Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ebola may be out of control, but God is never out of control

I've reported on the Ebola outbreak in prior weeks. It is officially an epidemic now. The facts as reported in the past day or so are:
WaPo: Ebola, Portraits of Grief

--This outbreak is actually the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known. (CDC)
--CDC teams are deployed from the CDC 24/7 Emergency Operations Center (EOC), activated at Level 1, its highest level, because of the significance of this outbreak. (CDC)
--There have been more than 4,300 cases over the past six months. (source)
--More than 2,400 people have died from the virus (source)
--There has been a consistent mortality rate of 55.8% mortality rate. To compare, the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic had a 2.4% mortality rate.
--There is no approved cure in this outbreak. (source)
--Nations with cases in the current epidemic have been Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. (source)
--All 26 previously recorded outbreaks have been successfully contained largely by isolating patients but the WHO said cases would continue to rise for at least six more months in an epidemic that has jumped borders and erupted in urban areas. (source)

The above were the facts. Next are two published opinions about Ebola as stated in two articles that caught my eye. They are as follows:

What we're afraid to say about Ebola
THE Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done. There have been more than 4,300 cases and 2,300 deaths over the past six months. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that, by early October, there may be thousands of new cases per week in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. What is not getting said publicly, despite briefings and discussions in the inner circles of the world’s public health agencies, is that we are in totally uncharted waters and that Mother Nature is the only force in charge of the crisis at this time.
If I was to re-write the opening line and the closing line from a Christian perspective it would be:

THE Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to fulfill future history as much as any plague has ever done. ... What is not getting said publicly, despite briefings and discussions in the inner circles of the world’s public health agencies, is that we are in totally uncharted prophetic waters and that we finally understand that God and only God is in charge of the crisis at this time.

In first opinion piece, I was struck by the person's outlook that the people who are 'supposed to know what to do' ... don't know what to do. Unsolvable problems face the last generation before the Tribulation. How do I know this? Because the world's global problems are in such a Gordian knot that when the antichrist appears on the world stage with answers the world falls down in eagerness to listen to his solutions. (Luke 21:25, Daniel 11:21).

Secondly, of course the comment that Mother Nature is a force that's in charge is also interesting, in terms of how the unsaved look at it. Christians know that there is no Mother Nature. God is in control. But...is He sending plagues? Send Ebola? Would a loving God do that? More on that in a moment.

Here is opinion article #2. This is an Op-Ed from Dr Brantly, the American doctor in Western Africa who came down with Ebola, was evacuated to Atlanta's Emory Hospital for treatment and recovery. He has seen the epidemic from both sides, as doctor and as patient.

American Ebola survivor calls the outbreak "a fire straight from the pit of hell"
Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire-a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will keep the flames away from our shores. Instead, we must mobilize the resources needed to keep entire nations from being reduced to ashes.
What if I was to re-write the opening line to say, "Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire-a fire straight from bosom of heaven," would you charge me with being deluded about our "loving God"?

Today’s people, even Christians, have become so used to the concept of a God who is love-only, not love-and. As in, love and wrath, love and judgment, love and anger. All true Christians will proclaim God and not Mother Nature. But to proclaim a God who sends pestilence? Not so much.

I cannot say that God is sending Ebola specifically to West Africa, nor can I say He is sending it for this reason or that reason. I do not know the mind of God. But I know the character of God, and I know the history of God as it's revealed in the bible.

His character is such that in the past He has sent (or allowed) pestilences to consume Israel’s enemies. He has sent pestilence to consume Israel, to punish. Look at Habakkuk 3:4-5,

His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power. Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him. 6He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. (Habakkuk 3:4-5)

Matthew Henry commentary says of the verses,
After describing the splendour of the theophany, the prophet now turns to the purpose and effects of God's appearing. He comes to avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before him stalks plague, to punish his enemies and the disobedient, as in Egypt, in Canaan (Exodus 23:27; 1Samuel 5:9, 11); and among his own people (Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:37, etc.; Leviticus 26:25).

God could be directly sending this plague...pestilence...disease, whatever olde or modern word you want to use. Or He could be allowing satan to spread it. Or He could be allowing microbes to do what they do naturally, multiply. The reason I'm interested is because the doctors are saying it is the first Ebola epidemic in history, that there is no approved cure, and that it has such a high mortality rate.

There was a terrible outbreak of bubonic plague in the 1300s and in the 1600s. Modern science has put the likely death rate average over its entire geographic area at 45-50%. In the first of the two mentioned outbreaks, half of the population of Paris died. 40% of all of Egypt died. And so on. In the current Ebola epidemic, a 55.8% death rate is very high. The rapidity and potential geographic spread due to fast modes of travel makes the potentiality of seeing those rates and even higher arise again.

We do know that in the Tribulation there will be plagues that kill a quarter of mankind. (Revelation 6:8, Matthew 24:7).

The point of this essay is to point to who God is. Yes, God is love, but God is also wrath,. He hates sin above all.
God said in times past,

I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the LORD have spoken. (Ezekiel 5:17)

This occurred. Do we think that modern sanitation practices and shiny needles full of medicine would prevent such a plague from happening again? Do we think that we are any better people, that the LORD would not be angry with our sin? Our apostasy? Do we think that He would send plague to His own chosen people in Ezekiel times, but let us slide?

But if God was loving, why would He send this to us? Even to unbelievers who haven't had a chance to "accept Jesus" yet? Proverbs 1:25-26 says,

And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,

Matthew Henry again,
I also will laugh at your calamity,.... By way of retaliation, measuring measure for measure; even as they scorned him, and delighted in their scorning, now he in his turn will "laugh" at them and their distress; which act is ascribed to the Lord by an anthropopathy; see Psalm 2:4; signifying that he should not at all pity them, show no compassion to them, and have no mercy upon them; but rather express a pleasure and delight in displaying the glory of his justice in their destruction: the plain sense is, that no favour would be shown them,
He will glory in displaying His justice. That is also our God. The prophet Habakkuk says of Jesus in the Old Testament, Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him. He displays His love, and He displays His justice.

Ebola threatens to destroy Sierra Leone and Liberia
The virus is spreading like wildfire. A German Ebola expert tells Deutsche Welle, that it will not be possible to contain the virus with the measures that have been taken so far.
His statement might alarm many people. But Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he is losing hope, that Sierra Leone and Liberia will receive the necessary aid in time. Those are two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic. "The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed," he said. That time was May and June. "Now it will be much more difficult."
Justice? Punishment? God? We do not know specifically what God is doing but what we do know is that it is time to repent and fall at the feet of Jesus. Nationally and/or individually, the safest and most God-glorifying route is to acknowledge who God is, in all His aspects. Ask forgiveness of sins. That is the real enemy- sin. God hates it because it keeps His people from glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. Sin keeps us from His love.

Another aspect of God's personality is His forgiveness. Though the news about Ebola is dire, the best news of all is this

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


5 comments :

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I have read the articles you mentioned, as they grabbed my attention too. I have been watching this Ebola outbreak with great interest. Every time I see it in the news (daily) I think of the pestilence described in the Tribulation. If we are THAT close to the tribulation, this certainly could be the beginning of that particular judgment. Or, it could just be more significant birth pains.
    I do not agree with your suggestion that this is God directly. If that were the case, then the church would not still be here, as we cannot be here when His wrath is poured out. Now, I believe it very well could be that he is allowing this in some form, weather natural and unrestrained, or allowing Satan to spread it. I think it is one of those two.
    I feel so badly for all of those who are suffering. At the same time, things of this nature give me hope that our redemption is extremely close!

    ~Jennifer

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  2. Doing some reading in Jeremiah this week. Chapter 30 v 24 speaks of our Lord and His ways. Also chapter 5 v 31 covers those who taint the word as you discuss in the recent Mr. Joyner post.
    Let us pray for the lost and may grace be multiplied to those who rightly believe.

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    1. Thank you Anonymous! I appreciate the verses.

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  3. I can't believe that most nations are still allowing their planes to fly freely into and out of Ebola-infected zones, without quarantining travelers. It's almost as though TPTB want this disease to spread worldwide.

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    1. It's easy to screen for a gun, impossible to screen for a microbe. It's gonna spread...and it has. Traveling "to and fro" will only make it worse.

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