- “Don’t yell at grocery-store clerks! They’re trying their hardest to keep shelves stocked.”
- “To all truck drivers delivering supplies, thank you!”
- “Doctors and nurses are the real heroes!”
- “Take care of the elderly. Be kind. Think about others.”
Still, I can’t help thinking, ‘You don’t need a virus to act kind.’ We do well to always care for the weak and speak kindly to the cashier and treat the trucker well and appreciate officers, doctors, and teachers. That appreciation ought never change! If anything, crisis presents an opportunity to honestly re-evaluate behavior.
That’s what God accomplishes through crisis. Challenges push us to re-evaluate the priorities of life. To expose what the heart truly cherishes. To shed the harmful so that true good might flourish. Scripture makes clear: God Heals Hearts Torn Apart.
‘Torn apart’ might best describe today’s uneasiness. Just look around! Life lies in complete disarray! Wealth slips through fingers. The nation’s borders are under attack by a foreign threat. Leaders assemble for solutions and stability— but this is no coronavirus crisis management team. This is Israel’s king and Israel’s people scrambling for security and safety against the Assyrians.
Remember those guys? Assyria sits north of Israel in present-day Turkey and Iraq. They boasts the greatest, fiercest army of the day! An army that not only decimates, but also intimidates.
The Assyrians have a reputation for impaling captives— like, stick a pole up through you and out your mouth and plant that pole into the ground. If done right, you would die— days later. They also could skin captives— and so perfected the technique that they could keep you alive to the end. Assyria has not unleashed that army yet. For the time being King Tiglath-Pileaser III is content with threats. He dangles death before Israel’s eyes in exchange for tribute. (As long as Israel keeps giving him money, he will not destroy them.)
Now, he has squeezed too hard and siphoned too much! Israel will no longer shoulder this heavy burden. No! They plan partnering with piddly nation Damascus and pushing Assyria out!
Big mistake. The Assyrian fist tightens with might and force. Battle after battle tears out wealth, land, and life.
Where do you find safety and security in national crisis? Israel suggests a remedy. “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Those words sound good, but did you catch what was missing? An admission of guilt. No one confesses to shoving God aside. ‘God, we worshipped stones and sticks and people and prostitutes!’ ‘God, we relied on military might first instead of approaching you, the Mighty Warrior!’ ‘God, we got scared and trusted our brains.’ No one says that! Instead, each one approaches God with this mindless lip-service: ‘God, it’s me here. I know, it’s been a while, but please fix this mess. Thank you.’
What arrogant audacity! Everyone assumes God exists to fill life with pleasure. Like God is some powerful genie— there to act only when told. Say the right words and God will have no choice but to restore wealth, land, and life.
Except this time he doesn’t. One statement wipes the smug little grin from the proud, arrogant heart. I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone.’ Has that sunk in yet? What is truly important in life? Everything is being taken away! No school and school activities. No weekend sports and clubs. No shows and fairs and dining out. All those things consuming mass amounts of time are gone! Vanished!
That’s unsettling! Those incredible investments return no gains! Standing on the sideline Sunday morning, cheering as your [grand]son play ball cannot answer what happens when you die. The laziness that has kept you out of Sunday worship reaps unpreparedness and nervousness. The arrogance of thinking you know all there is to know about the Bible that you have kept it closed for years— has that decision provided much peace now? Since you know everything in the Bible, have you lived without a trace of fear? When all those supposed objects of security and status and pleasure are ripped away, when they’re all gone, it leads you to re-evaluate priorities.
Even if you have made time for worship, attended Bible class, read your devotions, have you always appreciated God’s Word? Right now you read these words at your dinner table or you watch the service from your chair. How does it feel to be away from your Christian friends who can encourage and cheer you through difficult times? How does it feel to be away from God’s church, away from the sights of his dear cross or from the sound of forgiveness? How does it feel to be hearing these words from a distance and not out loud, in person? Have you taken God’s presence for granted that you assumed you could go without the Word? Even if you remain in the Word, today allows for honest reflection of how well we took the Word to heart and how much we depend on God.
Forsaking the LORD causes misery. Separate from him and you have no answers for crisis, for life. To gain answers, you need the Word of the One who reigns over heaven and earth. In fact, our reading holds one little word easily overlooked. One little word restoring hope. That word? ‘LORD’ (all-capitals). That is not a typo; the capitalization is intentional. The ‘LORD’ (all-capitals) tells you: God is serious to punish and even more serious to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7).
That’s why our reading says what it does. Come, let us return to the Lord. The ‘LORD’ (all-capitals), the God who punishes, but also forgives. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. That ‘tearing’ and that ‘injuring’ does sting. Doctors discover cancer in you. They do not slap a band-aid on the spot or prescribe Tylenol. With scalpel in hand they cut out the tumor. It hurts. It’s not pleasant. Still, lingering pain powerfully reminds you that something deadly was removed.
Today, life hurts. Troubles rip away comforts and can reveal the many different objects our hearts foolishly worship. With those objects gone, we realize that they help us none. The lingering pain we feel today reminds you that something deadly was removed.
God tore away our misplaced priorities one-by-one and strapped them to Jesus. Then, he tore away health and strength and life away from his own Son. He injures Jesus to death and then turns away from him.
For two days the Lord of life lay in the tomb. The third day (Easter day!) he steps out— with a different message, a life-sustaining message: ‘Redeemed! Restored! Forgiven!’
Those sweet words are meant for you. Yes, even in a time such as this, when so many get sick and a virus spreads and no one knows when or where it might appear, these words belong to you. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. God has bandaged up our broken priorities. He has healed injuries inflicted by pride. He stands us healthy in his presence, under his protecting care, under his promise of life forever!
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. Returning to the Lord restores life.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” That’s how life feels spent in God’s Word, isn’t it?
Just like rains hitting the parched, cracked fields of corn or like warm spring rains hitting the dusty soil so that spring flowers might sprout and blossom!
Life fed by the Word springs life. A life delighting in sharing God’s Word with your children, watching them retell Jesus dying on the cross or explaining how God kept Daniel safe in a den of lions. A life confidently telling others that God holds you in his hands. He has healed you forever! What flourishing delight to share God’s comfort!
You gain a life of trust and security. So many hoarded toilet paper because they are scared. They are scared of getting sick, hurting, and dying. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html). God has blossomed in your heart greater comfort that toilet paper. He promises that you who believe in him never die. You live now and will one day walk directly into heaven itself!
God sprouts in you a life of peace and joy. Even though everything is torn away— public places, schools, community centers, and your church— you have lost nothing. You have not lost your God who always keeps his Word. The God who promised a Savior and then sent a Savior. A God who has kept you safe thus far through pandemic, a God who will keep your soul safe from hell. At the very heart and core of your being stands God, the One who rules your heart and fills it with peace. Returning to the Lord restores life.
A shortage exposes extra labors that often go unnoticed. People have always worked for our benefit, but especially now, we appreciate them.
Yet, do you need a virus to act kind? May that be a lesson learned.
May it be learned to evaluate the priorities of our lives so that we stand prepared for life ahead! So many panic and fear and despair because they have no idea what to do with their time now. Because they have no idea when and where this virus might appear next or when it might leave! If you number among them, then now is a good time to re-evaluate the priorities of your heart. Today is the day to recommit yourself to being in the Word, to live underneath the Almighty, to fill yourself up with God’s overwhelming forgiveness and promises.
That’s what God accomplishes through crisis. To re-evaluate the priorities of life. To expose what the heart truly cherishes. To shed the harmful so that true good might flourish. Scripture makes clear: God Heals Hearts Torn Apart. Forsaking the LORD causes misery. Returning to the LORD restores life.