by 鍾卓權牧師 (Rev. Bernie Chung)
以色列子民曾長久背叛上帝，他們可以說是陷於與上帝自我隔離的狀態，上帝必須重新介入，否則他們必會在上帝憤怒之下滅亡。先知西番雅向南國猶大說：「這事臨到他們是、因他們驕傲、自誇自大、毀謗萬軍之耶和華的百姓」 (西番雅書 2:10)，先知呼召在被巴比倫俘擄和責備期間願意回轉的子民「當尋求公義謙卑」（西番雅書2:3），並等待「耶和華的日子」來到，祂會親自施行拯救和復興他們，因為他們是上帝所憐憫、隱藏和保護者。倘若我們遠離神，又不知回轉，我們也會永遠與神隔離。
今天大多數的人漠視上帝，倘若上帝沒有將祂自己啟示給人們，他們忽視上帝是可以理解的。但是使徒保羅在羅馬書1:20 節說：「自從造天地以來、 神的永能和神性是明明可知的、雖是眼不能見、但藉著所造之物、就可以曉得、叫人無可推諉。」，偉大的創造是上帝對我們的普遍啟示。祂又藉著祂自己所默示的聖經 (提摩太後書3:16)直接對我們特別啟示了祂願萬人明白真道並且得救(提摩太前書2:4)。
In late February, Italy became the worst epidemic area of the new coronavirus COVID-19 in Europe, and even the annual Venice Carnival was forced to be cancelled. Although traditional participants usually wear gorgeous masks to celebrate the event, reluctant people may have to show up with immunization masks instead. At the same time, the Shincheonji Cult in Daegu, South Korea, has caused a wide spread of the infectious disease. The new coronavirus rages around the world and the epidemic is out of control. California governor Newsom on March 4 declared a state emergency in California due to new coronavirus cases. The very next day, the City of San Francisco confirmed a case of an infected citizen and the mayor asked the general public to be vigilant as community transmission of the virus may have started. I am grateful to a brother who had installed hand sanitizer dispensers in several places of our church a few weeks ago so that we can use them at church meetings. We must also follow the precautionary protocol of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on self-quarantine for anyone who may have exposed to the virus.
The people of Israel had a long history of betraying God. It can be said that they had self-imposed isolation from God. The sinful Israelites would have perished without God's interventions time after time. The Prophet Zephaniah told Judah in the South: "This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the Lord Almighty” (NIV 2:10 Zephaniah). During the Babylonian captivity, he called upon those repentant Israelites to turn to God by saying to them: "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). Zephaniah told his people to wait for the "day of the Lord" when God himself will save, restore, shelter and protect them by his mercy. This reminds us that if we stay away from God and unaware that we need to change our ways, we will forever be separated from God.
Many people today have ignored God. Their indifference would be understandable if God has not revealed himself to his people. But the Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” God's great creation is the universal revelation of God himself to us. He also reveals directly to us through his words in the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16 2 Timothy). God also "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” ( 1 Timothy2:4).
Let us reflect on the current epidemic situation and "seek justice and humility" with God's help. If you have not yet accepted God's salvation, don't put it off any longer. Do not get trapped in a state of isolation from God that would lead to self-destruction. If you are already God's child, don't let your pride cause you to have the same missteps as the people of Israel. Be wise not to isolate yourself and ignore God's salvation. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).