Many, including the Prime Minister, have likened the current coronavirus pandemic to the crisis faced by the nation in World War Two (WW2).
As the war began, the Government obviously endeavoured to attend to all the necessary practical expedients, such as conscription into the armed forces, increasing production in the factories, ensuring the manufacture of all the necessary military equipment, and the introduction of food rationing.
Alongside all the practical considerations in conducting a long drawn out war, it is also the case that the nation publicly resorted to a spiritual solution as well. In fact, often under the initiative of the King, twelve national days of prayer were held between 1939 and 1945, and they were all widely supported throughout the country (1).
This practice during WW2 was reflecting a long-established historical tradition going back to at least the 16th century. Between 1535 and 1939 this country had conducted no less than 536 such occasions of public prayer and ‘humiliation’ in respect of calamities including war, outbreaks of plague and cholera and poor harvests (2).
During the course of WW2 Britain was very dependent upon the importation of food by sea in order to feed the population. It was more than ever vital that the nation grew as much of its own food as possible. Christians were therefore praying that God would mightily bless the produce of the fields.
The harvest in 1942 in fact brought forth one of the most abundant yields on record, so much so that the then Minister of Agriculture, R. S. Hudson, said on the BBC News on October 10th that, whilst he acknowledged the hard work of those labouring in the fields, the intervention of God must be the ultimate explanation (3). In this of course he was absolutely right. A vital factor in the nation’s survival and ultimate deliverance in the great conflict over nearly six years was that the Lord, in His providence, was keeping the nation fed.
So here we observe a Government minister being willing publicly to acknowledge the importance of prayer in a time of national crisis.
Likewise today, the coronavirus crisis cannot be approached as if medical precautions and scientific research are the only solutions. Britain is trusting in the State (and in its experts and institutions) to be its Saviour. The nation is generally ignoring the Trinitarian God. Indeed, in public life especially, the UK has been spurning and defying God for a very long time. Indicative of this defiance of our Christian heritage is the distinctly anti-Christian legislation which has been passed by Parliament in the post-war period.
The Bible affords us significant insights into the issue of disease and epidemics. So it is the task of Christians to do more than just to emulate the secularists in saying, ‘We shall beat this by working together’. Is human solidarity the solution, such that we can leave God out of the picture altogether? No, of course not; we must rather cry out to the Lord for deliverance in this time of national calamity.
Any person, whatever their religious affiliation, or if they have none, could immediately contract the virus. How do we deal with that? How do we answer the question, Why is this happening? How do we deal with the fear and even panic which has afflicted many?
The plain fact is that the coronavirus has happened in the providence of God, as do all events in this fallen world. Since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden sickness has been a constant aspect of life in a world in rebellion against God; and by saying this we are not minimising in any way the suffering which many individuals and families have been going through because of Covid-19, all of whom are very much in our prayers at this time.
This pandemic, however, must be approached, not just as a medical and scientific matter, but as a spiritual issue also. We must above all else seek Christ, and cry out to Him for mercy as a nation which has failed to honour God. Our nation has put its trust in finding an effective vaccine and in the stringency of its social distancing. Yes, there is an important place for such measures, but not as a people’s only trust, and not to the exclusion of the God who ordains all men’s circumstances.
We are praying much for the frontline key workers during this health crisis in our nation, and we honour their endeavours, but this honour must more degenerate into a substitute national religion, an alternative to crying out to the Lord for deliverance.
The Bible clearly teaches that a nation afflicted by plague and sickness is a nation which needs to examine its relationship to the holy God and to come in repentance and faith to the only Saviour of men, the Lord Jesus Christ, He who during His earthly ministry plainly showed that He has power over all disease, and He who is well able to remove the coronavirus from a humbled people who seek Him.
That is why at this time we urgently need to bow down before the all-powerful God who controls all disease. Individuals of course must humble themselves, but the country as a whole needs to do so corporately in national days of prayer and in contrite acknowledgment that there has been much in our national life which has displeased God.
Covid-19 is bringing grave economic problems upon the nation. The Bible teaches that national prosperity is conditional upon obedience to God, and that prosperity can be withdrawn in God’s providence from a nation which defies Him (see, for example, Deuteronomy chapter 28).
However, the merciful God also reassuringly tells us, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV).
- The Trumpet Sounds for Britain, Jesus is Alive Ministries, David E. Gardner, Vol. 2, p115,116