My sermon on ‘A Biblical Ecclesiastical Response to the COVID “Pandemic” (a video preaching at Church)
This is the message I preached today at my Church. I pray the Lord will use it to either edify, exhort, and/or convict all of us, including those on the internet. Though it is an exposition of Psalm 91, I taught much on the viruses and plagues mentioned in the Scriptures. I also shared important historical facts regarding how Christians responded to viruses hundreds of years ago, and how we can learn from our Church history, and from those whom preceded us in death.
Professing Christians who have made a habit of staying home while willfully missing Church are sinning against the Lord. There’s rarely a legitimate excuse for not gathering. I am over 60, I have COPD, bronchial problems, chronic heart failure, a history of cardiac arrests, I am Pacemaker reliant, and have a compromised weak immune system; and by God’s grace I have not missed one Lord’s Day thru this “pandemic.” Let us encourage each other to gather (Heb 10:25). “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear HIM who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
My sermon notes to this sermon have been provided below this video.
Psalm 91 – A Biblical Ecclesiastical Response to a COVID “Pandemic”
Because of the current “pandemic,” and other controversies going on today, these last few months I’ve seen a large number of professing Christians posting Psalm 91 on their social media platforms. It’s a beautiful Psalm, but it’s often being used out of context.
In many cases this psalm is wrongfully shared by those within the ‘health and wealth,’ ‘name it and claim it,’ or ‘prosperity gospel’ movement. So I must first tell you what this psalm does not mean.
This Psalm is not a general promise to every believer that God will always protect or deliver you from physical harm, famine, or evil.
Nor is this Psalm for everyone, as it comes with exclusivity. In other words, these comforting words or promises are not for everyone on social media, they are for Gods chosen people, those whom trust in Him.
This Psalm is not about our externals i.e. washing your hands, or wearing a mask. It is about our eternal and internal peace and security.
And regarding externals. Whether you chose to wear a mask or not, that is not my concern (I am pro-choice in that regard). But I do care about our hearts, ours souls, our minds, and our spiritual condition.
Any negative or critical comments I make, are not directed at this congregation, they are regarding a problem amongst Christendom in general, but perhaps we can learn from them. Moving forward.
It’s not certain who penned this Psalm, some say Moses some say David, I believe the latter. But one thing’s for sure, as per the authority of 2 Tim 3:16, all Scripture is inspired by God.
This Psalm is also known as “The Psalm without a title.”
I will divide this chapter as follows.
Verses 1-2 is the ‘state’ of the godly (or the Christian).
Verses 3-8 is their ‘safety.’
Verses 9-10 is their ‘habitation.’
Verses 11-13 is their ‘servants,’ and
Verses 14-16 is their ‘friend’ with ‘the effects’ of them all.
Let us begin with an exposition of verses 1-2 the ‘state’ of the godly (or the Christian).
It says in vs 1-2 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
Though every Christian today was saved the same, and no one can be ‘more saved’ than the other. And the moment we are saved we obtain sanctification (or His holiness).
But we all ‘progress’ differently in sanctification, in Christian growth, in knowledge, or in the gifts provided by the Holy Spirit.
Though every Christian is heaven bound, some Christians will receive more grace or blessings than others while here on earth.
In vs 1 it says “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
We’ve heard the saying “don’t dwell on that,” or “don’t dwell on your past.” But people dwell in the wrong places, or on the wrong things. We need to dwell less on our circumstances, and dwell more in the shelter of the Most High.
CH Spurgeon said this of vs 1 –
“The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence. Those who through rich grace obtain unusual and continuous communion with God, so as to abide in Christ and Christ in them, become possessors of rare and special benefits, which are missed by those who follow afar off, and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Into the secret place those only come who know the love of God in Christ Jesus, and those only dwell there to whom to live is Christ. To them the veil is rent, the mercy-seat is revealed, the covering cherubs are manifest, and the awful glory of the Most High is apparent.”
Now we transition from ‘dwelling’ to ‘abiding.’
In vs 1b it says, “will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
God does not call us to merely believe in Him, we are called to dwell with Him, and abide to Him.
Jesus said in John 15, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. >
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
“No shelter can be imagined at all comparable to the protection of Jehovah’s own shadow. The Almighty himself is where his shadow is, and hence those who dwell in his secret place are shielded by himself. What a shade in the day of noxious heat! What a refuge in the hour of deadly storm! Communion with God is safety. The more closely we cling to our Almighty Father the more confident may we be.”
In vs 2 it says, “I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
It’s one thing to say that the Lord is our refuge, or our fortress, and that we trust in Him; but do we really? Admittedly I have fallen short.
As I prepared this sermon I was grieved and convicted as to how I’ve fallen short for not truly trusting in the Lord throughout this COVID-19 season. Regretfully at the beginning, I allowed the news to brainwash anxiety into me.
And so I’ve gone before the Lord’s throne of grace, and have confessed what He already knew about me, that I did not always truly trust in Him. I repent.
Perhaps this sermon would have been more providential to preach at the beginning of this virus, nevertheless, it’s never a wrong time to preach, as we will be faced with more trials or dangers in the future.
But we must pray for more grace to be able to thrust ourselves upon Him, and trust in Him, to thrust and trust.
Matthew Henry said “Others make idols their refuge, but I will say of Jehovah, the true and living God, He is my refuge: any other is a refuge of lies. He is a refuge that will not fail me; for he is my fortress and strong-hold.”
I watched too much news believing the advice of their infectious disease “experts”, only to be disappointed by contradicting “experts” on another channel.
But as another said, “But God is neither fickle nor false, neither weak nor mortal; he is God and not man, and therefore there is no danger of being disappointed in him. We know whom we have trusted.”
Next in verses 3-8 is their safety – chew on this and digest this passage.
3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. 5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; 6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. 7 A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. 8 You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”
Vs 3a says “For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper.”
God will not allow anything happen to us that is outside His will. He knows when we were to be born, He knows when we would be born-again, and He knows when we will pass away.
“Assuredly no subtle plot shall succeed against one who has the eyes of God watching for his defence. We are foolish and weak as poor little birds, and are very apt to be lured to our destruction by cunning foes, but if we dwell near to God, he will see to it that the most skilful deceiver shall not entrap us.”
Vs 3b says He will protect you “from the deadly pestilence.”
Though I do believe in taking ‘reasonable precautionary measures.’ But if we dwell in communion with God, under the shelter of His wings, we need not be spiritually entrapped or paralyzed by the pestilence of error, or the pestilence of temptation or sin, or by any pestilence.
Good health is wonderful, and it is something to be grateful for, but our spiritual health is more important. And that is the intent with this sermon. That the Lord might equip us, encourage us, strengthen our faith, and build us up individually and corporately at such a time as this.
Jesus said in Mark 8:36 ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’
Vs 4 “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”
The Scripture here is not likening or comparing the Lord to a bird. But rather, this is a metaphor of His matchless love towards His people.
Just as the hen loves and protects her chicks, Almighty God protects the souls of those He saves. Sometimes His Divine intervention will save your body in danger, but He always protects the souls of His people.
Matthew Henry said of vs 4,
“The natural life, and is often fulfilled in our preservation from those dangers which are very threatening and very near, while yet we ourselves are not apprehensive of them, any more than the bird is of the snare of the fowler. We owe it, more than we are sensible, to the care of the divine Providence that we have been kept from infectious diseases and out of the hands of the wicked and unreasonable.”
Vs 4 says “His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”
We have a swash-buckling hero, His name is Jesus. By faith, via His shield of righteousness and truth, we can fight the wiles of the Devil.
As Paul said in “Ephesians 6:10-20,
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. >
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Verses 5-6 says, “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; 6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.”
Verse 5a speaks of a terror at night, verse 5b a fear of the arrow (or weapons) against us, in verse 6a of a fear of viruses or plagues, and in verse 6b of destruction that might come at noon.
Recently on social media I saw a friend (that I know) ask for advice for a relative that had serious anxiety issues. Many in comments had lots of advice, but it was all worldly advice. None of them asked if her relative was a Christian, and if so, to encourage and ‘disciple her’ to trust in the Lord more.
Many today suffer from unreasonable fears, or anxieties. But that is because of our sinful nature, and that they are not faithfully trusting in the Lord.
Nowhere in the Scriptures are we told to ‘make new converts’- the Lord does that. But we are told to make new disciples.
As I confessed earlier, admittedly that was me at the beginning of this pandemic.
Matthew Henry said this of vs 6,
“A believer needs not fear, and therefore should not fear, any arrow, because the point is off, the poison is out. O death! Where is thy sting? It is also under divine direction, and will hit where God appoints and not otherwise. Every bullet has its commission. Whatever is done our heavenly Father’s will is done; and we have no reason to be afraid of that.”
It says James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
It says in 1 Peter 5:6-11 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
We all sin in anxiousness (or by being anxious), but we mustn’t let it get a grip on our lives. The Lord gives Christians a solution to this sin problem.
Philippians 4:4-9 says, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. >
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
As we repent towards God, consider this. If the news is brainwashing you, turn it off, and pray and keep our minds more upon things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, etcetera. Let’s dig into the Word of God even more. That will help reduce our anxiousness.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Next in verses 7-8 it says, “A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. 8 You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”
Whether you, I, or all of us be struck with a plague, a disease, sickness, conventional weapons, or modern-day biological or chemical warfare; God will save our souls in the end. And if He decrees, He will save your temporal life (this tent) but only for a season.
My wife and I shared the privilege of visiting France, and we stood together on the beach of Normandy. Whereas during WWII tens of thousands of our soldiers were slaughtered in the first hours as they deployed onto the beach of Normandy. But thru perseverance the others prevailed, and history tells the rest of that story.
Verse 8 says, “You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”
Whether the believer live or die while under duress, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And “You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”
As Spurgeon said,
“The sight shall reveal both the justice and the mercy of God; in them that perish the severity of God will be manifest, and in the believer’s escape the richness of divine goodness will be apparent. The Puritan preachers during the plague of London must have been much impressed with this verse as they came out of their hiding-places to proclaim mercy and judgment to the dissolute age which was so sorely visited with the pest. The sight of God’s judgments softens the heart, excites a solemn awe, creates gratitude, and so stirs up the deepest kind of adoration.”
Church – in our deaths, God will handsomely reward us with eternal life, but at the same time the ungodly will endure Gods justice and wrath.
Question 58 of the Orthodox Catechism asks.
Q: “How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?”
A: “Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.”
Next in verses 9-10 is their ‘habitation.’
“For you have made the Lord, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. 10 No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.”
Spurgeon said this of verses 9-10. It’s a long one, but its important church history, and it is the correct application of this verse.
“Before expounding these verses I cannot refrain from recording a personal incident illustrating their power to soothe the heart, when they are applied by the Holy Spirit. In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religious. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words:—“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvellous power I adore the Lord my God.”
Do you see how God gave Spurgeon more strength and more faith thru that Bible verse?
Unless God decrees it to happen, no evil will overcome you, nor will the plague come to your house. But if or when He decrees it to come, His matchless love will expedite and dispatch your soul to Him.
One author said, “Similarly, sudden plagues of disease should not cause terror, even though they reach epidemic proportions. However, not all believers enjoy this assurance of God’s protective care in times of danger. His word is their stay, and on it they must rest, rather than on their own emotions.”
Next in verses 11-13 is their ‘servants.’
“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. 12 They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.”
Vs 11 said “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”
Remember during the fall, one third of the angels fell, and are now working on behalf of Satan, hence the demons. But two thirds of Gods angels are still at work. Many of Gods angels are commissioned as our protectors. They are our Theological body-guards.
They play a role in thwarting demonic attacks, counteracting spiritual plots, as well as other threats (God willing).
Vs 12 says “They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”
God’s love for His people cares for even the littlest problems such as stubbing our toes. Yes it hurts, and sometimes we bleed, but think of the many more times God prevented our toes from being stubbed. But by faith, God can make our paths clear for us, as His angels are at work.
Vs 13 said “You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.”
This verse is not saying that we should ‘test God,’ nor that we can have an ignorant blind faith and play with lions and cobras. But it is saying that one day our enemies will be trampled upon, as Christ will bruise Satan under His feet shortly (and we will be with Christ).
Next in verses 14-16 is their ‘friend;’ with the effects of them all.
In these last three verses God speaks in the first person.
The closing verses of the psalm are given in the form of a prophetic oracle, as God promises to keep His elect safe with Him. Listen to this promise to the Lord’s people.
14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. 15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”
Vs 14 says “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.”
This verb to ‘love’ used here (Heb., châshaq) is not the most common Hebrew verb for ‘love’. This love denotes a deep and passionate attachment.
As Spurgeon said “None abide in intimate fellowship with God unless they possess a warm affection towards God, and an intelligent trust in him; these gifts of grace are precious in Jehovah’s eyes, and wherever he sees them he smiles upon them.”
Vs 15 says “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”
The Bible says that whoever calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation will be saved. To ‘call upon’ the Lord means to declare Him as Lord. It is a declaration of dependence to trust in Him alone for salvation.
And when the Lord saves us, He rescues us in our troubles, and from our sins.
Christ rescues Gods elect, His conquering grace conquered the grave, as He is the Captain of our salvation, and the Anchor of our soul. He will then handsomely rewards His elect with an eternity with Him.
Vs 16 says “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”
This “see My salvation” literally means to “make him see.”
Psalm 50:23 says “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”
It says in Luke 2:30 “For my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Church, that is what we must dwell on, as we ‘dwell in’ the shelter of His wings.
This world is passing away, but Christians belong to the kingdom of God, and eternity is a very long time.
Let us cast our cares upon Him. Let us worry less about our circumstances, and trust Him more for our peace and security.