—even the one about which we should ‘glory’ and boast openly—is our knowledge and understanding of God Most High. To understand His unchanging nature, to trust in His promises, and to depend upon His goodness even—especially—in times of trouble.
Did God ‘cause’ coronavirus? No! We do not serve a God Who creates evil. Is God ‘allowing’ coronavirus? Certainly. Why? To punish mankind? To teach the nations a lesson? To bring the world to the point of desperation such that they cry out to Him? To demonstrate His healing power? The truth is, we don’t know. But He tells us that what we can know—even the most valuable knowledge and understanding we can carry with us in this season of uncertainty—is that the Lord will always “exercise lovingkindness [mercy], judgment [perfect judgment] and righteousness in the earth.” For this is His glory. This is who He is.
Let’s take a hold of the invitation in Jeremiah in this unprecedented season where man’s wisdom, power, and riches are being tested and found wanting, to press into—and even boast with joy and confidence in—the knowledge of the unchanging character of God. May His character (compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness…longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to salvation and eternal life) fill us with hope, and may our knowledge of that character through faith and by His Spirit fill us with great joy and gratitude. For these things can never be taken away.