Lessons from Plagues in History

Nena Arias | March 9, 2020

A fact of life is that disease and death have been part of the human challenge since creation fell into disarray due to sin and how it impacted all of it. God did not create sin, that is an impossibility. God cannot abide sin and it is completely against his nature. We are told that sin was conceived in heaven by a beautiful creature by the name of Lucifer who is later called Satan. He allowed himself to become prideful and challenged God saying he (Lucifer) could also be God. Even though Lucifer was expelled from heaven and hurled to earth, that did not take care of eradicating sin in the universe, so God had to deal with it. He could not exclude that choice from Adam and Eve since he made them with a free will. The fact is that God’s one command to Adam and Eve at creation was to not partake of one specific tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”

Some very logical questions arise when we consider this command. For instance, if God said that everything that he had created was good, why did he include this tree that would introduce such dire consequences if Adam and Eve would eat of it? Also, if God knew that they were going to eat, why tempt them by putting it there in the first place?

Again, I repeat, God has to answer the challenge launched at him by Lucifer. God has to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt why only he can be God and none other. God is working to rid the entire universe of sin through a long process that clearly shows his superiority in every way, which qualifies him to be the only true God.

He created humans with a free will so by allowing humans to exercise their free will against sin to conquer it through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God continues his creative plan to not only answer Lucifer’s challenge but also to rid us of sin once and for all. He is also multiplying those who want his ways for all eternity for whatever he has prepared in the future and for all eternity. He is the Creator and never ceases to create.   

Even from the very beginning, humans have had the choice to resist sin. God told Cain, who committed the first murder by killing his righteous brother Abel the following: If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

So, back to the origin of disease through sin, these health challenges have been with us. Germs and bacteria are all around us and are a way of life. God in his wisdom has given us an immune system that helps us fight disease. But our immune systems can become compromised. So, when we come in contact with germs that cannot abide in the human body these are the ones that make us sick. Germs and bacteria mutate due to changes in climate, culture and human habits. Some become very contagious and make us sick and we pass on those germs, bacteria and viruses. They can get out of hand and we have history to prove how devastating they can be.

Throughout history, infectious diseases have consistently captured the attention and imagination of mankind. There are three diseases, like tuberculosis, smallpox, and the plague that have caught our attention for thousands of years. The plague, an ancient disease has been the cause of several epidemics and three known pandemics, claiming the lives of millions of people. The first pandemic occurred at the times of the Roman emperor Justinian (“Justinian plague”) and is believed to have originated in Egypt around AD 532; the second pandemic, also known as the Great Medieval Plague (“Black Death”) likely originated in China around 1334 and quickly spread throughout the then known world to Europe. The third pandemic probably originated around 1855 in the Chinese province of Yunnan and spread globally. Some experts believe that this third pandemic is still slowly progressing at the present time.

The factors are complex contributing to the occurrence of plague outbreaks. We must recognize that not all factors of disease transmission are based on active functions of creature animals like rodents or insects like mosquitos. Some aspects may be due to strange diets of countries and cultures that consume rare and strange animals and grow their fruits and vegetables with dirty water supplies. Other aspects may be the breakdown of public health services or disease surveillance in developing countries, however, where public health services are not funded or non-existent the lack of funding options for treatment and preventative care have always been highlighted as factors in the spread of communicable diseases. In this regard, several lessons can be learned and perhaps re-learned from every outbreak. The importance of thorough investigations using appropriate microbiology laboratory is vital. Also, prevention of mass hysteria and public fear, which may be fed by inappropriate public media reporting. Nothing is more destructive than panic in the populace. Appropriate management of all confirmed and suspected cases is vital. Official outbreak response teams must be dispatched to first confirm the presence of plague, assess all clinical cases, and study local rodent populations, then administer proper medicine to diseased individuals and those with confirmed exposure, and finally quarantine all infected individuals.

I was very blessed to hear from our vice president in an interview, after giving all the practical indications that people could do to avoid infection, he said “pray”. Some may laugh and ridicule him for saying that but the spiritual side, from God’s perspective and the benefits of being a person of faith in Almighty God and his promises is the best recourse to protect ourselves from what we call “natural disaster”.

Healing is God's will for all. “By His stripes, we were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Jesus bore all sickness, so we wouldn't have to—just as he bore all sin for us. The power of sickness is sin, and if sin is defeated, sickness has no legal right in any believer. Exodus 23:25, he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.”

Isaiah 53:4-5 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”