Many people are acquainted with the Passover story. Some have even watched the ‘The Ten Commandments’ movie and its dramatic depiction of the Ten Plagues – a Hollywood moment to remember.
Right now the entire world is having a ‘Passover moment.’ Like the Hebrew slaves in Egypt on that first Passover night, the families of the earth are on lockdown, hiding in their homes. And where is the God of the Hebrews right now? Is He aware of the current pandemic? Is YHVH involved in the process in any way?
To speak frankly, most of the world thinks that the Exodus makes a good story for kids. Most modern adults are not sure if they can believe in a God who “smites the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues” (1 Samuel 4:6-8). A recent Israeli satirical TV show Eretz Nehederet (Hebrew for ‘A wonderful country’) scoffed at the possibility that the corona virus could have anything to do with the God of Jacob, or that we should re-evaluate our values or our behavior. In the Western world this mockery is common: God – IF He exists – should be content with our brief acknowledgement of Him at our weddings, confirmations ceremonies, christenings and bar mitzvahs.
This corona virus pandemic is a wake-up call to the world. It is also a dry run for even more sobering coming prophetic events.
Let’s get God’s viewpoint on the whole subject of plagues as revealed in the Bible:
- What do the Scriptures say about plagues?
- What is the role of plagues in biblical history?
- What is prophesied about plagues in the future?
Plagues in Egypt
YHVH declares that He alone is solely responsible for the Ten Plagues: “I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst … and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt” (Joshua 24:4-7).
One of the purposes of the Ten Plagues is to show ungodly Pharaoh (the leader of the world’s greatest superpower) that the God of Israel is the only Sovereign God, and that He is watching over the Jewish people. “Then YHVH said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says YHVH, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:13-14).
The Ten Plagues were also spiritual warfare against Egypt’s demonic pantheon – a proclamation through power encounter that YHVH is sovereign over all these false gods: “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments – I am YHVH!” (Exodus 12:12)
Plagues against Israel
Psalm 78:40-51 tells us that some Jewish people had ‘short-term memory problems.’ These individuals rebelled against YHVH. They grieved God in the desert wanderings. They tempted and pained the Holy One of Israel. The nation who had been delivered from Egyptian plagues by God’s Passover protection soon forgot His saving power.
Many of the sons of Jacob were judged by YHVH with plague due to their own idol worship and sexual orgies during the desert wanderings. “They joined themselves also to Baal-Pe’or, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and so the plague was stayed. And it was reckoned to him for righteousness” (Psalm 106:28-31).
The Mosaic covenant (the Torah of Moses) speaks clearly that plagues fell on Israel because God was executing vengeance for the nation breaking the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 26:25): “But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant – I, in turn, will do this to you . . . If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins . . . I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you” (Leviticus 26:14-16, 21, 24-25).
The prophet Amos specifies that YHVH judged Israel with Egypt-like plagues because of Israel’s idolatry and her lack of repentance. “Hear this word, you cows of . . . Samaria . . . I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt . . . Yet you have not returned to Me, declares YHVH. Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel: Because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:1, 10-12).
Moses and the prophets are preaching a tough message here:
- The God of Israel sends plagues on all nations who worship anything other than the God of the Jewish people
- God’s plagues ‘get the message through’ to unbelieving nations
- The gods which many nations worship are actually demonic counterfeits
- Jewish people often forget why God struck their enemies with plagues, and some in Israel even partake in the same pagan sins
- These sins include various sexual immoralities as well as worship of demonic powers (all other gods)
- YHVH judges Israel and the nations for lack of repentance about these matters
This strong message is a huge speed bump for humanity, because both the Jewish people and the nations continually violate God’s ways and teachings. The lessons from the Exodus are not just Sunday School stories for little children. They reveal that humanity is coming face to face with the God who “smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues.” Few of us are ready for that encounter.
May I have your attention?
In Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by fire” (based on the Yom Kippur prayer ‘Unetana Tokef’), God’s hidden hand lies behind both the good and the bad of life that we all encounter: “And who by fire, who by water, who in the sunshine, who in the night time, who by high ordeal, who by common trial . . . And Who shall I say is calling?”
- “The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence” (Jeremiah 28:8)
One of God’s biblical goals in using plagues is to get His children to turn back to Him, so that we should cry out for deliverance and repent for our sins. This sober truth lies at the bedrock of the Mosaic covenant:
- “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence . . . whatever plague or whatever sickness there is,whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways (whose heart You know for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You have given to our fathers” (2 Chronicles 6:28-31)
YHVH’s night-appearance declaration to King Solomon (not long after the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem) is very popular right now:
- Then YHVH appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and 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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14; see also 2 Chronicles 20:5-12)
Plagues are a severe mercy, to borrow a term from C.S. Lewis. The means are severe, but the harvest can be amazing and full of grace. Blessed spiritual and physical results are dependent on our heart-response to the God of the Hebrews.
“Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear … Before Him goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him. He . . . startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains (ed., a biblical symbol of world governments) were shattered, The ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting” (Habakkuk 3:1-5).
Oh that My people would listen to Me!
When the world is out of kilter – when God’s ways are ignored or mocked – YHVH’s correction course gets our attention so that we will get back in line with the program. He woos us so that we might come to Him and trust Him, even in our tears and fears.
- I will say to YHVH, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge. His covenant faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon (Psalm 91:2-6)
God’s heart deeply desires His people Israel (as well as all the nations) to turn back to Him and embrace Him. Our strong-willed refusal to bow the knee and shed real tears of repentance freezes us in spiritual limbo:
- “You called in trouble and I rescued you. I answered you in the hiding place of thunder. I proved you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you. O Israel, if you would listen to Me! Let there be no strange god among you, nor shall you worship any foreign god. I, YHVH, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries. Those who hate YHVH would pretend obedience to Him, and their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:7-16)
The angel’s cry reveals the same: “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues’” (Revelation 18:4).
Prophetic plagues in the future
Messiah Yeshua spoke of the Last Days, the birth pangs prior to His return. These Last Days will be marked by unusual events including plague: “And there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11).
The point here is not to be blown away by such occurrences, but to stay on track while looking forward to the amazing return of Messiah. “And there shall be . . . distress of nations upon the earth, with perplexity, . . . men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. For the powers of heaven shall be shaken . . . And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:25-28).
The future plague-filled judgment on Gog and his international anti-Israel army will come about through YHVH’s direct counter-measures:
- “With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him. And I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone” (Ezekiel 38:22).
The anti-Jewish armies who try to divide the Jewish capital city of Jerusalem will be melted away by divine plague:
- Now this will be the plague with which YHVH will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth . . . So also like this plague will be the plague on the horse . . . No rain will fall on them. It will be the plague with which YHVH smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:12, 15, 18)
One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will unleash a plague which will catalyze the slaying of 25% of the earth:
- “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come.’I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7-8)
The Two Witnesses will strike the earth with plagues as an integral part of their ministry:
- These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying. And they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. (Revelation 11:6)
Many people will respond to God’s plagues by blaspheming YHVH and refusing to repent:
- Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues. And they did not repent so as to give Him glory . . . And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe (Revelation 16:9, 21)
A broken world
We are living in a broken world. Both the just and the unjust experience national blessings. Both just and unjust also weather terrible tragedies. Messiah Yeshua said, “Your Father who is in heaven . . . causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
At the same time, there is no one on the earth who is without sin, no one who is exempt from ‘the wages of sin’ (see Romans 6:23). As King David confesses, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4).
Most of the time plagues are ascribed in the Bible to a violation of the covenant between God and Israel, or to God’s judgment on unrighteous nations. Certainly at the present time both of these factors are indisputable realities. Nevertheless, until Messiah Yeshua returns, we will never fully understand the depths of God’s ways and His plans – especially when disasters, wars and pandemics occur. But we can still trust in God’s goodness, as David proclaimed: “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? … Consider and answer me, O YHVH my God! Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death . . . But I have trusted in Your covenant faithfulness. My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation!” (Psalm 13:2-5)
- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:18-22)
Is the present pandemic a dry run?
A dear friend of ours, John Paul Jackson (a minister in the prophetic, now with the Lord) gave a prophetic word in 2008. Here is the quote: “The Lord told me there would be a pandemic that came, but the first one would prove to be little but feared, But the second one that comes would be serious. So there is a pandemic that is going to be coming.”
In light of the wealth of the biblical information on plagues, John Paul’s word should give us pause. At press time nearly 250,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 and over 10,000 people have succumbed to this pandemic. With an acknowledgment that this plague has garnered more media coverage than any other pandemic so far in history, it is probable that the COVID-19 pandemic will in the end have less fatalities than other pandemics of the past (www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/a-visual-history-of-pandemics/; https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/; www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/):
- HIV/AIDS pandemic (2005-2012) Death Toll: 36 million
- Hong Kong Flu pandemic (1968) Death Toll: 1 million
- Asian Flu pandemic (1956-1958) Death Toll: 2 million (69,800 in the USA)
- Spanish Flu pandemic (1918) Death Toll: 20-50 million (675,000 USA)
- Sixth cholera pandemic (1910-1911) Death Toll: 800,000+
- Flu H3N8 pandemic (1889-1890) Death Toll: 1 million
- Third cholera pandemic (1852–1860) Death Toll: 1 million
- The Black Death (1346-1353) bubonic plague Death Toll: 75-200 million
- Plague of Justinian (541-542) bubonic plague Death Toll: 25 million
- Antonine plague (165 AD) Death Toll: 5 million
Anti-Semitism over the past 2,500 years has put its satanic stamp on human history – though its final and climactic expression is yet future (see Revelation 12). In a similar fashion, it seems, this terrible pandemic is a herald of even more sobering future pandemics.
In light of these challenges and prophetic possibilities, how does Messiah Yeshua want us to minister in an increasingly dark world? As Isaiah spoke about the Jewish people’s prophetic future, we can also ask God to shine through each one of us wherever it is most needed:
- Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHVH has risen upon you. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples. But YHVH shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:1-3)
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to raise up mighty rivers of repentance which will pull the plug on this pandemic
- Pray for the healing of many who are sick and for the saving of many lives
- Pray for supernatural gifts of healing to increase on the earth through praying believers
- Pray for divine strategies in preparation for further shakings and opportunities yet to come
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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