Just before Jesus’ death, the disciples were marveling at the magnificence of the Herodian temple. As Mark 13;1-2 puts it, “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”
Herod’s temple seemed impregnable. It stood within one of the best protected cities in the ancient Near East. In addition, it was one of the most magnificent structures of its time and at that point in history, had taken almost 50 years to build. Even more than this, the temple was the sacred place where almighty God dwelt and was worshiped. How, then, could it possibly be destroyed?
Less than 40 years later, the Romans set it on fire and razed it to the ground.
Not long ago, I was walking around Singapore marveling at the city’s majestic buildings, bustling economy, clean environment, and proactive government. All seemed right with the world and I couldn’t help but wonder, what could possibly bring down such a towering edifice of human ingenuity and safeguarding as the nation-state of Singapore? Everything seemed so carefully controlled and well thought-out.
Of course, I knew in theory that if God wanted to bring the nation down, He could do so in a moment, but that possibility seemed so utterly remote and unlikely, it felt like an implausible distant dream. It’s amazing how a dream can become a living nightmare in just a matter of days or weeks.
It was not a military or alien invasion, nor was it a massive corruption scandal that brought Singapore and the rest of the world low. No, it was a microscopic virus called COVID-19 that brought this grand illusion of control crashing down, shattering it into a million little pieces. Try as we might, this intrepid microbe is finding ways to slip through the tiniest cracks of our lockdowns and quarantines, infecting and sometimes killing the rich and the poor, the great and the small, the important and the insignificant.
Try as we might, times like these remind us that we are decidedly not in control—and never really have been. As Psalm 33:10-22 so aptly puts it, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. . . . The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Whatever our illusions of control may have been, COVID-19 confronts us with the fact that God can use the very great or (in this case) the very small to bring an entire planet to its knees. While on our knees, may we be found praying prayers of hope and faith in the only wise and sovereign God who still deeply loves and cares for each and every one of us.