It seems that everyone is talking about lifting the LOCK-DOWN at the moment. Of course we all want that but it’s fraught with difficulty both for us and for the government. Too fast and we are in danger of a 2nd peak. Too slow and people are frustrated and the economy gets even more affected. Wisdom is needed and some guidance.
So all this got me thinking about what the Bible might have to say on the subject of LOCK-DOWN!
The second major event recorded in the Bible was actually a LOCK-OUT rather than a LOCK-DOWN or LOCK-IN. Because they disobeyed, Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden and lost their close fellowship with God. The rest of the Bible tells us how God worked through history and through sending Jesus to restore this relationship. And as I thought about it, I realised that that history includes several LOCK-DOWNS as it were. They were, of course, precipitated by causes other than a virus but there do seem to me to be some similarities and lessons that we could learn from them.
The first was in the time of Noah. I was reminded of that by a couple of cartoons on FB. After Noah had built and entered the Ark, it says:
“…Then the Lord shut him in.” (Gen 7:16)
One cartoon said that Noah was confined in the boat – with no FB, Netflix, phone etc for 40 days. Actually it was a lot longer than that: more like a year! But, eventually, the rain stopped, the earth dried up and Noah and his family had their LOCK-DOWN lifted. But then, what did he do? He got drunk and Ham, his youngest son, also did something inappropriate. To me, this sounded a warning. What am I going to do when I am let out? What are we all going to do? Undoubtedly some people will get drunk, but that’s only one mistake we might make. I’m unlikely to get drunk but there are plenty of other silly things I might do.
The prayer that I keep praying in this context is that we will not return to the ‘old normal’ but move on to a ‘new normal’ – one in which we get back some of the good things of the past, but leave behind many of the bad things of the past and replace them with new things we have learnt during LOCK-DOWN. One in which we reassess our values and reprioritise our activities. One in which the Lord really does have first place in our lives. One in which we appreciate each other more and continue to be more neighbourly.
For example. Last week, I returned from my morning cycle ride and went to put my bike away in the garage. The door jammed: half open & half shut. No way would I be able to get the car out (for the weekly shop) without help. But then a friendly neighbour (not one I had really met before) appeared. He propped up the door while I backed the car out and then a couple of days later, he turned up again, this time with his tools and a friend and between them they mended the door.
The next time the Jews were in LOCK-DOWN was during their 430 years in Egypt. (Don’t read any significance into that number: I’m sure the virus won’t last that long & I certainly won’t.) This time God sent Moses to effect the lifting of the LOCK-DOWN. God spoke to King Pharaoh through Moses:
“The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.’” (Exod. 7:16)
At first, things got worse, the people grumbled and there were some plagues. And then God gave his final ultimatum. The Passover. Suddenly the LOCK-DOWN was lifted and the people were free to go. But have you ever thought about the geography? They were aiming to return to Canaan/Israel, which was north of Egypt, but when they left, they headed south and ended up at Mount Sinai. Why was that?
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people round by the desert road towards the Red Sea…” (Exod. 13:17-18)
It seems that God had several things he wanted to teach his people before they got back to the land he had promised them. In brief, there were two important lessons they had to learn and God showed these to them via Moses at Sinai. Number 1, the social lesson. God gave them a new constitution for a newly liberated nation; a new code of law. The 10 Commandments. Forget the examples and applications that were relevant 3,500 years ago; just consider the principles. The first 4 commandments were about their relationship with their God. That had to come first and was the basis for all the rest. The subsequent 6 were about their family and community relationships. Those also had to be right. Number 2, the spiritual lesson. God gave them instructions about worship. They had to construct a tent (the Tabernacle) which was to be the central focus for their acts of worship. Then he gave them 7 feasts or festivals (including the sabbath) when they could rejoice and meet with God in a special way. Only after this, were they ready to turn north and head for Canaan. Some people have expressed fear of infection over the lifting of LOCK-DOWN but my concern is rather whether I have learnt the lessons that God is trying to teach me at this time. Have I learnt to appreciate my friends and family more? Have I nurtured my relationship with the Lord?