By Rev Dr Clive Chin
This past week the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the new name of the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 60,000 people and responsible for the death of more than 1,350 people worldwide. Its official name is COVID-19. But does the name of the virus really matter? Apparently, WHO was intent on finding a name that did not associate the virus with a geographical location (i.e., Wuhan virus), an animal (e.g., swine flu), or an ethnic group (e.g., Chinese coronavirus). “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghehreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.
As Christians, we should avoid looking upon any racial or national group with fear or disdain. Instead, let us reflect on what God might be saying to us through this crisis. One passage is particularly instructive on how we should respond to God in the face of danger. “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us” (2 Chron. 20:9). These were the words uttered by King Jehoshaphat at a time when a large army was dispatched from Edom, closing in on Judah. Note the use of the term “plague” or “pestilence.”
While Jehoshaphat was “alarmed” and “resolved to inquire of the Lord” (20:3), he placed his trust in God for the potential of military defeat and the threat of pestilence or plague. After Jehoshaphat seeks God, he proclaims a national fast: “The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him” (21:4). The king knew that his true help comes from the Lord, and he called upon his people to seek God.
Jehoshaphat then offers a model prayer in vv. 5-12. He appeals to God’s character, promises, and actions in the past. The prayer culminates in this declaration: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (21:12). God later responded by sending a prophet to remind Judah that the battle does not belong to them; it belongs to God (20:15). May we all look to God for help.