We’re living through a strange time. The world hasn’t seen a global pandemic like this since the Spanish Flu infected a quarter of the world in 1918, killing tens of millions. Who’d have predicted a variant of the common cold would cripple the world in 2020?
At first, I was a bit skeptical of Covid-19 being called a pandemic, but now it seems like it most definitely is. Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, and South Korea are reeling from the sudden influx of patients with respiratory failure. Hospitals in New York and Seattle can’t keep up with the overwhelming number of cases. The death toll continues to climb. China, thankfully, seems to be recovering – the number of new cases there are finally tapering off.
In the meantime, we’re all living in social isolation. Half the population is out of work/school. Hairdressers, restaurants server, teachers, retail salespeople, college students, pilots – they’ve all been forced home. The stock market has crashed (again). It’s too early for farmers to seed their fields yet. Small business owners are worrying how they’re going to make ends meet. Working parents are at home with their children, and it’s not even summer vacation! While many people are working overtime (i.e. health care workers) – others are left twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do. They can’t visit friends or relatives. Gyms and movie theaters are closed. Flights are cancelled. Musicians aren’t touring. We can’t even watch our favorite sports!
What’s the world coming to?!
A grinding halt, that’s what. The Covid situation has caused an involuntary worldwide Sabbath. Whether we like it or not, we’re being forced to honor God’s fourth commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15). Consider these Sabbath principles and their modern, Covid-related rules:
- Don’t work (Ex 35:2): all non-essential service workers are out of work, or working from home
- Don’t go outside (Ex 16:29): social distancing now enforceable with fines
- Don’t travel (Acts 1:12, implied as per “Sabbath day’s journey”): worldwide travel bans
- Don’t prepare food (Ex 16:22-24): restaurants (dine-in) forced to close
- Exception: emergencies, saving life (Deut 22:4; Mt 12:10-11; Mk 3:2-4; Lk 13:10-17; Lk 14:5): hospitals, clinics, pharmacies remain open
The rule of the Sabbath is don’t be productive, and that’s exactly what our society has been reduced to – nonproductivity. The Bible tells us repeatedly to honor the Sabbath, reserving it as a special day (Ex 20:8-10; Deut 5:12-15; Is 58:13). It was made for our benefit, not as a burden (Is 58:14; Mk 2:27). It’s supposed to be a big deal, since punishment of not observing it was death (Ex 31:14-15; Num 15:32-36). After years of not honoring the Sabbath, God expelled Israel so the land could finally rest (2 Chr 36:21). One of Nehemiah’s great cultural reforms was simply to reinstitute the Sabbath (Neh 13:15-22). Let’s not forget that one of the curses of disobeying God’s laws was pestilence and disease (Deut 28:21-22)!
Yes, Covid has brought the world to its knees. God says that one day every knee will bow to Jesus (Is 45:23; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10-11). Maybe it’s time to willingly yield to his principles (i.e. the Sabbath) before the world falls apart (Deut 5:33; Mt 23:12).
However, let’s not make this pandemic more than it is. I’m not saying Covid is God’s punishment on us for not honoring the Sabbath. I’m also not saying this is evidence of the end times. Rest assured, the end times will be far worse than what we’re seeing today – this is only the early labor before the true pain begins (Mt 24:8).
However, what I am saying is this: make the most of it! We’re living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that has forced many of us to indefinitely shut down life as we know it. So rest! Spend time with your family. This is a year of jubilee of sorts (Lev 25:8-12), but without the celebration. Don’t disobey those in authority (Rom 13:1-4): isolate yourself, not just to protect from disease but to honor God.
I think we can all agree that the busy-ness of our world is detrimental to us, whether or not Covid-19 is directly related to that. However, this pandemic won’t last forever, so take advantage of the social isolation while you can. The Sabbath is a blessing, not a curse. Chances are we won’t see another forced “stay-cation” like this in our lifetime.