Reflection by the Sages
What might God be speaking through the sudden viral crisis that has gripped the world? Scriptures such as Isaiah 24 (and also Isaiah 2:12-23; Amos 3:1-8; Luke 21:34-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5) may be pertinent. Here I will use Isaiah 24, as an example, to show what God's Word can teach us about our times.
The twenty-fourth chapter is composed of three parts.
Isa 24:1-12 contains a description of the calamities that would come upon the whole land, amounting to far-spread and wide desolation - with a graphic description of the effects of it on the inhabitants Isaiah 24:2, on the land Isaiah 24:3-6, on the wine, the amusements, the song, etc. Isaiah 24:7-12, causing all gaiety and prosperity to come to an end.
Isa 24:13-17 contains a statement by the prophet that a few would be left in the land amidst the general desolation, and that they would be filled with joy that they had escaped. From their retreats and refuges, their fastnesses and places of security, they would lift up the song of praise that they had been preserved.
Isa 24:18-23 contains a further description of augmented judgment that would come upon the land - a more severe and lengthened calamity stretching over the country, agitating it like an earthquake. Yet there is even here Isaiah 24:22-23, an indication that there would be deliverance, and that the Lord of hosts would reign on Mount Zion - a description which is extended through the next chapter, and which constitutes the scope and substance of that chapter.
Of course the expression, "maketh empty," is rhetorical, some remarkable, but not complete, depopulation being pointed at (comp. ver. 6). Turneth it upside down (comp. Ezekiel 21:27). Scattereth abroad the inhabitants. The scanty population left is dispersed, and not allowed to collect into masses. [Pulpit Commentary]
“The prophecy leaps far beyond all particular or national conditions” to apply globally. (Cambridge)
The judgment affects all classes alike, without distinction of rank or fortune. (Cambridge)
All shall suffer equally. The author is obliged to take as examples distinctions of rank known to him; but he carefully selects such as are of almost universal occurrence. There was scarcely any nation of antiquity in which there were not "priests and people," "masters and slaves," "buyers and sellers," "lenders and borrowers," "takers and givers of usury." By "usury" is meant, not exorbitant interest, but interest simply, of whatever amount. (Pulpit)
But an emphatic mention of the city of the world, the proper focus of worldliness, corresponds to its importance. [...] That under this city we do not understand Jerusalem, as most do, is self-evident from our view of this passage. The city of the world is called the city of emptiness, [not confusion] because worldliness has in it its seat and centre, and worldliness is essentially תֹּהוּi.e, vanitas, inanity, emptiness, [Lange]
The earth... fadeth away. As a flower that fades and withers up (comp. Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 28:1, 4; Isaiah 34:4, etc.; Psalm 1:3; Psalm 37:2). The world (tabel) has never any narrower sense than the entire "world," and must be regarded as fixing the meaning of arets in passages where (as here) the two are used as synonymous. The haughty people; or, the high ones. All the great are brought down, and laid low, that "the Lord alone may be exalted in that day" (cf. Isaiah 2:11-17). [Pulpit]
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof - The statements in this verse are given as a reason why the curse had been pronounced against them, and why these calamities had come upon them, Isaiah 24:6. The first reason is, that the very earth become polluted by their crimes. This phrase may denote that injustice and cruelty prevailed to such an extent that the very earth was stained with gore, and covered with blood under the guilty population. So the phrase is used in Numbers 33:33; Psalm 106:38. Or it may mean in general that the wickedness of the people was great, and was accumulating, and the very earth under them was polluted by sustaining such a population. But the former is probably the correct interpretation.
Changed the ordinance - Or, the statute (חק chôq). […] is usually applied to the positive statutes appointed by Moses. The word statute accurately expresses the idea. These they had changed by introducing new statutes, and had in fact, if not in form, repealed the laws of Moses, and introduced others.
Broken the everlasting covenant - The word 'covenant' here is evidently used, as it is often, in the sense of law. By the term 'everlasting covenant,' Vitringa correctly supposes is denoted the laws of nature, the immutable laws of justice and right, which are engraven on the conscience, and which are inflexible and perpetual. [Benson]
the curse which always follows on evil-doing, or, more specifically, the curse of the Book of the Covenant, as in Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28. The curse is personified as a beast of prey or a consuming fire, ready to devour. (Comp. Genesis 4:7; Genesis 4:11.) […] The curse, the symbol of the wrath of Jehovah, is the consuming fire that burns. [Ellicott]
The mirth of tabrets... of the harp ceaseth (comp. Isaiah 5:12). The feasting, and the drinking-songs, and the musical accompaniment, common at the vintage season, are discontinued. All is dismay and wretchedness - desolation in the present, worse desolation expected in the future. [Pulpit]
They shall cease to find pleasure in it in consequence of the general calamities that have come upon the nation.
“The world with its pleasure is judged; the world's city is also judged, in which both the world's power and the world's pleasure were concentrated. […] every house is shut up, so that no man can come in. There is lamentation for wine in the fields; all rejoicing has set; the delight of the earth is banished. What is left of the city is wilderness, and the gate was shattered to ruins. For so will it be within the earth, in the midst of the nations; as at the olive-beating, as at the gleaning, when the vintage is over."
[Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
The city: the singular word may be here taken collectively. City of confusion; or, of vanity, or emptiness, or desolation; for this Hebrew word signifies all these things. Every house is shut up; either for fear of the enemy who have entered the city; or rather, because the inhabitants are either fled, or dead, or gone into captivity, and so there are none to go into it, or come out of it. [Poole]
The gate is smitten with destruction; or "gates", the singular for the plural; none passing and repassing through them, as formerly, and themselves utterly destroyed. [Gill]
My note: The gates of modern cities are its transportation hubs, such as airports, train and bus terminals, and sea ports. All these are “broken”, because of the lock-down and quarantine few are travelling any more. They are deserted.
That is, a small and scattered remnant of inhabitants shall alone be left, like the few grapes and olives that were the portion of the gleaners (cf. Isaiah 17:6). [Pulpit]
The utterers of the praise are obviously the remnant of the saved, whether of the “Jews of the dispersion,” or of the Gentiles. To them there appears in the midst of the desolation, the vision of the glory of the Lord, and far off, from the sea (the Mediterranean, as the great sea of the ancient world) they raise their song of praise. [Ellicott]
They shall sing for the majesty of the Lord - They shall sing on account of the glory, or goodness of Yahweh, wire had so mercifully kept and preserved them. They shall cry aloud from the sea - From the isles and coasts of the Mediterranean where they would have escaped, and where they would find a refuge. No doubt many of the inhabitants adjacent to the sea, when they found the land invaded, would betake themselves to the neighboring islands, and find safety there until the danger should be overpast. [Barnes]
But, as the word בארים, here translated, in the fires, is not used elsewhere in Scripture, in this sense, others render it, in the valleys; and others again, in the holes, or caves: as if he had said, Glorify ye the Lord, who are forced to hide yourselves in secret places. Possibly, however, the word may be better rendered, for lights, or illuminations, which may be understood, either of the light of the truth which God would reveal to them, or of the comfort which God would confer upon them, light being frequently taken in both senses in Scripture. For this Hebrew word, in all other places of Scripture where it is found, signifies the Urim, which was in the high-priest’s breast-plate, and which properly signifies lights or illuminations, as both Jews and Christians understand it: see note on Exodus 28:30. [Benson]
There shall be a remnant preserved from the general ruin, and it shall be a devout and pious remnant. These few are dispersed; like the gleanings of the olive tree, hid under the leaves. The Lord knows those that are his; the world does not. When the mirth of carnal worldlings ceases, the joy of the saints is as lively as ever, because the covenant of grace, the fountain of their comforts, and the foundation of their hopes, never fails. Those who rejoice in the Lord can rejoice in tribulation, and by faith may triumph when all about them are in tears. They encourage their fellow-sufferers to do likewise, even those who are in the furnace of affliction. Or, in the valleys, low, dark, miry places. In every fire, even the hottest, in every place, even the remotest, let us keep up our good thoughts of God. If none of these trials move us, then we glorify the Lord in the fires. [Matthew Henry Concise Commentary]
Sin is a burden to the whole creation; it is a heavy burden, under which it groans now, and will sink at last. The high ones, that are puffed up with their grandeur, that think themselves out of the reach of danger, God will visit for their pride and cruelty. Let us judge nothing before the time, though some shall be visited. None in this world should be secure, though their condition be ever so prosperous; nor need any despair, though their condition be ever so deplorable. God will be glorified in all this. But the mystery of Providence is not yet finished. The ruin of the Redeemer's enemies must make way for his kingdom, and then the Sun of Righteousness will appear in full glory. Happy are those who take warning by the sentence against others; every impenitent sinner will sink under his transgression, and rise no more, while believers enjoy everlasting bliss. [Matthew Henry]
The windows from on high are open . . .—The phrase reminds us of the narrative of the Flood in Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2. There was a second judgment on the defiled and corrupted land like that of the deluge. The next clause and the following verses were probably reminiscences of the earthquake in Uzziah’s reign, and of the panic which it caused (Isaiah 2:19; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5). [Ellicott]
The image means here that calamities would be multiplied in all the land, and that if the inhabitants endeavored to avoid one danger they would fall into another. And the foundations of the earth do shake - An image derived from an earthquake - a figure also denoting far-spreading calamities. [Barnes]
Shall fall into the pit; when he designs to avoid one danger, by so doing he shall plunge himself into another and a greater mischief. The windows from on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth do shake; both heaven and earth conspire against him. He alludes to the deluge of waters which God poured down from heaven, and to the earthquakes which he ofttimes causeth below. [Matthew Poole]
The earth is utterly broken down - The effect as it were of an earthquake where everything is thrown into commotion and ruin. [...] The repetition also of the expression in the same sense three times, is a strong form of emphasis; and the whole passage is designed to denote the utter desolation and ruin that had come upon the land. [Barnes]
The earth totters under the weight of its iniquity, and falls (we must remember the Hebrew idea of the world as resting upon pillars, 1 Samuel 2:8), never to rise again. [Ellicott]
As we say of a drunkard, he may stumble often, and partially recover himself, yet he will certainly fall so as not then to be able to recover himself, so it would be with that agitated and convulsed land. They would make many efforts to recover themselves, and they would partially succeed, yet they would ultimately be completely prostrate in the dust. [Barnes]
not rise again—not meaning, that it never would rise (Isa 24:23), but in those convulsions it would not rise, it would surely fall. [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown]
The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; those sins which they formerly esteemed light and pleasant shall now be most burdensome and grievous to them, because of the dreadful punishments which shall follow them. [Matthew Poole]
The high ones, that are puffed up with their grandeur, that think themselves out of the reach of danger, God will visit for their pride and cruelty. Let us judge nothing before the time, though some shall be visited. None in this world should be secure, though their condition be ever so prosperous; nor need any despair, though their condition be ever so deplorable. God will be glorified in all this. But the mystery of Providence is not yet finished. The ruin of the Redeemer's enemies must make way for his kingdom, and then the Sun of Righteousness will appear in full glory. Happy are those who take warning by the sentence against others; every impenitent sinner will sink under his transgression, and rise no more, while believers enjoy everlasting bliss. [Matthew Henry Concise Commentary]
In the pit - Margin, 'Dungeon.' The sense is, that he rulers of the land should be made captive, and treated as prisoners of war. [Barnes]
The moon shall be confounded . . .—The thought implied is that the most glorious forms of created light will become dim, the moon red as with the blush of shame, the sun turning pale, before the glory of Jehovah’s presence. The Lord of hosts shall reign . . .—Better, hath become king, the phrase being that used as in 2Samuel 5:4; 1Kings 15:1, for a king’s accession to his throne. And before his ancients gloriously.—Better, and before his elders shall he glory. The “elders” are, like the seventy of Exodus 24:9, like the twenty-four of Revelation 4:4, the chosen ones of the new Jerusalem, to whom it shall be given, as the counsellors of the great King, to see His glory, that glory resting on them as in old time it rested upon Moses. [Ellicott]
The prophet says the world will be shaken by reason of transgress the eternal laws of God. Calamities will catch the inhabitants of the earth unguarded. Cities will be the focus of the calamity. But in the midst of the crisis, as the world is shaken and tested, the faithful will be protected. Paradoxically, in the middle of the crisis, the faithful are called to worship God, because they will be seeing the break of day in the midst of the darkness. They will witness the God's kingdom emerging. God will reign on earth. God will make His will and Word to prevail on the earth, subduing the powerful of this world.
"So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28)
A viral darkness has swooped down on earth. It is dark at noon.
The IMF’s chief said during WHO briefing on 04/03/20.
The coronavirus pandemic has created an economic crisis “like no other,” the top International Monetary Fund official said. “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy come to a standstill,” said Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF. “It is way worse than the global financial crisis” of 2008-09, Georgieva said during a World Health Organization press conference. “This is in my lifetime humanity’s darkest hour, a big threat to the whole world and it requires for us to stand us, be united,” Georgieva said during a World Health Organization press conference. “It is way worse than the global financial crisis” of 2008-09, she said. “This is a crisis like no other.”
I will make their widows more numerous than the sand of the sea. I will bring a destroyer at noon against the mothers of young men. I will suddenly bring upon them anguish and dismay. She who bore seven has grown feeble; she has fainted away; her sun went down while it was yet day; she has been shamed and disgraced. And the rest of them I will give to the sword before their enemies, declares the LORD.” (Jer 15: 8-9)