Pandemic Panic or Passover Peace?
What an ancient crisis has to say to us about the worst national disaster America has ever faced
I am the LORD.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are.
When I see the blood, I will pass over you.
No destructive plague will touch you…
This is a day you are to commemorate
for the generations to come.
(Exodus 12, emphasis added)
Like it happened ten separate times in ancient Egypt shortly before the Jewish exodus began, even so at this hour in the American story, an unforeseen plague has come upon our land.
And, what a deadly scourge it’s proving to be—not only in terms of the physical carnage wrought by the pandemic itself but also in terms of the stresses and threats it is placing on the capacity of the nation’s medical infrastructure, on the strength of our economic stability as well as on the endurance of the social fabric of our society.
America finds itself underprepared for this crisis. But unfortunately, all the experts tell us it has just begun—the worst is yet to come.
So how should Christians respond to this unnerving reality? How do we face down the panic we feel rising within us? Better yet, how can we triumph in the midst of terror?
I believe Exodus 12 has the answer. Bottom line, it tells us:
Be sure you “shelter in Christ” as you “shelter in place.”
But practically speaking, what does “shelter in Christ” really involve for believers at a time like this?
Great question. Let’s explore some answers together.
Faced with a deadly, burgeoning national pandemic—plus the panic it stirs in all of our hearts—many of us feel totally helpless. But we are not. We have a choice. Even while we “shelter in place” (with no end in sight), we can decide, at the same time, to “shelter in Christ.” Doing so can open up for us exceptional possibilities for thriving in the midst of such sobering challenges.
But what does this second kind of “sheltering” involve?
Go back and read the biblical Passover account in Exodus 12 mentioned at the top of this blog post. It may prove to be helpful.
To avoid wholesale destruction, the Israelites “sheltered in place” under the blood of a lamb. The story recounts how when God saw the blood of a lamb spread over a household—which today might mean over your household, or over the entire “household of faith” (1 Peter 4), and even possibly over the “household” of the American people—the plague of death retained its power no longer. Its claim of death had to “pass over” everyone sheltered by the sacrifice.
For all of us today, this becomes a matter of choosing to “shelter in Christ,” the one called in Scripture “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1).
Except that unlike the account in Exodus, the current 21st-century version of the “angel of death” has not come to visit our people for a single night—a “one and done” execution of the firstborn of every family.
Rather, this pestilence is projected to last for months, reaching into tens of millions of American homes and lives. We are being invaded by an entire army of invisible “minions of mortality”—billions of virus particles—to savage every facet of our lives and every corner of our country.
As a result, this past week, our president declared himself a “wartime president,” assuming wartime powers not exercised since World War II. That’s because America (along with many other nations) finds itself in a battle against a previously unknown enemy that has the capacity to destroy our very civilization if allowed to run its course.
Essentially, we have entered into an extended battle for the very soul and future of our nation.
However, this pandemic entails more than a medical emergency. Look deeper.
We’re engaged in a celestial conflict
coming at us from one of two directions.
Whether our most capable government leaders recognize it or not, a spiritual disruption of ominous proportions has come down upon our heads without warning.
This should not surprise us. Scripture is clear about the overarching reality of cosmic-level warfare that has been going on since sin entered into the world.
But take note: There are two possible sources of the combat. We need to understand which is responsible for the growing crisis we now find ourselves in.
On the one hand: This eruption may exhibit a massive intrusion into the visible world of the onslaught that Ephesians 6 tells us is going on all of the time in the invisible realms, when it says: “We wrestle not with flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The Bible is clear that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5). And Jesus said, defining Satan’s strategy: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10).
For sure, the current crushing weight of chaos, fear, disruption, sickness and death seems to carry with it the “smell of sulfur.”
However, on the other hand: There might be a completely different explanation for our existential threat. It might be a judgment of God—a plague sent from the Throne. Why would I say that?
Don’t forget: The plagues that came upon Egypt were in response to Pharaoh’s “warfare” against the God of Israel, as the pompous ruler continued to harden his heart every time after he promised to set the Jews free. Similarly, his idolatrous people, who prospered so greatly on the backs of their Hebrew slaves, fell in line and fully supported their leader’s choices.
Thus, the plagues of Egypt represented a whole other kind of “spiritual warfare.” Jehovah himself, called in Scripture “the God of heaven’s armies,” laid siege to the entire nation to shake it to its core with one plague after another so that his eternal, redemptive purposes (initially for Israel but eventually for all the earth) might prevail and keep moving forward.
But God did not judge only pagan nations. There were times he had to bring severe discipline upon his covenant people.
This was King David’s experience many generations later. To his chagrin, he found himself and his people in mortal conflict, not with the Edomites or Canaanites, but with the living God—as Jehovah allowed Israel’s enemies to keep defeating the unrepentant nation over and over.
Grasping this unique insight, David wrote the appeal of Psalm 60. Might his words in any sense apply to the current dilemma we’re experiencing here in America? See what you think.
O God, you have rejected us and broken our defenses.
You have become angry and deserted us.
Lord, restore us again to your favor.
You have caused this nation to tremble in fear.
You have torn it apart.
Lord, heal it now, for it is shaken to its depths…
But you have given us a banner to rally to!
All who love truth will rally to it.
Then you can deliver your beloved people.
Notice, David claims, “You have given us a banner to rally to!” What is that all about?
In the midst of David’s national crisis—when God exercised defiant opposition toward his own people because they had fallen away from him—there was only one strategic move to make: “rally to the banner.” King David and his people had only one option: to flee and take refuge under the sovereign mercy, forgiveness, and restoring power found in the Lord God of nations. Only then would freedom from all of the threats around them be secured and their enemies be permanently defeated.
We could say that in the thick of battle, they “sheltered in place” under Heaven’s banner, making it their singular hope for deliverance, reclamation, and new beginnings.
Is it not time for us to do the same thing—NOW?
But, here’s what’s really fascinating to me: David was implementing the identical strategy employed in the days of the Exodus as the way for suffering Hebrews to find liberation from their enemy.
Review the events of the night of the Passover. Recall how the Israelites obeyed the word of the Lord by slaughtering an innocent, vulnerable, little lamb and then spreading its blood over the doorposts of their homes to ward off the angel of death. They took refuge under that blood. For them, that crimson doorframe was the “banner” to which they rallied. It was a crimson banner. And in responding to God in this unusual way, they were delivered from the judgment of the Lord.
To apply this to our generation, we must be clear that in the midst of an unprecedented plague bearing down on us, God calls us to refocus like never before on celebrating the eternal Passover that’s already been provided for us by the world’s Redeemer.
God has a plan for a Lamb and a Lamb for his plan.
The final solution for healing the scourge upon our land right now necessitates the same ultimate strategy: God’s plan that requires a Lamb.
Even if we aren’t able to determine for the moment with certainty which kind of spiritual warfare explains the global catastrophe confronting us, we know that in either case, our great hope remains the same: God’s plan that requires a Lamb.
Or to say it another way: We must “rally to Jesus’ crimson banner.” We must “shelter in Christ” only.
IF this pathogen is being exploited by the forces of darkness in an attempt to further destroy nations and creation, and above all to disrupt the spread of the gospel of Christ among earth’s peoples, then it’s time to shelter in Christ, to rally to his crimson banner, to celebrate our eternal Passover in Jesus. God’s plan requires a Lamb.
IF, on the other hand, this sobering upheaval of our lives is God’s wake-up call to our nation, summoning us to come to our senses, to see our country’s spiritual and moral peril—even still, God’s plan requires a Lamb.
Therefore, as never before, this is the hour for all of us to flee to Christ. It’s time for us to shelter in him, to rally to his crimson banner, to celebrate the eternal Passover he offers us.
It’s time for the peace of Jesus’ Passover to replace all forms of pandemic panic.
But there’s much more to sheltering than just being covered with the Lamb’s sacrifice. When anyone clearly sees the full picture of where they are hiding when abiding in Christ, then they will want “sheltering” to become their whole way of life—long after routines in America get back to “normal.”
Let me show you why and how.
Caught in this national nightmare, we must now
make the Exodus story become our story.
Let’s return once more to the biblical “Passover” theme, so relevant to today’s foreboding pandemic that keeps many awake at night.
Did you know that the worldwide 2020 commemoration of the sacred Jewish Passover feast begins on Wednesday, April 8? Of course, if you are not of the Jewish faith, it may prove a little difficult for you to get involved! (On the other hand, Messianic Jewish believers say we Gentiles should be celebrating it, and many Jewish and Gentile Christians do. That’s definitely an option.)
You know the story. Finally, God’s righteous judgment was coming upon the whole land of Egypt. Though his retribution was not meant for the ancient Israelites, even so, they were embedded within the general population. Therefore, their only escape from impending doom was to gather as families inside the only sanctuary God gave them: They were to shelter under a lamb’s blood painted on the outside of each of their dwellings.
That night, the sentence of death on all firstborn sons in the land “passed over” the heirs of Abraham. At the same time, it broke the hearts of Egyptian families so devastatingly that finally they were willing to free the Hebrews after four hundred years of slavery so they could travel to a promised new land.
For hundreds of years since, at every Passover meal, the family patriarch will repeat the age-old question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Actually, “different” is an understatement. It was a miraculous night! It was a night overflowing for them with grace and mercy from their covenant-keeping God, Jehovah.
But the Christian Passover is also miraculous. It also is full of grace and mercy but on a far different level. For one thing, anyone—Jew or Gentile—can participate. Also, our Passover has no start date—actually, it’s been in full swing, nonstop, for two millennia. That’s because its feast table was set for us from the moment Jesus died, rose again, and ascended on high.
For us, our Passover is not an event on a calendar. For us, our Passover is a PERSON. Paul put it succinctly in 1 Corinthians 5:
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us keep the Festival.
In any time of crisis or impending judgment, the life of a Jesus follower remains a festival. Every day, we joyfully proclaim the promise of God’s gracious gift of deliverance, healing, and wholeness found in God’s dear Son. He’s our Passover lamb—our covering, our refuge, our shelter in times of storm.
Reread the Exodus 12 verse that was quoted at the top of Part 1:
I am the LORD.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are.
When I see the blood, I will pass over you.
No destructive plague will touch you…
This is a day you are to commemorate
for the generations to come.
Notice, God promised Israel that wherever he saw the blood of a lamb spread over a household, the plagues of death would intimidate no longer; the fears of death would haunt no more. The dispatchers of destruction would be forced to “pass over” all who were abiding in the place of divine safety.
Today, Jesus brings similar good news to all of us. He embodies the same kind of promise, but the promise is now found in himself as he becomes for us the only shelter we will ever need. “Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4).
During the history-altering upheavals out of the Protestant Reformation that shook all of Europe, Martin Luther chose to shelter in Christ and called others to do the same. He made “sheltering” a way of life—and testified to it in his most famous hymn:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same,
and He must win the battle.
Luther understood, whether for one individual or a whole nation, that God’s promise of deliverance is available anywhere that any kind of pestilence stalks. It belongs to those who make Jesus Christ, “the Man of God’s own choosing,” their “bulwark never failing.” Inside the “mighty fortress” that Jesus is, we find ourselves seated at the ultimate “Passover” feast—the one provided by “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1).
At this celebration, Christ is both the appetizer and the main course, combined. That’s because only Christ has fulfilled in himself everything accomplished and foreshadowed by the drama of Exodus 12—but doing so by a factor of infinity.
Whether the current coronavirus invasion is a manifestation of Satan’s evil schemes to try to destroy our nation or a demonstration of God’s mighty right arm seeking to drive us out of our darkness into the light of a nationwide awakening to Christ, we know one thing for sure:
In either case, our initial place of refuge is to scramble as fast as we can to get ourselves “under the blood.” When confronting “angels of death,” we must burrow deep inside the triumphs of Jesus’ cross. We must “shelter in place” within the victory won by his blood—a victory that is so complete that, if it became widely enough a refuge for many others, it could totally transform our nation when this trial is over.
This is why I say: Now more than ever, caught in our national nightmare, we must make the Exodus story become our story. Like our forefathers in the faith, we too need a “covering”—a permanent threefold covering.
Three ways “sheltering in Christ”
covers us in a time of disaster
The first way: As we’ve just explored, our own covering story must start with blood—from Jesus’ wounds on the cross. In our mind’s eye, we must spread his sacrifice all over ourselves by faith. We do so with the assurance that Christ irreversibly absorbed the condemnation and ravages of our sin. Romans 6 states well our victory in our Savior:
Christ died once for all to end sin’s power, but now he lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
That’s the first reason we must let our Passover celebrations break forth!
But there’s MORE than just the cross of Christ to cover us in a time of disaster.
The second way: At the same time, the Son of God also wants to “cover us” with the blessings that flow from his empty tomb.
He welcomes us to take refuge in his defeat of our final enemy because he crushed all of the forces in earth and heaven dedicated to pressing our own mortality.
He invites us to flee into a “new creation” that began to unfold the morning of his resurrection. His promise that “because I live, you shall live also” is more precious to us today than ever. Scripture confirms for those who have sheltered in Christ, “the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5).
What’s more, the dominion of his life over death is set to climax in the re-creation of the entire cosmos when Jesus returns in splendor to bring everything into subjection to himself and give us bodies “like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3). All who call him Lord will be part of that grand culmination as well.
Are you “sheltered” in union with the Conqueror of death and despair? Well then, that’s the second reason we must let our Passover celebrations break forth!
But there’s still MORE involved than an empty tomb in how Jesus covers us in a time of disaster.
The third way: King Jesus also wants us to “shelter in place” under the security of the Throne to which he has ascended as Lord and Messiah. He desires to encompass those who belong to him with all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28)—his power to fend off the forces of darkness as well as to dispense divine judgments on every form of evil.
In fact, he not only wants to cover us with the fruits of his everlasting reign, he also longs to saturate us with a panoply of promises inherited by his Royal Majesty.
In this alarming, existential hour for America and the world, our Lord Jesus stands ready and willing to bring our entire nation under the covering of his Throne—to unleash a holy tidal wave from heaven upon our people, a work of salvation that surges from coast to coast, turning our day of disaster into a lifetime of surrender to his redeeming lordship.
I’m talking about the Heaven-sent revolution that I and a multitude of praying Christians have been seeking for many years—a pervasive uprising toward Christ that many of us believe is already at hand.
Call it a “Christ Awakening”—as America finds its greatest refuge from disaster in the covering of Christ’s active, redeeming reign, which spreads over many people in many places across America as we take shelter under Jesus’ supremacy and sufficiency, his glory and grace, his fullness and freedom.
While we await that wider revival, however, Christians get to share right now in the delights of his dominion as we “shelter in Christ.”
There you have the third reason we should let our Passover celebrations break forth!
Pandemic panic or Passover peace—
which is it for you?
For all who are abiding in Jesus, every day is Passover! Every hour we remain “covered” with his blood, his life, his reign, his kingdom, his promises, his triumphs, and above all, his love.
This Passover, incidentally, is scheduled to go on and on unceasingly—forever! “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19). An eternal festival of praise lies ahead for all of God’s people.
So, as we engage at this hour in a life-or-death match with a vicious, virulent virus, whatever lies ahead for America, we Christians must continue faithfully abiding in the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1). Even as our generation is turned upside down by a defiant disease, even as fears threaten to occupy our hearts night after night, by faith Christians must press onward and upward into more of Christ, knowing that because we are sheltered in him, this too will “pass over” us—just as Scripture promises in 1 Corinthians 15:
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the very next verse, Paul exhorts us about the practical nature of this promise—a verse clearly relevant to a world in the grip of a pandemic. Listen to Paul as if he were encouraging you directly:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Taking the verse in 1 Corinthians 5 referenced above, The Message paraphrases Paul’s practical summons need to heed right now:
The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal . . . So, let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious.
So, which will it be for you? Panic and fear and paralysis before the rising specter of a pandemic? Or peace and praise and purposefulness from living under the unshakeable covering of “Christ, our Passover”?
For those of us who choose the latter, let our celebrations of Christ our Passover break forth and never end—starting right now!
How is CHRIST NOW “sheltering” in Christ?
We’re convinced our digital ministry—with its focus on the wonders of Christ today, with its call for the Church to become fully alive to the supremacy of Christ, and with its wealth of free resources to empower God’s people to grow in Christ—is more relevant than ever to Jesus followers everywhere.
The opportunities open to us to foster a nationwide Christ Awakening movement have never been greater! In fact, we believe THIS is the moment for which God created ChristNow.com.
VISIT our newly revised website to see ALL the free resources just waiting for you: www.ChristNow.com. Become part of our nationwide family, using all we offer you during these days of isolation to go deeper into our Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAY with the whole ChristNow family:
Pray with us as we intercede for the people of our land who are living through some of their darkest days ever. But especially, let’s seek God’s face together for a Christ Awakening—that eyes and hearts everywhere would be opened to see our great need of full national surrender to the saving Lordship of Jesus.
Pray with us that the Holy Spirit will become the “wind in our sails” and take ChristNow’s unique focus on the reigning Jesus into many more parts of the Body of Christ where we’ve not served before. Pray that we will feed many more hearts that are now, because of the challenging moment our nation faces, becoming more open to our message of Jesus’ supremacy. This is happening at levels we’ve not seen before. Many need our abundant, free resources designed to take them into more of Christ today.
Pray, too, that many more financial gifts will reach ChristNow in the next few days to sustain us and move us forward. With our economy collapsing, this medical crisis is having an impact on the flow of essential donations to ChristNow. We know the Father will be faithful to us. After all, he is the one who is opening wide so many doors that allow us to keep fostering a spiritual reformation in our land for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Tax-deductible gifts of any size are gratefully appreciated, wisely used, and can be made at www.ChristNow.com/gofundhim. Thank you!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.
If you enjoyed this blog post, forward it to friends!
|Invite them to sign up for future blog posts here. It’s free!|