If God is Good, Why Did He Send Coronavirus?

The battle between David and Goliath is over. David made a point to go into battle unequipped and untrained. God alone would deliver Israel, and He would do so for His own glory—that all the earth may recognize Him (See 17:26, 46). After the battle, Saul did not recognize God. He glorified David, then turned on David because he was envious of David. David became Saul’s new Goliath.

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1 Samuel 18:10-19

Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice. 

Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, and he went out and came in before them.

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife, only be a valiant man for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “My hand shall not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”

But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be the king’s son-in-law?”

So it came about at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

Saul’s pride (v. 10-16)

Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice. 

Samuel gives us a timeframe reference. This part of the story takes place the day after Saul and David return from the Philistine incursion and continues day after day. Like we read in chapter 16, verse 14, an evil spirit tormented Saul on a regular basis. This evil spirit is from God. This notion is conflicting for some. God is benevolent, yet the evil spirit is from Him. While there are arguments present that utilize linguistics to lessen the blow of this particular verse, the truth remains—God sent a spirit to Saul for the purpose of oppressing him. Some will also try to lessen the blow by claiming that Saul is troubled because he is simply old. It may very well be the case that Saul is suffering from ailments that naturally accompany old age, but the text is perspicuous in its reason for Saul’s ailment. We cannot rightly naturalize what we read because the text is so explicit. There is an evil spirit from the Lord oppressing Saul. Since this is the explicit claim in Scripture, we cannot explain it away. We cannot get God off the hook. If God is sovereign, in control of all things, and providential, working all things together, then even evil spirits are on His leash and cannot go without God’s commission. He has placed all the elements in the world that He desires for His own glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

David plays like he usually does. Instead of comforting Saul (See 16:23), the music enrages him. Have you ever suddenly become angry enough that you just needed to hit something? I have. It’s not pretty and people usually feel ashamed and childish afterward. Saul hears David’s harp, sees David, and instantly becomes angry enough to hurl a spear at David to try pinning him to the wall—something that only works in movies. David dodges the spear on two occasions—probably on different days. The healing power was never in the music. As we saw in 16:23, healing is always the Holy Spirit working according to His will. God is the one who has explicit charge over everything. He is sovereign.

Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, and he went out and came in before them.

Why is Saul afraid of David? His fear is born of envy. God is with David but has departed from Saul. Saul appoints David to command a legion of his army. We will see why in the coming verses. God causes David to prosper, and Saul dreads him all the more. All Israel and Judah love David. Why? God is working out David’s prosperity for His own purpose—establishing Christ’s throne on Christ’s earth.

David’s humility (v. 17-19)

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife, only be a valiant man for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “My hand shall not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”

In the David and Goliath discourse, we saw that Saul promised to give his daughter in marriage to the man who defeated Goliath (17:25). David scoffed at the idea then, insinuating that God’s glory was a sufficient reason to fight the giant (17:26). David did what he did so that Israel, Philistia, and all creation might recognize God (17:46-47).

Saul follows through with his promised reward, though not because he desires to keep his word. He adds a condition—David must fight for Saul and fight the battles Saul defines as the Lord’s battles. Saul still sees David as the victor and his new Goliath. Saul is still doing everything he can to claim victory for himself. He is not fighting the Lord’s battles but his own. He hopes David will go out to fight and be oppressed, possibly dispatched, by the Philistines. Saul’s plan is to set David up to be killed because he dreads David.

But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be the king’s son-in-law?”

Saul didn’t hear David’s message when he faced Goliath (See 17:58). God won God’s victory for God’s glory. Yet, Saul could only see David. David takes every opportunity to try persuading Saul that he is entirely insufficient and God alone is the one to be honored. This is how we know David has a heart after God’s own heart. Like Saul, the natural human desire is recognition, praise, material success, victory, and so on. Never would any natural or sane person turn down a reward after appearing to do some great thing and, instead, claim to be unworthy of the reward. David does. It’s unnatural for the human heart to be so humble. That’s why we are often confounded when we see people who perceive themselves as unworthy in our day. That’s why ministry by which preachers/teachers don’t seek a following for themselves or make it their goal to merely increase church attendance are so rare. David correctly recognizes that glory belongs to God alone. David’s reveals his heart in his music. Though Psalm 8 will probably be written at a later time, it reflects David’s heart in this text.

O Lord, our Lord,

How majestic is Your name in all the earth,

Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

Because of Your adversaries,

To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen,

And also the beasts of the field,

The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,

Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,

How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8)

So it came about at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

Because David rejected Saul’s human centered reward, Saul’s daughter was given in marriage to someone else according to the custom. This is a good place to remember that many things in Scripture are descriptive, not prescriptive. We can’t apply this verse to say anything about marriage. Samuel is simply telling about the transpiring events.

God is the one in charge of all things, even evil spirits. God is the one to receive all glory in all things. God works all things together the way He does for the purpose of His glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. During times of pandemic, we prove how faithful we really are to our Lord. I am heartbroken by most people’s response to the new string of coronavirus. People only seem to care about staying safe and getting everything they think they need. During times like the current coronavirus scare, people will often quote 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, 

If I (God) shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

If this promise is real, we might expect God to answer His people’s prayers to end droughts and pandemics in any land. This is rarely the case. So, Scripture is seen as unhelpful and unrealistic. The thought that God will necessarily heal the land because His people ask Him to sounds spiritual enough. People who say they trust God to answer this kind of prayer seem to be spiritual giants. In reality, they have not understood the Scriptures. Think about it. If God is sovereign, if He works all things together, sicknesses and pandemics do not surprise Him. They are here only because God has ordained them. Resolving merely to ask that God end any sickness or pestilence in an individual’s life or in the land is like asking God to overturn His own decree. Sadly, people who presume to be faithful Christians seek to advise God as if they know better than He. I guarantee God cares more for the good of His creation than we do. We can’t get the full impact of these two verses without the context of the overall story, but we can see the basic truth. Read the verses carefully. God takes responsibility for withholding rain, ordaining plagues, and sending pestilence (sicknesses and pandemics). If His people humble themselves and pray, He promises to heal the land. We often use these verses to argue that our prayers should ask God to remove the sickness—a fine example of reading the Bible in a self-centered way. Notice, praying includes seeking God’s face (His glory) and turning from our wicked ways (repentance). It does not include us praying for supernatural healing over an individual or the land as if God doesn’t know what He is doing. Pestilences are meant to turn people to God for God’s glory through human repentance. We ask, “Why would God permit coronavirus?” Our answer—life isn’t about our mere safety. Don’t hear me claiming that we shouldn’t be prudent, try to remain safe, and try to keep others safe. We should, but there is a higher calling people are missing. Coronavirus, and every other sickness, is a warning that we are insufficient and headed toward a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. So, we turn to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. When God’s people realize His warning, seek His will rather than their own, and repent; God promises to heal their land. God doesn’t answer our prayers to heal the land because that is not what He promises to do. He desires us turn from our self-glory to Him. The church has, for too long, been about glorifying either the preacher or the pew-sitter or the “seeker.” Let us turn and repent to God who is holy. The Bible is perspicuous about why God causes pestilence and why God engineers new and evolving viruses on this fallen earth.

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