. . . if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7.14)

Most of us are familiar with that verse.  But it’s significant that the “i” in the first word ,“if”, is not capitalized.  This verse completes the previous verse:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people . . .  (2 Chronicles 7.13)

That word “pestilence” refers to an illness – a spreading epidemic, if you will.  Fast-spreading illness, the LORD told Solomon, can be a divinely sent messenger to stir an apathetic people and revive them spiritually.

Pestilence can also be a divine judgment, a punishment for sin.  King David had taken a census (presumably taking pride in the power of numbers) and God punished the whole nation for it.  David was to pick his poison:  three years of famine, three months of military defeat, or three days of pestilenceDavid took Door #3 – the pandemic – saying,
            “I am in great distress.  Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercy
              is great;  but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
  (2 Samuel 24.14)

A wave of illness ripped through Israel for three days, leaving 70,000 dead.  If that pandemic had persisted for two years at the same rate it would have slaughtered 8.5 million people!

Centuries later Hezekiah, David’s 11th great-grandson (that’s 11 great’s), was trapped in Jerusalem, besieged by the most fearsome war machine of the time, the Assyrian army.  Hezekiah trusted God, prayed for divine intervention, and in the morning found Jerusalem surrounded – by 185,000 Assyrian corpses (2 Kings 19.35). 

The biblical text says they had been stricken “by the angel of the LORD” (“angel” means messenger), and most biblical scholars take this “messenger” to be a lethal illness that providentially decimated the Assyrian army at just the right time to answer Hezekiah’s prayer. 

We know by experience and history how lethal such illness can be, wiping out large segments of a population in a brief time.

But was it only the invisible world of microbes at work by chance?  Or was there another invisible world at work utilizing the invisible world of microbes?

We often take literally the imagery of visions describing God’s judgment and so we expect burning stars falling from heaven and demonic stinging locusts rising from smoking pits. 

But divine judgment upon Israel usually showed itself in natural occurrences – war, famine, and pestilence – these three things the prophets regularly insisted were the tools of the God of Israel, not only to punish evil, but to call men (especially His own lethargic people) to humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways.

We are experiencing more than just illness.  The deaths caused by the virus are unsettling.  But beyond that, economies are shaking, governments are shaking,  national stabilities are shaking, the mental stability of people is shaking. 

Hearts are shaking.

Who is really doing the shaking?