What you believe about God makes all the difference in your approach to understanding the world and what is taking place with the COVID-19 plague. The WHO, World Health Organization of the UN, rightly identified COVID-19 as a pandemic, or a plague. Is God personally involved in what takes place in the physical world, or is He only concerned with the things of the spiritual world? Did He create the universe then essentially let it evolve as it has without His intervention? Or, is He working in the world today? Is He a personal God interested in a relationship with people in the world? Or, is He only an impersonal force, not involved with individuals? Of course, some people do not even believe God exists. Should we think that God has anything at all to do with COVID-19?
I believe that God exists, that He is personally involved with all who come to Him, and that He is active in the world today. Therefore, we can better understand what is taking place today by examining history. And the best history by which we can understand God’s actions is found in the Bible.
The most powerful action of God in the Old Testament period was that of the deliverance of His people, the Hebrews, from slavery in Egypt. That those events are historical is nearly beyond question. I will not deal with the historicity of the Bible in this paper as that has been demonstrated very well in a great number of books. I will show that the Ten Plagues leading up to the Exodus were attacks on specific false gods of Egypt. I will give a few passages of scripture in which God condemns the false gods wherever they are. My conclusion will show what God may be saying to us in our country in the midst of the COVID-19 plague.
God used numerous plagues in the Old Testament to instruct His people and to show His power. Plagues and famines are not always the work of God, but many are. Sometimes, they are the result of the work of Satan who has rebelled against God and is trying to destroy God’s people and His world. Even when they are the work of Satan, they may be used by God to teach His people to return to Him with their whole hearts. Other times, they are the specific work of God to force His will on people. The Ten Plagues were of this latter class of plagues. They are found in Exodus, chapters 7 through 12. They are also referred to in several other places in the Bible and are the central part of the Seder Celebration at Passover.
In the first plague, God turned the Nile River to blood. The fish died in the river and their odor filled the land. The Nile River was considered sacred. The Nile was worshipped as the primary source of Egypt’s culture and economy. The annual flooding brought new life and prosperity to the farmers. Egypt had nine gods: the River itself, and Khnum, Hapi, Sati, Osiris, Hathor, Neith, Sobek, and Apepi, who were specifically associated with the river. By striking the waters of the Nile, God struck the very core of their paganism. However, by their secret arts the Egyptian magicians also turned water red.
The second plague took place seven days after the first. God caused the Nile to teem with frogs. The frogs came out of the Nile and overran all the rooms of every building in Egypt. The magicians were also able to get frogs out of the river, but they could not get rid of them. So, Pharaoh asked Moses to get God to remove them. The frog was considered a sacred animal. Heka, the wife of Khnum, was the goddess of the frog. She was closely associated with Hapi, who is portrayed with a frog in his hand. Frogs were a protected species. What an awful thing for the Egyptians to not even be able to take a step without squashing one of their sacred frogs. When the frogs died, they were gathered into large piles and their stench filled the land of Egypt. The plague of frogs revealed the complete uselessness of Heka.
In the third plague God caused the dust of the ground to become lice, a small biting insect. The lice afflicted all the Egyptians and their animals. The magicians were unable to reproduce this sign. They said to Pharaoh that this had to be the very work of God. Egyptian priests had to be absolutely clean to do their duties in their temples. Even the presence of a single louse would keep them from doing their work. Their priestly ministry was completely shut down. The ministry of the priest was considered essential for the regulating of the seasons and the balance of nature. In the Egyptian pantheon, Geb was the god of the earth who protected the soil. Seth was the god of the desert dust storms. In this plague God was showing that neither had any power.
In the fourth plague swarms of flies covered all the Egyptian people and their houses. But in Goshen, the home of the Israelites, there were no flies. A clear distinction was made between the Hebrews and the Egyptians. In Egypt the beetle was known as a fly. The scarab beetle was the symbol of the sun god, Ra, and a symbol of eternal life. Though some believe this was the god attacked by the plague, another explanation is more likely true. An Egyptian god, Vatchit, was known as the “lord of the flies.” He was the Egyptian equivalent of Beelzebub mentioned in Luke 11:15-19 as the “ruler of the demons.” His name “Baal” means “Lord” and “zebub” means flies. God was showing His prowess over Vatchit with the plague of the flies.
In the fifth plague a deadly disease came on all the Egyptian livestock, cattle, horses, camels, sheep and goats. Not one of the livestock of the Hebrews was afflicted. Cattle, and especially the Apis bull, were considered sacred in Egypt. Sometimes that bull was called Serapis, or Osorapis. The bull was believed to result from a divine conception as a moon beam stuck a particular cow. It was considered to be the actual incarnation of the god, Ptah. The Apis bull was carefully tended by the priests and kept in seclusion, only exhibited on special occasions. Women would come in its presence lifting their dresses and exposing themselves to the bull to increase their powers of fertility. When it died, it was mummified and placed in a large sarcophagus that was rivaled only by those of the Pharaohs. The deadly disease on the livestock showed God’s supremacy over all sacred cattle. It demonstrated that Serapis, Osorapis, and the sacred bull were no gods at all.
In the sixth plague God had Moses take handfuls of soot and toss them in the air. The fine dust covered all the land of Egypt except for Goshen. All the people and animals of Egypt then had an outbreak of festering boils. The magicians were so affected that they could not come before Pharaoh. Imhotep was the chief advisor to Djoser, Pharaoh of Egypt about 1200 years before the Exodus. He was the architect for Djoser’s Pyramid, a great magician, and a great healer. Gradually he became recognized not as a man, but the chief god of healing equivalent to the Greek god, Asclepius. Temples were dedicated to Imhotep and had healing chambers within. Some of the rituals to achieve healing involved a burnt offering with the ashes then thrown into the air for a health blessing. An Egyptian goddess, Sekhmet, was the daughter of Ra and noted for healing from plagues. She also used plagues to bring trouble on those who did not worship her. God used this plague to show the helplessness of both Imhotep, and Sekhmet. Healing only came from the Lord God.
In the seventh plague God sent the worst hailstorm to ever hit Egypt. The hail was so terrible that any person or animal outside without shelter was killed. All the leaves were stripped off the trees and crops were destroyed. The barley had headed and the flax had bloomed so they were ruined. Only in Goshen there was no hail. Nut was the Egyptian goddess of the sky who protected against chaos and storms. Her husband was Geb, the god of the earth. She was one of the most ancient of the gods of Egypt. She bore 5 children including Osiris, Horus, Nephthys, Set, and Isis, all of which were important gods. She was depicted as a naked woman arching over all the earth with stars on all parts of her body. She swallowed Ra, the sun god every night so he could travel through her body and be born each morning. She was important to all the other gods and all people by her regulation of the day and night, and protection from storms. God showed that Nut could do nothing to end the hail storm He sent. She could not send any plague on the Hebrews.
In the eighth plague God sent a cloud of locusts so great that they covered all Egypt, ate every thing they could, and filled all the buildings of the Egyptians. Pharaoh’s officials pleaded with him to let the Israeli people go, but he refused, and the locusts came. Sobek, the god of animals and insects, was the one to provide protection from the Locust plague. He was depicted with a crocodile head and was ritually associated with Ra (fire), Geb (earth), Osiris (water), and Shu (air). It was believed that he could control all such elements (gods) to prevent locust plagues among other things he did. Prayers to Sobek often included child sacrifice. That may have been the intent of Pharaoh when, years before, he ordered the midwives to throw the male Hebrew children into the Nile to be eaten by the crocodiles. But, in this plague God demonstrated that Sobek was unable to protect the land.
In the ninth plague God sent thick darkness for three days, but the Israelites still had sunlight. Ra, the sun god, was the King of all the gods of Egypt. The leading god of Thebes was known as Amun. Later at the time of the Exodus, Ra was combined with Amun, and became known as Amun-Ra. Ra was the creator and most powerful of all the gods. The temple complex of Amun-Ra at Karnak is the largest religious building ever built. It covers over 200 acres and its hypostyle hall is the largest room of any religious building in the world at 54,000 square feet. Solar eclipses which darkened the sun were evil omens and required special rituals by Ra’s priests to heal. No one ever saw three days of darkness. Ra was undone, dishonored and paralyzed by this plague of darkness. The wisemen and officials of Pharaoh were all silent. Pharaoh told Moses to get out of his sight and never come before him again. But there was still one more plague to come that Moses announced to Pharaoh.
In the tenth plague God had the Hebrews make preparations. They asked all the Egyptians for articles of gold and silver. The Hebrew slaves became wealthy. They killed the Passover Lamb and put the blood on their door posts and lintels. They were to be fully packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. At midnight, the death angel went through Egypt killing the firstborn of all the people from Pharaoh on down and the firstborn of all their animals. The only ones who were spared were the Hebrews who had put blood on their door posts and lintels. There were at least six gods that were to provide protection for the children of Egypt. Heka, the frog goddess, oversaw the development of babies both human and animal in the womb. Isis, who was considered to the divine mother of the Pharaoh. Her maternal aid was also sought for healing children. Min was the virility god who was called upon to produce an heir for Pharaoh. Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, was the protector of the sons of Pharaoh. Bes was the patron protector of mothers and their children. The sixth was Pharaoh himself, considered to be the incarnation of Amun-Ra. God executed His final judgment against “all the gods of Egypt.” See Exodus 12:12.
Each plague attacked a particular part of the panoply of the Egyptian gods. All the gods of Egypt were interrelated. All of them were shown to be nothing more than helpless demons. The dominance of the priests of each god was destroyed. All other gods were shown to be powerless before the Almighty God. The benefits and promises of each false god were worthless. Of course, there were far more than ten false gods in Egypt. The hierarchy of gods were destroyed from the least to the greatest, even to Amun-Ra.
Later, after dividing the Red Sea and giving the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai to Moses, God made the following promise, or covenant, to the Israelites:
“My Messenger will go ahead of you and will bring you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites. I will wipe them out. Never worship or serve their gods or follow their practices. Instead, you must destroy their gods and crush their sacred stones. You must serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your food and water. I will take away all sickness from among you. No woman in your land will miscarry or be unable to have children. I will let you live a normal life span. I will send My terror ahead of you and throw any nation you meet into a panic*. I will make all your enemies flee from you. I will send panic* ahead of you to force the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way. I will not force them out of your way in one year. Otherwise, the land would be deserted, and wild animals would take over. Little by little I will force them out of your way until you have increased enough in number to take possession of the land.” Exodus 23:23-30 (GWT), God’s Word Translation
[*Translation note: the first word panic refers to the enemy armies being “routed” before the Israelites. The second time it is used is an entirely different Hebrew word usually translated as “plague.”]
This covenant was made by God for the people of Israel and was accepted by them with a blood sacrifice on the first altar they made about two months after coming out of Egypt. This promise was kept by God perfectly. Unfortunately, the Israelis did not keep their part very long. Only a short time later, even as Moses was descending the mountain the second time carrying the stone tablets, the people had made a golden calf and were in a wild celebration around it. Over 3,000 were killed by the swords of the Levites at the command of Moses. This slaughter came on them specifically because they did not keep the first commandment, “The Lord is the only God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength,” Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5. After the death of the faithless generation in the wilderness, the Israelites led by Joshua, entered the Promised Land, and the word of the Lord was fulfilled exactly as He said in the promise quoted above. Twenty to thirty years after conquering the land, Joshua gave the following words to the people, “I will soon die like everyone else. You know with all your heart and soul that not one single promise which the Lord your God has given you has ever failed to come true. Every single word has come true,” Joshua 23:14. But the peace and prosperity they enjoyed at that time didn’t last long.
It wasn’t too many years after his death that again the people began to follow the gods of the people of Canaan. As a result, their enemies began to war with them and take their produce, animals, goods and even make the people slaves. God said that the reason these things happened to them was because they did not follow His first and greatest commandment. Judges 2:11-15 states clearly,
“The people of Israel did what the Lord considered evil. They began to serve other gods. The Israelites abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors, the God who brought them out of Egypt. They followed the other gods of the people around them. They worshiped these gods, and made the Lord angry… The Lord became angry with the people of Israel. He handed them over to people who robbed them… Whenever the Israelites went to war, the power of the Lord brought disaster on them. This was what the Lord said He would do in an oath. So, He made them suffer a great deal.” (GWT)
This same basic message is given through the prophets to the nation of Israel during the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah. Psalm 82:1: “God takes His place in His own assembly. He pronounces judgment among the gods.” Jeremiah 2:11: “Has any nation ever exchanged gods? (Their gods aren’t really gods.) Yet, My people have exchanged their Glory for something that doesn’t help them.” Jeremiah 16:20, 21: “People can’t make gods for themselves. They aren’t really gods. That is what I will teach them. This time I will make My power and My strength known to them. Then they will know that My name is the Lord.” Galatians 4:8: “When you didn’t know God, you were slaves to things which are really not gods at all.” (all preceding verses, GWT) Deuteronomy 7:20: “The Lord your God will also send a plague against them, until those who are left in hiding, perish before you,” Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh Translation). This last verse was part of God’s instructions to the Israelites to cleanse the Promised Land when they entered it. Over and over God warns the Israelites that they must never associate with the pagan gods, nor even mention their names. God judges the false gods and uses plagues to teach His people to trust in Him.
We must know that God never changes. He is always the same. The plagues He sent in the past were designed to help humans repent, that is “change the way you think and act, and turn to God, to have your sins removed. Then times will come when the Lord will refresh you,” Acts 3:19 (GWT) God knows better than we do as to what we need for true fulfillment and joy in our lives. We will never have satisfaction apart from Him. He sends plagues to cause us to turn back to Him.
Do we have any false gods in these United States of America? To answer that question, we must first understand what a false god is. The easy answer is that it is anything that we worship, or put before God as being a priority ahead of Him. It does not have to be something made of wood, stone or metal. It may be anything that we have in our hearts that comes to our attention before we look to Him for answers. If you have a problem, do you try to solve it yourself, or do you first ask the Lord about it? If you get sick, do you immediately go to the doctor, or do you first ask the Lord for healing? Ask yourself the question as to what you spend your time and money on, and you will begin to understand what is most important to you. With this understanding I would like to mention only three of the many false gods of the USA. There are many others. The COVID-19 plague ought to send us to God for His help and right understanding from Him.
Probably the false god in the USA that we are most involved with is our wealth, or economy. We spend more time on this one than any other thing in our lives. Certainly, we can justify our efforts by claiming that we have to make a living and take care of our families. That absolutely is true. But the issue is always, which comes first? God, or our wealth? This issue is never about the amount of wealth we have. Some with much wealth are rich toward God. Some who have very little of this world’s goods remain greedy for more. Where is our trust? Do we trust in wealth to keep us safe, or in God? Who do we trust to provide for our needs? Do we depend on what we are able to do for ourselves through what we earn, or God? The COVID-19 plague destroyed our powerful economy, the envy of the world.
The second false god I will mention is that of sports. Sports demands much of our time, from when we were young and participating in sports, until we are old and simply remain avid fans. Closely allied with sports is the false god of entertainment, specifically movies and TV. It is easy to see from the amount of money spent on tickets, on advertising, gambling, and concessions as well as the amount paid to the athletes and entertainers that this is a very important god in our society. Do we get as excited about the Lord as “our team”? Do we spend as much time with the Lord as we do our entertainment? Which come first in our lives? The COVID-19 plague ended all sports and most entertainment production.
The final false god that I will bring up, though there are many more, is that of sex. Sex trafficking and pornography are some of the largest businesses in the USA. They demand the time and money of the persons addicted to them. They bring immense heartache and problems into family relationships. They bring great harm to the children and women who are used so terribly. The lust and greed destroy both men and women. Far from being victimless, all participants are victims. Our Supreme Court has decreed that people can make up their own minds as to sex and marriage. It has really nothing to do with society as a whole. Sex and sexuality are thus defined as being part of our psychology, rather than our biology. Therefore, instead of treating the issue of confused thinking about sex, we make transgenderism a human right to be celebrated. If you observe the increased rate of suicide for those who go through sex-change operations as compared to those who don’t, you may come to believe that God has a better plan than we do. He wants to heal us of the pain and suffering that results from ignoring His plan.
When the COVID-19 plague arrived in the USA, it immediately attacked all three of our false gods: the strongest and most robust economy ever in our country, almost instantly destroyed; sporting and entertainment industries, shuttered; and sex trafficking and porn production, while not totally eliminated, greatly reduced. Do you suppose that God wants us to rely on Him more than these things? Is it possible that though God did not manufacture this plague, He may be using it to try to reach us? Are people now being more open to hear what God may say to them? Is it possible that a return to the worship of God by the majority of the USA may take place? Will our national motto really be true for us, “In God We Trust”? Will the words in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag ring true, “…one nation under God…”?
God’s invitation to us is, “Get your evil deeds out of My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Arrest oppressors. Defend orphans. Plead the case of widows. Come on now, let’s discuss this! says the Lord… If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land. But, if you refuse and rebel, you will be destroyed by swords. The Lord has spoken,” Isaiah 1:16-20 (GWT).