Just calling it swine flu is scary. In 1918-19, about 50 million people worldwide died of the Spanish swine flu, which particularly decimated military installations. Corpses were stacked like cordwood, and fear nearly paralyzed our nation.
Flu epidemics occur with frightening regularity a couple of times each century, but no one knows what their severity or duration would be. Though usually spread only among livestock handlers, mutations allow the viruses to spread person-to-person. Horrendous consequences in illness, death, inadequate treatment and prevention, and economic disruption may maim the global population.
In 1976, a young born-again Army trainee at Fort Dix collapsed during maneuvers and died. His body showed the same strain of swine flu as that of the earlier epidemic. (There has since been speculation that the Army recruit actually died from pneumonia.) President Gerald Ford was saddled with the decision to inoculate huge segments of the U.S. population, and the government assumed responsibility for any side effects. The debilitating Guillain-Barre syndrome sickened many who were inoculated, and some died. Others still bear the tragic effects.
Epidemiologists have been warning for years that we were running out of miracle drugs even for known viruses as they gain strength through overuse of antibiotics. Mutating and combined swine flu organisms have long endangered millions. They are unpredictable, can circle the globe in only three months and kill people who have no immunity. Should this current swine flu problem be a widespread pandemic, there is probably no stopping it until it has run its course.
What should perceptive people do? First, realize that massive scourges of this type are going to be an end-time phenomenon. In Matthew 24:7-8, Jesus predicted, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Luke varies Jesus’ words only slightly writing, “And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11-12). The Greek word translated as “pestilences” actually means “plagues”.
Israel was promised unique health if it unwaveringly served the Lord. Exodus 15:26 says, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”
But ancient Israel had to ponder a possible divine punishment in the form of pestilence. If you want a shocker, read each instance in the Bible that pestilence was divine punishment—over forty times. Just one example is found in 2 Chronicles 7:13-15: “‘When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’” Note that God’s potential judgment of disease is just one verse prior to the famous revival verse millions of believers will be hearing on the National Day of Prayer on May 7.
Let no believer be stricken with disease through immoral lifestyle or improper dietary or health practices. Let no believer ever be a carrier through sinful behavior or lowered immunity from worry or fear.
In a scary time, when millions could sicken and die, rest in the comfort of Psalm 91:1-10:
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
“A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
“Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling…” (emphasis mine)
If the Lord opts not to deliver every believer from disease (after all, we all have to go out of this life through some physical problem), we have the calm assurance of 2 Corinthians 5:8: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Meanwhile, we pray for health oversight personnel to use their God-given wisdom in prevention and cure.