I saw this image on Facebook a few days ago and I have been giving some thought to the message it contains. We have experienced lockdown since half way through Lent, an important 40-day period of time in the Christian Calendar. It is impossible to say at the moment how long our ‘Stay Home’ period will last, but I suspect that we need to prepare for at least 40 days! During that period some of us will have caught the virus and some of us will have weathered some difficult storms, but God stays with us through it all.
40 is a significant number in Jewish-Christian scripture:
· In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
· The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God.
· Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai.
· Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.
What can we learn from these Bible events?
1. Noah walked with God and he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:9,22) God had a special task for him: he was to stay safe with his family inside the ark and he was to look after the animals that were placed in his care.
Our priority is to make sure we walk with God every day, regardless of how disconnected we feel in other ways and ask the Lord to write his Law on our hearts. Hebrews 8:10 says ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’
Take good care of your families at this time. Stay connected with the church family. Enjoy the wildlife that comes into your garden and take good care of the wonderful pets you have at home who are your constant companions.
2. The Hebrews wandered around the wilderness, often complaining to their leaders and frequently ignoring or disobeying the voice of God. Not all of them reached the promised land.
‘For the Israelites travelled for forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the warriors who came out of Egypt, perished, not having listened to the voice of the LORD. To them the LORD swore that he would not let them see the land that he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Joshua 5:6
Perhaps you have been giving some thought as to whether the COVID-19 virus is a plague sent to test us. John and Bernie gave us food for thought in their ‘Thought for the Day’. Lent is a time for self-reflection, confession and repentance. God is faithful and will forgive us for the times we have strayed in the wilderness. Intercede for our nation at this time – the people of Great Britain need to return to God! We need a new generation of Christians who are able to enter the Promised Land!
3. Moses’ fast was a time of special preparation before he received the Ten Commandments. During his time on Mount Sinai he talked with God and heard God speaking to Him.
During Lent, some of us choose to fast or give up something. The purpose of this should be that it helps us to draw closer to God, rather than being an end in itself, or thinking that our self-denial makes us more holy. We have more time for reflection when we are staying at home. Let us prepare ourselves for a greater awareness of God’s presence with us.
4. And Jesus Christ? What did his forty days in the wilderness signify? The imminent birth of a new Israel liberated from sin, reconciled to God, and governed by the law of the Spirit rather than a law chiselled in stone.
The temptation of Christ shows us the tactics of Satan, the evil one. Bread, a symbol for all that sustains our physical life, is a great blessing. But Satan tries to make material things the ultimate, distracting us from a deeper hunger and a more enduring food. During our period of lock-down we are realising the precariousness of relying on material wealth and how it is not necessarily the highest paid workers who do the most valuable work in our society.
Political power and all leadership are intended by God for the sake of serving the common good, but many leaders become self-seeking or even oppressive. Pray for our leaders and for all leaders throughout the world, that they will seek to serve the common good, especially during this time of crisis. Then there’s religious temptation, the trickiest of them all: using God’s gifts to make people look at us rather than at Him. In all we do, in lock-down and when we can be physically together again, let us worship God and serve only Him.
This time of lock-down could be with us for a while yet, so just hang in there and remember that God keeps his promises. After your confinement, when the ‘rain’ stops and the ocean of virus subsides, watch for the Rainbow!