Sabbath Thought - The Worst Year
The disease most likely came from China and radiated out in all directions from there. It moved from nation to nation, eventually crossing oceans to other nations. Many feared that no one would be spared, and rumors quickly spread of imminent doom. From there, panic set in. Medical professionals seemed powerless to get a handle on this virus, and governments were at odds as to how to act. Social activities were shut down and economies began to be negatively affected. This is not a summary of the COVID-19 virus, but rather the Antonine Plague of 165 during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. This plague started with flu-like symptoms but quickly overwhelmed the most advanced civilization up to that time. It very well could have been the death knell of the Empire.
It is not uncommon for the current generation of humanity to have "historical amnesia" about many things in the past. Much of this comes from the arrogance of growing knowledge as the world advances in ability. Humanity thinks that we are better than our ancestors whose mistakes are abundantly obvious in hindsight. In fact, this weakness was exploited by Satan in the Garden of Eden when he promised that mankind could be their own god. What this means in practice is that each new generation thinks that they are smarter, morally better, better equipped, and not as limited as past generations.
Then something as "simple" as a virus comes along and shuts down the whole world. It is a shame that humility usually comes at such a high price. What is interesting, is that Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic philosophically, and he warned his current and future generations that events like the Antonine Plague would happen again: "Bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before...and will happen again - the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging," (from his book, Meditations).
Even though the Antonine Plague was bad, the year of 536 is called "The Worst Year to Have Been Alive". That year started with a mysterious darkness that covered Europe, the Middle East and part of Asia for more than 18 months. The darkness caused crops to fail which lead to widespread famine with 70-80% of the population in many cities starving to death. As historians look back at what might have caused this period of darkness, the evidence points to a volcano that erupted in Iceland. It has been estimated that 50 million people died during this time. To add to the misery of that event, just five years later a plague swept through the Mediterranean killing millions more.
Mankind will continue to suffer through these types of events, until they learn to obey God. For now, God is allowing mankind to reap the consequences of choices contrary to His law. For His people, the catastrophes that happen in the world are to be a reminder for us to remain faithful, and that when we do so we are under God's protection (Deuteronomy 7:15).
Worse times are coming for this world (Matthew 24:21). Worse than "the worst year to have been alive", worse than the Plague of Justinian in 541, or the Black Plague in the middle 1300s, or the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, or other similar horrible events down through mankind's history. God is not an angry God punishing mankind because He can, but rather He allows these types of major events to try and get mankind's attention to repent. We are not to fear these types of events as they come along, because we are not to have the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). But now is the time for the people of God to seek Him while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6). If we truly seek Him in love, we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverbs 8:17). Now is the time to overcome our sin so we can be clothed in white garments and have our names written in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). Now is the time to work with Jesus Christ while there is still daylight before the night comes when no one can work (John 9:4).
We live in interesting times. May we be faithful and true to Him who promises eternal life (Revelation 3:14)!
I wish you a wonderful Sabbath,
7 August, 2020