It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. -Hebrews 9:27

Yesterday early evening, after our mid-afternoon Thanksgiving dinner and just prior to trekking through the woods with flashlights, the whole horde of us intent on measuring the deep hole rediscovered earlier in the day,1 we gathered in front of the fireplace to sing and give thanks to God.

At Mary Lee’s suggestion, we started by reading aloud President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 “Thanksgiving Proclamation.” He brought it to an end by calling the people to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes…”

Read this national treasure. When asked by a grandson later in the evening what I thought of Lincoln, after a long discussion on race, slavery, the Civil War, the Tenth Amendment, Roe v. Wade, Obergefell, habeas corpus, etc. as well as his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, I brought things to an end by saying I love the man. “But it doesn’t take much for me to love a man, now—just that he fears God. Which Lincoln did. Read his Second Inaugural Address there on the right side as you enter the Lincoln Memorial.”

The discussion of Lincoln came later in the evening. After Lincoln’s Proclamation, we moved into thanksgiving and our daughter, Michal, gave thanks for Covid.

Why on earth for Covid?

She had many good reasons, ending with her gratitude to God for its “discipline.” It was a “gentle discipline,” she said.

Just right. Covid is God’s gentle discipline.

Concerning this plague, every believer should be “fervently imploring the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal this wound of our nation and to restore us” while giving thanks to Him for Covid’s gentle discipline.

It could be much worse. One of the songs we sang yesterday evening was Martin Rinkart’s “Now Thank We All Our God.” The inspiration for Rinkart’s (b. 1586) thanksgiving came from within discipline of God that was much more severe than ours today.

A German pastor ministering in Eilenberg, Rinkart’s pastorate was defined by service at the center of the Thirty Year War which claimed five million lives, a fifth of Germany’s population. On top of the war, in 1637 a terrible plague hit Eilenburg, decimating the city and leaving Pastor Rinkart to minister bedside and bury the dead, including his own wife. Often saying the graveside rite fifty times a day, as the only pastor who survived, Pastor Rinkart buried well over 4,000 of those who succumbed to the plague.

Yet from the midst (or because) of this discipline of God, Rinkart gave this thanks:

Now all thank God
with heart, mouth and hands;
He does great things
for us and all our purposes;
He for us from our mother’s womb
and childish steps
countless great good
has done and still continues to do.

May God who is forever rich
be willing to give us in our life
a heart that is always joyful
and noble peace
and in his mercy
maintain us for ever and ever
and free us from all distress
here and there (both on earth and in heaven).

Glory, honor and praise be to God,
to the Father and to the Son
and to Him, who is equal to both
on heaven’s high throne,
to the triune God,
as he was from the beginning
and is and will remain
now and forever.

Michal is right. We should all be giving thanks for Covid’s gentle discipline from God. Where gentle discipline fails, if one has a good father, more painful discipline follows. Shall we repent, or shall we continue to accuse our civil authorities and their health consultants of stupidity and cupidity? Smartypants never learn from discipline. They’re too proud. Their backs are arched and their necks are stiff.

A little secret: I never look at any social media—not even my dear wife’s FB page. But occasionally… and today I happened to spend about ten minutes grazing. So very awful in so very few ways, and most awful in the political preening and belligerating. It’s all a (shouting) contest and Christians are even more zealous to win than all the worldlings they spend their time (shouting) on. What a waste!

Why not rather repent and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for His gentle discipline? Why not love our neighbors and call them to repent and learn to give thanks to their Creator from watching and listening to us?

So let’s give thanks. Daughter Michal gave thanks for Covid itself; for the way it gently moved her husband and family, and also our congregation, through changes that really needed to be made but would have required lots of faith had we not been given Covid’s help. So what before had loomed large in anticipation of labor pains now is behind us without our having to pull the trigger ourselves. God pulled the trigger for us. Covid flipped a monstrous reset button and now will provide the excuse for not having to do the same thing again we did before. All things are new.

There’s much more to give thanks for in Covid’s gentle and not-so-gentle discipline. Among the not-so-gentle disciplines are sickness and death. We have cared for those who have died of this virus. My doctor told me a couple days ago he saw nine patients in our hospital’s ICU that day who were on a ventilator due to Covid and this was something unprecedented in our city. We have lost patients. We have had to live in quarantine. We have been sick and relieved we got better. We have lost loved ones.

Medically, God has disciplined us by pointing out in a way that is inescapable that He has appointed man once to die, and after that His judgment.

Praise God! This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised us when He said it was good He was going back to Heaven because His departure would bring us the Comforter Who would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Do you believe in this comfort of the Holy Spirit? Are you giving thanks for Covid’s gentle discipline so wonderfully giving each believer, particularly each pastor, the opportunity to be filled by the Holy Spirit so we do His work of convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment?

Let us join Pastor Martin Rinkart and Mrs. Ben (Michal) Crum in giving thanks to God. Let us view this sickness He has visited on us as our call to confess our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us sinful men.

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1It turned out to be at least 45 feet deep and we’re guessing a cave goes off from it laterally.

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