In light of the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of getting sick when attending church services in person, wouldn’t it be better to stay home and just listen in via the Internet?
As the question suggests, the underlying motivation is one of fear. We have recently published several Q&As on the topic of fear, but in this time of ongoing panic, paranoia and propaganda with the goal of causing people to become afraid and fearful, we need to bring out biblical principles and clear promises from God, assuring us that fear of the future is not inevitable for Christians.
We are going to focus in this Q&A on the many Scriptures which deal with fear of future events—with anxiety as to what our future may bring and what may “happen” to us if we were to act in obedience to God’s commands.
Specifically, and in answering the question raised in this Q&A, we will address concerns of those who may not personally want to attend weekly Sabbath services or assemblies during the annual Holy Days and especially the Feast of Tabernacles, for fear that they might get sick of the coronavirus or of another contagious disease if they did… and especially in those countries or US states without mandatory social distancing measures or mask-wearing mandates.
Would it be permitted in God’s eyes to just stay home and not assemble with God’s people? Would this kind of fear be justified or at least an excuse in God’s eyes? Is such fear even “necessary” or “logical”?
To begin with, God clearly commands us to assemble on God’s Holy Days in person. They are sacred assemblies or holy convocations. In Old Testament times, offerings had to be brought to the LORD (Leviticus 23:8). Even though these animal offerings do not have to be brought today, the implied sense of personal attendance is clear. We are told not to forsake assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Listening in via the Internet is only meant for those who are unable, because of physical handicap or great distance, to attend in person.
Addressing the question of perhaps not attending in person because of fear, we must first of all have the conviction and persuasion that God hears us when we call on Him (Psalm 4:3). When we are convinced that God is on our side, we need not fear or be afraid of the future (Psalm 118:6).
David wrote in Psalm 32:6-7: “For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him. You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble…”
Is that our conviction? Do we believe that when we obey God, God is mighty and powerful enough to preserve us from trouble and to prevent that a contagious disease comes near us?
Again, David writes in Psalm 23:4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Right now, we are living in the valley of the shadow of a deadly disease—so we are told. But even if that were true, do we live in fear that we might get sick with it… thereby forgetting that God is with us?
The sons of Korah stated this in Psalm 46:1-3,7:
“… God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah… The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”
The sons of Korah expressed their confidence in God which would not be shattered even in times of earthquakes and huge tidal waves. How much more confidence in God should we have that He will be a very present help in trouble when we obey His commands to keep His weekly and annual Holy Days?
David also said in Psalm 31:15: “My times are in Your hand.” He knew that nothing could happen to him unless God were to allow it—including his “good” times and “bad” times, as well as the time of his life and the time of his death—and that God would only allow or do in his life what would be best for him. Paul would later say that all things work together for good to those who love God and do His commandments. We read in Psalm 112 that the righteous who “delights greatly in His commandments” (verse 1) “will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid” (verses 7-8).
We ought not be afraid of “evil tidings” that the number of “cases” of coronavirus is climbing in the state where God has placed His name for the Feast of Tabernacles. We must not think that we, as an organization, would be wise to cancel that Feast site or, as individual members, should stay home, rather than attending.
We must always have the confidence that God is on His throne; that He knows what is happening in our lives; and He will not allow that anything happens to us which would be too difficult for us. At the same time, He tests us and His Church to see whether we are always willing to obey Him—no matter what the circumstances.
God promises us in Isaiah 43:2, 5, 15:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you… Fear not, for I am with you… I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.”
God is with us. He is our mighty King—the RULER over the entire universe. Even if He allows us to go through fire which could burn us and water which could drown us, or through the shadow of a contagious disease all around us (real or imagined), He is with us and will not allow that they harm or kill us before the God-decreed time of our death.
Note God’s powerful promise to His people in Psalm 91:3-11:
“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence… You shall not be afraid of… the pestilence that walks in darkness… Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.”
Do we truly believe this? Do we believe that God’s angels will protect us from the pestilence or plague that walks in darkness, let alone the coronavirus, when we attend His Feast site? Or do we live in fear that IF we were to go there, we MIGHT get sick there? If that is the way we approach things, then our faith is very small.
God also gave this promise to ancient Israel, as well as to us today. We read in Exodus 15:26:
“If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”
God promises us His protection, including from sickness, when we obey Him. In context, when we obey His command to attend His Festivals in person.
Note, too, His promise to His people in Deuteronomy 7:15, if they were to obey Him:
“And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you.”
If we obey God by attending His weekly and annual Holy Days, including the Feast of Tabernacles, then God will not afflict us with terrible diseases, nor will He allow that we will be afflicted with them.
As we point out in our free booklet, “Obeying God rather than men,” it has also been a remarkable experience within the Church of God that God’s ministers who fulfill God’s commands to anoint those who are sick (compare James 5:14) have not contracted a contagious disease for which and when they anoint the sick person, as God has been protecting His ministers who faithfully follow His directions in this regard. He did not and does not allow that they are afflicted with the disease and sickness for which they anoint the sick. That is why any prohibition to ministers to anoint the sick with the laying on of hands constitutes a total lack of faith in God’s power.
We might also want to consider God’s promise in Exodus 34:22-24, where we read:
“(22) And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks of the firstfruits of wheat harvest [Pentecost], and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end [Feast of Tabernacles]. (23) Three times in a year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel [Three festival seasons—one in the spring, one in the summer and one in the autumn—are mentioned here, as one has to appear before God on every annual Holy Day: Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread as the first season in the spring; Pentecost as the second season in the summer; and the fall season, consisting of the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day]. (24) For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in a year.”
That we must appear in person is also clear from God’s command not to appear empty-handed, but to give as we are able (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). This command tells us to appear in person to give our offering at the place which God has chosen.
God grants us security when we observe God’s annual Holy Days by assembling at the Church’s designated Feast sites—especially during the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. The Church’s understanding of this passage has been that God will protect our belongings, which we are leaving behind during this time, so that no one will covet them and break into our homes to rob us during our absence.
When God promises us protection of our physical belongings while attending the Feast in obedience to His Word, do we think that He won’t protect us when we are at His Feast site—including from contracting a dangerous sickness—while worshipping with God’s people on God’s Holy Days and during the Feast of Tabernacles. It seems to us that fear and concern in that regard would constitute a lack of faith and trust in God Almighty. After all, when we are living with the understanding and conviction that we are in God’s hands and that NOTHING will happen to us without God’s knowledge and consent, WHY THEN are we afraid to keep His commandments of keeping His Holy Days, and to do so in person and in the way which He has ordered us to do? This would include singing in services (Psalm 30:4; 2 Chronicles 29:30; Hebrews 2:12)—making to God a “joyful noise” (Psalm 81:1-3).
We are of course not to put God to a serious test and to try Him. And we must never break one of His commandments with the (misapplied) wish to keep one of His other commandments. For example, we cannot lie or steal in order to save life. Likewise, we must not attend Church services if and as long as we ARE sick. The Bible contains provisions for quarantine regarding those who suffer from contagious diseases so that they cannot infect others. However, the idea to place someone into quarantine to protect him or her from others who might be sick is just turning the biblical commands on their head, by quarantining the sick together with the healthy.
The biblical principle of quarantine applies to persons who ARE sick. THEY are to stay in isolation as long as they are suffering from their contagious sickness so as not to infect others. The idea that an entire city, county, country or the entire world must be locked up and that everyone needs to stay in isolation or in house arrest—whether sick or not—is just a Satanic perversion of God’s holy law of quarantine. The same applies to Church members who refuse to attend Sabbath services or one of God’s Feast sites in person because of fear that someone in attendance might be sick (even though he or she shows no symptoms). This attitude is in direct violation of God’s command to keep the Feast.
To conclude, as true Christians who are being led by God and place their confidence in Him, there is no need to fear anything. They know that they are in God’s hands, and that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [or tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [or test] will also make the way to escape, that you may be able to bear [or endure] it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link