Where have we seen a crisis like this before?
COVID-19 has landed Singapore in terribly difficult times.
You only have to listen to our leaders to know how bad it is. Like Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who most recently described it in the Solidarity Budget on Monday as “a generational crisis with no precedent”.
A generational crisis. We’re living in a time that will appear in our children’s Social Studies textbooks – crazy!
But you know what? In a sense, we’ve seen this all before.
Don’t believe me? Check out these stories below. And if those guys made it out alright, then we can have hope.
4 TIMES WE’VE SEEN IT BEFORE
1. A new start after the first lockdown in history
DPM Heng began the Solidarity Budget with an interesting factoid that got me thinking. He said “more than 3.9 billion people, or half of humanity, are on lockdown”.
That got me thinking of a time when all of humanity were on lockdown.
In Genesis 7, the Bible talks about how Noah and his family went into the ark along with a pair of every animal. God chose Noah and his family because evil had filled the world, and Noah was the only righteous person in his generation.
God gave Noah an advance warning that the rains would fall, and then they did. For 40 days and 40 nights the floodwaters rose on the earth. Every other living thing perished but Noah and his family.
He is a God of second chances.
We’re out here talking about circuit breakers when God’s already pulled a factory reset before.
REASON TO HOPE: In a stormy time in human history, a family is locked in a boat together and all of life is reorganised. But they come out to a new world.
True to His character, He is a God of second chances: God chose to preserve a remnant of humanity and give them a fresh start.
A cute WhatsApp message I recently received read: “40 days, 40 nights in the Ark, Noah’s family was confined in a boat. There were no windows, no balconies, no terraces, no internet, no phone, no YouTube, Facebook or Netflix. They only heard the rain. They spent their time praying, loving each other and caring for animals.”
What a model for a lockdown, eh?
It’s a good point to think over: How are we spending our time in the circuit breaker?
What kind of world will we come out to? We don’t know, but we can hope in this God who preserves those who love Him.
2. Having reserves to draw from
Some time after Noah’s ark, we see in Genesis 41 that God gives Pharaoh a dream that he cannot understand.
Dragged from the dungeons, Joseph – who by this point has been through a lot including wrongful imprisonment – interprets the dream for Pharaoh with God’s help.
The interpretation is that Egypt will have seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Joseph then counsels Pharaoh to install wise men to oversee storing a fifth of the grain during the good times as a reserve for the country, so it isn’t “ruined by the famine”.
REASON TO HOPE: God used the bad situation Joseph was in to install him in the right position at the right time to save people. Joseph’s meteoric rise to power from prisoner to prime minister of Egypt should remind us of God’s sovereignty.
As Joseph told his brothers who earlier sold him into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Fast forward to today, we can also have hope that God can turn a bad thing into something good.
For now, let’s be thankful for Singapore’s reserves – a massive safety blanket built up over decades that has given us a buffer against this crisis.
As the floodwaters rise, let’s pray that as the Government sends help to the affected, that the measures would work to help the worst-affected brothers and sisters among us.
3. Caring for the foreigner
Some big headlines in the third round of Budget measures were the waiver of the monthly foreign worker levy in April and a further one-off levy rebate of $750 for each work permit or S Pass holder.
If you understand the figures, you know it’s not a magic quick-fix. But the money does go some way in helping businesses retain foreign workers during the circuit breaker.
What I especially liked about the Solidarity Budget was the emphasis placed on keeping workers employed – both local and foreign.
I believe it is a noble and honourable thing to extend the exact same care to foreigners as locals receive. Because where else have we seen this? Why, just two books down from Genesis.
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
The Israelites were a hardened and difficult people by the time they had spent 400 years in Egypt (more on how they escaped in my 4th point!), so such laws had to be given to them through Moses.
Foreigners legally living and working in the land of Israel were to be treated like Israelites. The second greatest commandment applied (Matthew 22:36-40)!
It brings to mind how Singaporeans stepped up to care for our Malaysian brothers and sisters after the movement control order was announced.
God has a heart for the downtrodden and marginalised in society, and that’s perhaps the sort of thing that we should also be concerned about!
REASON TO HOPE: That God would include a law not to mistreat the disadvantaged and the foreigner tells us his heart for those who fall through the cracks.
We celebrate the fact that our laws reflect His own, but we look even more so to His eternal kingdom where there will be no more unfairness or pain.
Let us be reminded that in His grace, God took us in and made us His own children through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
Let us carry this spirit of compassion beyond our homes when the lockdown ends – loving the foreigners in our midst the way Jesus would.
4. A stay-home notice was issued
Lastly, since the circuit breaker has just kicked in, I thought I’d round the list up with another lockdown.
You see, way before there was #StayHome, the Israelites received a one-night Stay Home Notice from their authority – the Most High God. In the book of Exodus, we learn that God’s people were asked to stay home to avoid death!.
Quick story: God was going to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt because they had been suffering under the oppression of their Egyptian masters and God had heard their cry.
Having already sent nine plagues before, Pharaoh (different, much meaner one than the one in Joseph’s time) still refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Hence the final plague on all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.
There’s real danger outside, and the only thing worth clinging onto is hope.
God told the Israelites that every household was to select a lamb without defect, kill it at twilight and “take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs”.
This was God’s way of delivering His people out of Egypt – an event that would be known as the Passover: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
REASON TO HOPE: Isn’t that the same situation most of us are in? There’s real danger outside, and the only thing worth clinging onto is hope.
As Good Friday approaches, we’re locked down in our houses. With danger and death beyond our walls, we are in our own “Passover”. Only the Lamb in our homes this time is the Lamb who died for us – Jesus Christ.
The blood of lambs came to be remembered as how God saved the Israelites during the time of Exodus, a foreshadowing of Jesus’ saving act on the Cross.
In fact, Jesus is called the Lamb of God because he “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, Jesus gave Himself as a perfect sacrifice to settle the problem of sin once and for all – one times good one.
Because of what He did, His blood has made us pure, cleansing us from all sins. Because of what He did, we don’t have to die an eternal death (the result of sin!).
Even though there is danger outside our homes, He can keep us safe and lead us to a better place.
There is eternal life in Jesus, and He offers it to us today by simply believing in Him. We can live forever with Him simply by saying sorry, thank you and please.
In my reflections on the third Budget and the Holy Week we’re in, there’s been a lot on my mind. Our lockdown, or whatever kind of electrical switch you might call it, will not last forever.
As God did for the Israelites in Egypt, I believe that He is going to open our doors soon. God is going to lead us as churches, families and individuals out into a new place. Truly, God is coming back again.
In the opening months of this new decade, He is already disrupting everything we’ve ever known. So let’s ride the wave.
By His grace alone, may we become a righteous generation, trusting in Him like Noah did. May we grow into wisdom as Joseph had. And may we care for the foreigner in our midst.
God, help your Bride to be as ready as the Israelites were on the Passover. You are coming again, and we eagerly await You.
THINK + TALK
- How are you coping with the circuit breaker measures and staying at home?
- Despite all that’s happening, do you have hope? Why?
- Have you come to know the Living Hope, Jesus Christ? If so, how has that changed the way you look at life?