As these words are being written, much of the United States and large portions of the world find themselves in various stages of panic. If you anticipate the next words to be words of comfort or an attempt to allay concern, you will be disappointed because the reality from Scripture is that God brings panic upon rebels against Him. Panic is the birthright of sinners.
Past. Consider God’s people Israel. No one familiar with the Bible can deny God’s special love for Israel. Repeatedly, we read such statements as this concerning that nation: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deut. 7:6). “The Song of Moses” memorializes some of the significance of their having been uniquely chosen.
For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled Him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with Him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock. (Deut. 32:9-13)
We could scarcely imagine a more thoroughgoing proof of God’s love for and favor upon the heritage of Jacob. Surely, being the recipients of such single-minded devotion from God, they would be immune to harm? Not so, that notion would fail to account for the consequences of stubborn, inveterate sin.
Unrepentant sin assures judgment from a holy God, who will countenance sin in no one, not even those He has chosen for Himself and has set apart for signal blessing. Through various means, including the invasion of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom by Babylon, God brought panic upon His chosen people in judgment upon their sin. Jeremiah describes God’s judgment in these terms: “All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Panic and pitfall have befallen us, devastation and destruction” (Lam 3:46, 47). So far from being taken unawares by this panic and destruction upon His people, God had promised that it would come if they persisted in their idolatry. One example appears in the first chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy: “’I have had enough . . . . If you consent and obey you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ Truly the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (vv. 11b, 20). Panic and destruction ensued.
Future. Nor is God-induced panic confined to dusty history. The approaching tribulation will be a time of abject fear brought on by the condign judgment of God. Describing that future time, Luke observes “men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world” (21:26). And John notes there will be a universal cry “to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath is come, and who is able to stand?’” (Rev. 6:16b, 17).
Present. In any situation, including the current epidemic, those who know the Lord may experience exactly the same conditions as those who do not. But those who trust in the Lord experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7a). Others fall prey to a God-ordained panic. For some, that panic and its accompanying “devastation and destruction” are the manifestation of God’s judgment upon them for their sin. Others, according to the grace of God, discover it to be God’s clarion call to repent and believe. As I said, true saints will find rest in the Lord. Faithful saints will point the lost and panic-stricken to the only Savior from sin and Deliverer from destruction.
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