Coronavirus! A man-made pandemic which originated in China, apparently due to the ungodly consumption of unclean meat. It is destroying the world—its civilization; its societies and global economy. Panic reaction to the virus has changed our daily lives… including cancellations of social and sport events; closure of schools, restaurants and shops; serious restrictions for our jobs and work abilities; national and international travel bans; prohibitions of assemblies and confinements in mandated isolation and quarantine… as well as cancellations of our religious worship services.
Many countries have already banned church services, and who is to say as to how long these limitations of our religious and individual liberties and freedoms will continue… It is as if we are victims of a worldwide war… and in a sense, we are—each country seems to fight a suicidal war against itself and an all-encompassing “preemptive” war against other nations.
When hearing this mind-boggling news which affects many innocent people and which sounds like the wild imaginations of a science fiction or horror movie, I wonder how much we have taken our freedom from autocratic restrictions and totalitarian governmental intervention for granted with the opportunity to assemble each week for our religious services. Many times, the sad truth is that we begin to really miss something when it is taken away from us. The Bible admonishes us that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Many have not heeded God’s warning in this regard, or they might have attended half-heartedly, lacking real zeal and enthusiasm for God and His people.
In Old Testament times, ancient Israel and Judah polluted God’s holy days—either not keeping them at all or keeping them grudgingly with their own added traditions—and God was very angry about this and punished them with many plagues and ultimately, with destruction, death, war and captivity.
We can read about this in Ezekiel 20:12-13:
“Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me… and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths…” As a consequence, God said that He would rule over them with “a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out” (verse 34).
Ezekiel 22:26 adds:
“Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.”
Sadly, man seldom learns from his mistakes, it seems, and today’s “priests” in our modern nations have hidden their eyes from God’s holy Sabbaths as well. As a consequence, God pronounces a curse on us for repeating the sins of our forefathers.
In Hosea 2:11, God tells us how He feels about “days of worship,” which man created for himself, while rejecting God’s Sabbaths:
“I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths—All her appointed feasts.”
But we should not overlook the fact that God is also angry with the lackadaisical attitude with which some of His people might be “keeping” His Holy Days, and that He announces the possibility of preventing them from keeping His Sabbaths by assembling for worship services, as they did not really appreciate this great privilege anyway.
Hosea 9:5 gives us this sobering warning in the context of future slavery and captivity for our nations which will also include some—if not many—of God’s people: “What will you do in the appointed day And in the day of the feast of the LORD?” The Neue Luther Bibel 2009 writes: “What will you do then during the annual feasts and the feast days of the LORD?”
Amos 8:10-12 also adds this sad prophecy:
“I will turn your feasts [or feast days] into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation… ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.’”
Are we experiencing now a foretaste of what is going to come—a last warning perhaps and a strong admonition from God to get our act together, before it is too late? To get us back on track to worship the true God of the Bible with zeal, dedication, enthusiasm and love? All of us are called upon to examine ourselves and to make sure that God provides us with protection from the worldwide plagues and their consequences, and to appreciate fully the Sabbaths which God gave us as a sign between Him and His people.