Does God send pestilence?

Hi all,

In this season of Covid-19, I have been wrestling with Old Testament passages and how they reflect the nature of a loving God. For example, a passage I have often heard referenced in the past several weeks has been 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:

“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, 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.”

This particular passage has been referenced in calls to repentance. However, these “calls to repentance” fall against the backdrop of other respected teachers preaching on the kindness of God, and urging listeners to remember that there is no sickness in God, no evil, no darkness, therefore, He has no sickness to give.

This notion troubles me.

Mostly, because I think back to Exodus and how God sent the plagues to the Egyptians. Clearly, He has the power and authority to command boils to cover a nation and people.

What are we, as Christians, to make of this? On the one hand, clearly scripture makes clear that God has dominion and authority over all powers, forces, etc., which would include sickness and disease. To deny that would be to deny His sovereignty. However, at the same time, are we to say or agree with those who say that He wields them as tools? This, to me, is a bit less clear.

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@mekendrick Great question :slight_smile: I think there are four incorrect views we have to avoid when dealing with the issue of God and natural disasters, plagues, and sickness. But before getting to those I want to address the idea that God cannot “give away sickness”.

Some teachers say that God cannot “give away what He does not have”, meaning that if God is not sick He cannot give it away. Honestly, this idea is nonsense. God is life - there is no death in Him. And yet He sent the angel of death upon the Egyptians. God can send judgment without Himself being under judgment. So this idea is just logically flawed.

However, now let’s look at what I believe are common incorrect views:

  1. It is wrong to attribute natural disasters or sickness to God’s judgment. For example, some people claimed Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment—totally wrong theology. Hurricanes are natural disasters and usually we just don’t know why they happen. (See Luke 13:1-5)

  2. It is wrong to blame a person for a lack of faith if they are sick. Some people teach that if you are walking with God in faith you will not be sick. This is a lie. Plenty of faithful Christians fall ill and even die. It is just part of living in a fallen world.

  3. It is wrong to teach that God is merciful and kind, but not just and wrathful against evil. Mercy without justice is meaningless. God can only be merciful to us if we deserve judgment. In addition, both God’s kindness and His justice flow from His love. Would it be loving to allow oppression of the poor or the suffering of the weak to go unaddressed? Certainly not!

  4. It is wrong to teach that God does not use famine, sickness, and war to judge nations because He does so repeatedly throughout Scripture (plagues in Exodus, covenant curses in Deuteronomy 28:15-68, judgment in Revelation on the wicked). However, God’s severe judgment usually only comes after hundreds of years of disobedience on the part of a nation (the flood, Gen 15:16, God’s patience with Israel)—after several lifetimes of man and when the culture has become (presumably) irreversibly corrupted. God also usually saves a remnant of the righteous out of judgment in His mercy (Noah, Lot, Jeremiah and his compatriots in the exile, etc.)

Below are some additional resources you may find helpful :slight_smile:

That perfect health is not intended for us at this time should be obvious by the fact that all believers (including those who “claim their healing”) grow old and die. And how do we die, if it happens consistently? Is it by sickness, again itself being a form of disease? Thus, God has not ordained that sickness be totally removed from our experience yet, but it is a part of our hope that one day it permanently will: “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall be no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Those who teach that it is always God’s will to heal also advocate the doctrine that it is always God’s will for us to be prosperous; and little wonder, for the same sentiment is behind both. It is a sentiment that is not patient to wait for the day described in Revelation 21:4 above, that is unwilling to face the full extent of the cross that God has called us to during the brief span of our days here.

This is not to deny that God often does prosper His children. Paul exemplified a well-balanced perspective when he wrote: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:12).

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This question deals with the sovereignty of God. Is everything that happens, including COVID 19, God’s will? Ultimately, yes, for to claim otherwise would indicate God is not, in fact, sovereign. But it is also true that God is love, and that everything He does expresses that love. Love requires free will, or it is not love, John Eldridge writes that the Bible is a story about the perfection of Creation, man given free will, man messing it up, and God redeeming the world through Jesus Christ. The evil present in today’s world all flows from the Adam’s choice to try to be righteous his own way, which sums up all religion. While some of the evil in the world is directly connected to the choices we make, something like COVID 19 is not. However, Adam’s sin has released death into the world, an enemy that has not yet been overcome. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

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A clarification - I Timothy 2:4 says that God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth - but clearly all men do not.

II Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance - but clearly some do perish.

To say that everything that happens is God’s will simply because it happens is to imply that He actually wanted every sinner to commit every sin that’s ever been done - He wanted every disaster that has ever befallen the world - and that leads into far more problems than we have time to delve into.

But I’m going to guess that you meant to say everything that happens is within God’s permissive will.

I hope I’ve guessed right!

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jlyons

        James Lyons

      Academy Alum




    March 31

manbooks:
Is everything that happens, including COVID 19, God’s will? Ultimately, yes, for to claim otherwise would indicate God is not, in fact, sovereign.

A clarification - I Timothy 2:4 says that God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth - but clearly all men do not.

II Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance - but clearly some do perish.

To say that everything that happens is God’s will simply because it happens is to imply that He actually wanted every sinner to commit every sin that’s ever been done - He wanted every disaster that has ever befallen the world - and that leads into far more problems than we have time to delve into.

But I’m going to guess that you meant to say everything that happens is within God’s permissive will.

I hope I’ve guessed right!

Yes, agreed

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