Coronavirus: Force Majeure or Act of God?

Coronavirus has messed up our world in an unprecedented way, bringing fear and confusion to almost every home in the world. None of us have ever experienced something like this, and at least I’m certainly wondering what this is all about. If Corona has done something for all of us, it has at least stolen a sense of security and predictability that we have enjoyed in post-war west.

Many believers have already wondered if Corona has something to do with the end times. When personally asked a few times, I have answered, “Yes, at least in the sense that we have never been so close to Messiah’s arrival than we are today.”

Seriously, this question is worth pondering, first and foremost, in terms of scripture, and it’s worthwhile reading the apocalyptic plague predictions, especially found in Revelation chapters 2, 6 and 18.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing their utmost to stop this lethal virus, but, so far, no cure has been found, and the plague continues to spread.

What is interesting about WHO, is that the Bible explains its emblem, which you can see in the picture of this post. Did you know that the snake wrapped around a pole, used by WHO and universally in medical logos comes from Numbers 21, chapters 6-9, although it is generally explained as referring to a Greek God of medicine and health called Asclepius:

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The logo also has a direct connection to the verses 14-16 of the 3rdchapter of the Gospel of John:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

As we look at the history of mankind, we find many national, international, or regional disasters that have caused relatively much more death than Coronavirus is predicted to cause. Excluding the First and Second World Wars, which killed nearly 100 million people, one of the most famous epidemics in Europe was the black death of the continent in the 1350s, which is estimated to have killed between 30-60% of Europe’s population, or 25-50 million people, and the same number in the Middle East and North Africa.

The latest pandemic, the swine flu, also originated in China, hitting around one billion people, caused up to half a million deaths. In 1968, the globe suffered from the Hong Kong flu, killing up to one million people. Just a few years earlier in 1957, the Asian flu, also a pandemic killed some two million people globally.

One of the most dangerous viruses, raging in our time, has been Ebola which killed more than 10,000 people in Africa during the most severe epidemic of 2014-2016, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The probability of death in Ebola patients is about 50%.

So, at least for the time being, Coronavirus has not been a big killer, but in terms of financial devastation, the virus-related losses will be enormous, and we will see many bankruptcies in the coming weeks. The first line of fire will be people affected by the cessation of travel, that is airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. This will also cause massive layoffs around the globe.

As a businessperson, I have pondered the effects of Coronavirus on business contracts and commitments. Usually, the text of the contract mentions a case of force majeure that may relieve a party from an obligation or liability. This force majeure factor is commonly referred to in European contracts.

However, the European term does not give this force majeure the definition used in the corresponding American legal term. When I was in charge of the American subsidiary of a Finnish technology company a few years ago, I came across this term for the first time and did not believe the text of the agreement I was reading. In the text of the contract, American lawyers describe the force majeure as an Act of God! This means that if something is beyond human control, it must be God’s act, or at least His providence.

The more I have thought about Coronavirus and its effects, the more I am convinced that it is an act of God. One of the strongest indications here is found in 2 Chronicles 13:13-14:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

In the verses above, God tells us of three plagues to draw humanity’s attention to Himself: drought, locusts, and plague. All of these have been experienced by the world over the past six months: Australia just recently had one of the hottest and rainiest seasons. In Italy, as well as in East Africa, grasshoppers hit record numbers only a few weeks ago, and now we have the Coronavirus.

The world’s media has also recognized the biblical scale of these disasters. Last June, Fox News reported a ‘Biblical’ swarm of locusts plague in Italian farmlands as being the worst infestation since WWII. The UK Express headlines March 13, 2020: Coronavirus prophecy: As the death toll surges is COVID-19 a sign of the Biblical end times?

It is easy for us to blame the Chinese for their poor hygiene and peculiar eating preferences, as well as the Chinese central government, which hardly cares about the health and well-being of its citizens and uses various epidemics to control its population growth, but if we truly believe that God is almighty, then would He not have been able to prevent the spread of the Corona?

I personally believe He could but did not want to.

Throughout the canon of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, God urges His people to repent from their sins and idolatry with the threat that He will strike them with plague or other scourge. Based on this message, I understand that God wants you and me to humble ourselves and repent from our sins so that He can forgive them and bless us again as individuals and as nations.

Today’s Christian message is centered on a generally merciful and long-suffering God – which He is, of course – but, at the same time, we neglect His righteousness and jealousy as written both in Old and New Testament texts. Or what do you think of Hebrews 12:25-29?

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

The nature of a merciful and righteous God, toward His people, is beautifully expressed in Psalm 91, especially in verses 4-7 where He gives a tremendous promise to His people:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

Verses 14-16 sharpen the focus of that promise:

“Because He loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Let us grab hold of and believe in that promise.

Let us also pray for our fellow man and our leaders.

About the Author
Risto Huvila, a public speaker, pianist and writer from Finland, observes European and American Middle East policies and antisemitism through evangelical lenses. As chairman of the Federation of Finland-Israel Associations and vice-chair of the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association, he is an active advocate for Israel. Risto has authored the book The Miracle of Israel and President Truman and he appears frequently in media.
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