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Not One Jot, Not One Tittle
Be Strong, Stand Firm
What Price Human Life?
“I Can't Breathe”
Praise the Lord, O My Soul
The Blood of Jesus
You'll Never Walk Alone
How Changed Are We?
A Sunday Morning's Meditation on Psalm 24


(Sunday, 12 April 2020)
by Ong Kok Bin


Hi, we meet again on this platform of the invisible Internet. How are you all keeping? Hope and pray that you have your chins up and your spirits are high. We may have to confine ourselves to our homes a little longer but in a little while, things will get better and we should be able to return to our normal lives once again. Though, the experts are talking of a “new normal” even after covid-19 is contained. What this “new normal” is has still to be seen, but it probably means we have to make some new adjustments in our lives and activities. In the meantime, stay at home unless you need to go out for your food supplies or for emergencies; practise social distancing and keep washing your hands.

We will most probably have to worship from home for a few more weeks to come (if not months). Let us not lose heart. Keep faith and look forward to the day when we will all be gathered again in Lobak or Sendayan and worship together in one assembly as the church of Christ. I do miss our Sunday assemblies and I believe you do too – the singing, the prayers together, the communion, the word, the giving and the sharing of mutual fellowship and encouragement; even the church lunch fellowship; and the children running around in joyous abandon. But that day will come, be assured of this, when we shall all be together in one assembly in one place and our hearts and bodies will be joined together again in one mighty worship of our Almighty and Gracious God. Let us pray towards that day. Let the church say, “Come”.

For today, I'll like to address a certain issue that arose because of the covid-19 pandemic. Everywhere, where the disease is endemic, authorities have imposed strict movement controls and advisories to try and bring the disease under control. This means no going out, no gathering in large groups or even small groups, no sports activities and no gatherings of any religious creed. We are fully aware of these ourselves since we are under the MCO in Malaysia. And that is why we are at home and worshipping God from home. But there are known groups who will defy their local authorities' order or advice to stay at home and not to gather in numbers. I am particularly referring to those churches who still assemble themselves for worship on Sundays. Their pastors will call them to gather in their church place to worship. Are they doing better than us? Are they more faithful? Is this an instance of “We must obey God rather than man”?

I have weighed this matter carefully over the last few weeks, especially these last few days. I do not think we are caught in a “man-verses-God” situation. Rather, we are in a “man-working-with-God” scenario. We are not less faithful to God when we do not assemble for worship in one place in this covid-19 pandemic world. It is not usual times, but rather, we are under very exceptional times. And if we are to bring this pandemic down, we have to work with God and with our local authorities. God had used quarantine and social distancing methods to keep his community of people stay healthy (see Leviticus 13). And what our authorities are doing is in keeping with these trusted and biblical ways of keeping infectious diseases under control. In times like this, we should submit to and obey our governing authorities (Romans 13) and pray for them too (1 Timothy 1:1-4).

Some of you may have watched the video shared by brother Myl on our WhatsApp group. It is about a church, the Solid Rock Church in Ohio, USA, which has more than 1,000 members and they are still gathering for worship despite the movement and gathering control measures being imposed in their area. For a story on them, a local TV journalist interviewed a few of the members as they were driving to church. When asked why they were still gathering in large numbers for worship, one reply came out loud and strong, “The blood of Jesus Christ covers us” or, “We have the blood of Jesus”. One woman after telling this to the interviewer, asked him to read Psalm 91 too.

I turned to Psalm 91 and read it too. It is a very beautiful psalm. A very reassuring psalm, which promises the people of God protection from all harm. And so, taking that Solid Rock churchgoer's words at their face value, she probably would be saying, “I have the blood of Jesus and it protects me from all harm, including the current covid-19 pandemic. I am not afraid at all.” I might be wrong. But when those words were said in the context of the interviewer's line of questioning, I think I may not be too far off. This kind of bald, fly-in-the-face assertion of faith is quite off the line. It is not theologically nor biblically sound for several reasons.

One, the blood of Jesus covers us, yes! But it is not protection from any physical harm or ailment. Anecdotal examples would suffice to prove this: Paul had his thorn in the flesh; Timothy had a stomach ailment; Christians do fall sick and die; or, they are persecuted and tortured. But what is more significant is that the word of God does not promise or teach this. Instead, the word of God teaches that the blood of Jesus is poured out for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 22:20; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:14, 22). Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and because of this we now have access to God. We can come near to God with full confidence and boldness (Hebrews 10:19f.).

Two, in our walk of faith with God, we should not put God to the test. We should not deliberately put ourselves in harm's way thinking that God will protect us all the time; or, that he will rescue us all the time just because we are his children. Satan's second temptation of Jesus should alert us to this biblical truth. Satan told Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down [from the highest point of the temple]” and quite interestingly, and ironically for the woman from Solid Rock, Satan cited from Psalm 91, verses 11 & 12 – “He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” But Jesus answered Satan, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (see Matthew 4:5-7.) And so, we should not be thinking that since we are the children of God, that we have Jesus in us, we can afford to put ourselves to any risk since God will send his angels to protect us. No! We should not wilfully put the Lord our God to the test.

Three, crying “We have the blood of Jesus” unthinkingly is quite akin to the Israelites of old when they cried, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:4). The Israelites thought that they would not be punished for their sins or fall into harm's way because they had the temple of the Lord. They believed that their temple would protect them. They were way off the mark; and, so too are those who call on the blood of Jesus thinking it is sufficient to keep them from harm's way. No, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins; it covers our sins. But it does not protect us in any miraculous way against diseases such as the very infectious covid-19.

In Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4), Jesus reveals to her, and to us, that God is spirit and God seeks true worshippers who will worship him in spirit and in truth. To worship God in spirit is the spiritual dimension of the true and pure heart. And to worship God in truth is to worship him in accordance with the truth of his word for us. That truth has to be understood and determined within the perimeters of the revelation of God's word. It is not our feelings, or what we want it to be, or what our ‘pastor’ told us to do.

We are in a very unique and exceptional circumstance, which calls for exceptional measures: self-isolation, social distancing and such like restrictions. But even if we can't physically be together to worship God, we can spiritually. Let us not lose heart. Let us not take the name of God in vain. Rather, let us keep faith and let us always be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28); even if we are doing it alone and from home. Let the name of God be honoured and praised!


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