Joseph said, “God sent me before you to preserve life; for the famine has been in the land these two years and there are still five more years of famine to come. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”Gen. 45: 5-7 .”
As we listen to the reports about the development, the progression, and the future of COVID19, many may be left with much consternation. But hearing Joseph’s report to his brothers about the famine that would have brought destruction and death to humanity, and how God had sent him ahead of them to save their lives should remind us of what God can do for us at this present time.
We are about eight months into this global pandemic, and five months into a new way of life that may not return to former ways for our generation. The scientists, who are not God, but individuals with expertise in infectious diseases, whom God created and gave the gift of healing, are saying that COVID-19 may be around for a while and or it may never go away, and our way of life as we have lived it prior to COVID-19 may never be the same. So where do people of faith turn for assurance that God is still in control and that He knows the way through and out of this dilemma? Where will people of faith turn to find hope in the midst of despair? There is a familiar saying that once we have life, we have hope. And what does humanity hope for during this pandemic?
The story of Joseph who was sold into servitude in Egypt and later risen to be advisor to the king of Egypt and placed in charge of the whole economy of the country, gives us a window through which we can look and find hope. In the midst of the famine, humanity found itself in need of a refuge. They went in search of a source that could provide what was needed to keep them alive. And they could not have found a better resource. God led them into a safe haven. Don’t we need a source at this time to tell us what to do to remain safe and be kept alive?
The seven-year famine is an example of where we as people of faith can turn, and to whom we can turn in times of need to find a refuge for ourselves and our families. Just following the instructions provided by those whom God has chosen for such a time as this, may keep us safe and preserve life. After all, we do not know where the end is. In the meantime, we have to trust and obey; we have to behave in such a way that we and our household, and all that we have, will not become infected.
This story of the seven-year famine gives us an example of a people having to make a decision to move away from all that was familiar and to settle into a new way of life, a complete change from the way of life they had grown accustomed. You see, circumstances beyond their control forced them to journey to a foreign place and the new circumstance they faced there caused them to rethink their way of life.
To paraphrase 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name,” Joseph and his family were such a people. It was not difficult, therefore, for the family to be willing to make such a decision. What do you think made them so willing to decide to bring their senior citizen dad, their children and their grandchildren, as well as their flocks, their herds, and all that they had? You see, a promise was made to provide for all their needs. Joseph said to them, “I will provide for you there.” Didn’t St. Paul tell us in Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?” And don’t we like to sing, “All I have needed thy hand hath provided? Great is thy faithfulness!”
What don’t we understand about the children of Israel’s experience during the famine in comparison to our experience during this pandemic? For them famine brought with it starvation and death. For us COVID-19 brings with it death in many cases . If God sent a word to the ancient people, a word that saved their lives from starvation and death, isn’t God sending us a word of hope at this present time during COVID-19 that can preserve life for God’s people?
As challenging as our present circumstances may be, to have life is far better than to be in a situation that can end in premature death because we did not take the necessary precautions to preserve life. And since we do not know and cannot see the end of this present pandemic, may we continue to heed the instruction from the word of God and from the reputable authorities, and follow them closely. God sent his word in order to preserve life; brothers and sisters, the pandemic is only a few months old, and no one knows how long it will be with us. Therefore, may our hope be strong in the Lord so that we shall never hope in vain. Or as some may have learned it from Te deum laudamus, “O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.”
— Bishop Edward Ambrose Gumbs is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands.