Pastor Robert McCurley provides a prophetic voice to the recent events surrounding the coronavirus and faithfully sounds forth a dire call for the church to repent and return to the Lord. God has unleashed the coronavirus as a mere warning for the church to turn away from its irreverence, worldliness, lukewarmness, syncretism, unauthorized worship, Sabbath desecrations, and the like, and to return to Him on His terms in His way, or else. If this warning is not heeded, the hammer of God may soon fall.
Sermon text: Lamentations 3:39-42
Where is God in the thinking of all of those around us?
In all the chaos and clamor of the events surrounding coronavirus, there is hardly any mention of the one, true living God, and no cry of repentance (11:55). Rather, people are:
- Clinging to their idols of health, wealth, success, leisure, and entertainment, and seeking relief that they may return to pursuing their pleasures
- Vaunting themselves, boasting that they will conquer whatever comes their way (11:55)
- Embracing a complacent denial and indifference to what is happening (12:05)
God's providential dealings can be understood from His Word and history
- Those who are wise will ask the question "What is going on?" and "Why?" (12:30)
- God raised up Egypt not only to deliver His people, but also to enslave and punish them (13:31)
- God raised up Assyria to punish and drive into captivity the 10 northern tribes of Israel (14:21)
- God raised up Babylon to punish and drive into captivity the southern kingdom of Judah (14:25)
- All of these powers are serving the interests of God, whereby He deals with His own church (14:40)
The events surrounding coronavirus stem from God dealing with His church.
"We know from our reading of Scripture that what is unfolding in the present events, chiefly, has to do with God dealing with His church." — Robert McCurley (15:30)
The church in America is not a bystander to these events, but is directly impacted by it—dead center.
We also know that what you sow, you certainly will reap, for God will not tolerate being mocked. If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.
Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
3 Things to Note from Lamentations (16:43)
1. The Sins of the Church — Lamentations 3:39 (16:45)
- The context in Lamentations is the iron scepter of God and His hammer, which He has brought down upon His people to punish them for their sins. (17:35)
- The people's response: they wanted relief, to enjoy their pleasures (Lamentations 1:11, 19)
- While the people are under the Lord's hammer, what they want is relief, their own comfort and ease, physical peace, and to have all of the pleasures they were enjoying previously to be sustained indefinitely (18:55)
- The people had spent years saying and embracing the message of "Peace, Peace," when there is no peace—which led up to this! (19:20)
- It is no different in our own nation today: all sorts of messages coming from churches of "Peace, Peace" when there is no peace! (19:25)
- Reformed book catalogs have been littered, for years, with books on happiness, success, how to make the best use of this world, how to preserve your own well-being, etc.—"Peace, Peace"! (19:28)
- On the other hand, there are too few books that have brought the prophetic voice of a call to repentance, to God-centeredness
- "We find even in the present hour that the church is largely sending out a message of practical tips, which are largely related to self-preservation and not self-prostration." — Robert McCurley (20:07)
Sins of which our nation is guilty (20:30)
- The toleration of false religion and public blasphemy
- Legal protection for Sabbath desecration and all sorts of wicked immorality and perversity
- 60,000,000 babies that have been tortured and brutally murdered
- The lawless and immoral economic policies of legalized theft
- Plus many more
Sins of which the church is guilty, which provoke God (21:08)
1 Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
- The church giving itself over
- The church bringing in, cultivating, and propagating false worship—worship that has not been appointed by God.
- Sabbath desecration within the church
- Worldliness and syncretism—the church looking, acting, speaking, pursuing, loving just like the world is
- The church compartmentalizing and relegating the Lord to the sideline
- The lukewarmness of the American church—the dead stupor and sleepiness and promotion of spiritual minimalism on every front
- Plus heaps upon heaps more of sins
The response of the church in Jeremiah's day: Lamentations 2:14 (22:48)
"You have the church coming along and saying, 'We're going to bring not the Lord's Word in the Lord's way and in the Lord's time, but our own, and we're going to propagate figments of our imagination in terms of doctrine, thinking, and practice.' And they are distracting the people; the Lord's hammer is falling and what happens? These prophets are running around and assuring the people that they're not being banished. All of this distraction that is swirling around them." — Robert McCurley (23:25)
Man's Chief End is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever (24:05)
The Christian is taught to pray for God's glory—not merely for relief.
God's glory is to be placed above and beyond everything else—everything is to be subjected to the Lord's glory
"The question is: do you desire the Lord's glory? You say, 'I do, I want the Lord's glory.' What if the Lord's glory requires vindicating Himself? What if it requires Him coming to show His power to those who are wayward? What if it comes at a personal cost to you? What if God gathering glory to Himself is going to cost you personally? Do you still welcome His glory? Are you still glad for Him to be glorified in the face of these things?" — Robert McCurley (24:20)
The prophet Jeremiah sought to faithfully speak the truth, but he was despised, mocked, and belittled by the people for it (Lamentations 1:18-21) (26:35)
2. The Turning of the Church — Lamentations 3:40-41 (27:55)
Coronavirus is a mere tremor; God's hammer has not yet fallen; churches will lead many astray
"I would put to you, my friends, that what we are experiencing in the present hour, the current circumstances, the circumstances as we find them today, are a mere tremor—they are not the hammer. They are a whisper—the Lord is whispering at us; He has not yet blown the trumpet. The Lord has sent a breeze; this is not the tsunami. … How has the house of God responded to a mere breeze that He has sent? It seems as if it threatens to blow them over. And there are great cries and movements that I believe are a call to turn from the Lord, rather than to turn to the Lord. There is pressure to turn from the Lord, rather than, as this text says, to turn to the Lord.
You look around and what happens? God sends a gentle breeze across the face of the earth and immediately the churches close down, shut their doors, and dispose of public worship. Church is closed. Public worship is set aside. The children know, watch, and see; they see the Lord's gentle breeze blow across and are learning very well the priorities that the church has and the place that God has within His own house. If the church is going to cave now, where in the world will she be when the hammer falls? This is a preliminary call to turn to the Lord. … If anything, churches ought to be multiplying their worship services, not diminishing them at this hour! My friends, we are watching a great sifting that is unfolding before our very eyes. …
Something is woefully wrong, and I'm concerned that what will yet come is enormous pressure, undoubtedly, and powerful rhetoric—from the church, mind you—and great heat will be applied as to why the house of God should be shut, why the public worship of God should be given a back seat, and many will roll over and acquiesce to it. And it is a turning from…the Lord." — Robert McCurley (28:18)
Abandoning God's Worship is Worse than Death by Coronavirus
"We will not stop worshiping God, not for this and not for much more. We will not stop worshiping God; we will not stop giving Him the first things. We will not stop giving Him the first place. You say, 'Well, pastor, even after all of the reasonable cautions are put into place, they say we could still die!' … I don't say this lightly, but I am compelled by conscience to say it. The answer to that is this: Then you will have died well! And I will have died well! Because you will have died in the best cause: the worship of God. And you will have died in the best place: at the footstool of the throne, giving Him the worship that He is so due. What a blessing when the angel comes to fetch your soul: 'O Lord, here comes one of your saints, and we snatched them from before the throne!' Do you think you will be bid welcome by the Redeemer? I can tell you that I am not prepared to appear before the Lord with the testimony that when things got tough, I threw the Lord under the bus—that is worse than death!" — Robert McCurley (33:33)
Hirelings Fled and Godly Ministers Ran To the Plague
"In the 1660's, in England during the plague, all of the moderate ministers bolted. They shut the doors of the church and sprinted as fast and furiously as they could to the north of England; they fled out of London. What did the ejected ministers do—the God-fearing Reformed ministers, who had been booted from their pulpits in 1662? They did the reverse: they ran into London! Do you know what they found? They found that the pulpits were vacant—where they had been barred to preach previously—and discovered that they could make their way back into those now empty pulpits to churches that were slam full to the brim and overflowing. And they lifted up their voice in the name of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and sent a message of repentance home into the bosom of those left, surrounded by the plague, to the glorious conversion of many at that time." — Robert McCurley (35:26)
"You say, 'Well, pastor, the magistrate may tell us that it is illegal, that we're not allowed to assemble, that we can't worship. What will we do then?' We will tell the magistrate that there is another King—one named Jesus, and He is the only King and Head of His church, and our allegiance has always been to Him, and it will be to Him still, and He will get His worship, come what may. If the police chase us out of our building, then we will reassemble in an undisclosed location. And if we have to worship in the open air on someone's property, that will be fine too. But we will be found worshiping the great God of heaven and earth, because He is worthy of it. We're going to maintain His priorities, and worship we will!" — Robert McCurley (36:43)
We must come under God's rod or be hardened in our sin
"The call of this passage is to run to the Lord, not from the Lord. And one of the reasons that Jeremiah was so in earnest about this is because whether the Lord sends a breeze or tsunami (metaphorically), whether He sends the little or the great, running from the Lord heaps up provocations. Rather than coming under the rod and bringing forth the fruits that are meet for repentance, it calcifies the conscience, hardens the heart, and increases the dishonor to the Lord." — Robert McCurley (37:45)
3. The Repenting of the Church — Lamentations 3:42 (38:45)
Idolatrous Calls to Prayer vs. True Repentance
"I hear calls to prayer from government officials and churches, and it seems to be, in the case of the government, a call for all faiths to pray. It's not a call to pray to the living and true God, the triune God of the Bible. It's not a call to pray for repentance and humiliation, either. Those calls to prayer, however good they look from a distance, are themselves obnoxious in the nostrils of God—He's provoked by them! And I hear calls to prayer from the church as well, and in essence it is, 'Save us, let us cry out to God, God can save us, God will save us and deliver us, He is a God who will deliver us.' My question is: save us from what? Deliver us from what? Save us so that we can go back to our idols and continue with business as usual? … 'O Lord, protect us and deliver us and save us from all these harms, and let us keep all of our creaturely comforts, and let us devote ourselves to all of the things that we always have, and let us maintain our spiritual minimalism and look like the world and trample Your law, and so on.' Is that what this cry is? Well then, my friends, it is not a cry or a prayer that will be received favorably by the Almighty, if it is 'Save us so that we can go back to our sin.' No, I hope, more and more, that the cry will be, 'Save us from our sins! O Lord, smite us, if you must for Your glory, but deliver us from our sins, for they are very great, and they are more than we can number, and they have heaped up way above our heads. Save us, O Lord, from Yourself—from Your just indignation and wrath. O Lord, turn us, don't just take away the sting, uncertainty, anxiety, fears, or whatever else, but gracious God, turn our woefully weak and wicked hearts, and turn them back, and grant us true repentance.'" — Robert McCurley (39:10)
"Jeremiah's repentance—this is not scurrying after the comforts of this world; this is forsaking comfort. This is afflicting the soul; this is coming and having the Lord plow deeply the souls of His church and of His people. Do you know the picture that is given here? His bowels, his tears, his strength, and he's weak and fainting, and beside himself in all of these things. It's the picture of a woman who has a son who is off at war, and she looks out her window on to the porch and sees two soldiers standing there, and she sees what's coming and she opens the door, and they say, 'Ma'am, we're sorry to tell you that your son has been killed in action.' What is her response? Her response is to collapse on the ground, and to wail and pull her hair, and to lose all of her strength—that is the picture of Jeremiah, and that is not the picture that we see in the church of Jesus Christ in these United States of America. It is not. God have mercy on us." — Robert McCurley (43:33)
"Here is the evidence of a broken, humble heart: he is more concerned about the Lord, His glory, His righteousness, His kingdom, His house, than he is his own comfort. Tears poured down the face of Jeremiah. He is in high distress, body, mind, soul, bowels, liver, heart—it's all a wreck. Why? Because God's worship has been defiled by His own people, because His Day has been desecrated by His own people, because His people have taken the idols of the world like those that are around them. … He wanted God's name sanctified before the world." — Robert McCurley (44:55)
Go read Ezra chapter 9—make that your prayer—pray it from the depths of your soul (46:55)
Go to Daniel chapter 9 and pray that from the bottom of your soul (47:09)
We must increase prayer not for ourselves or for physical relief, but for the Lord and His glory, cause, and kingdom, and giving Him the praise (50:13)
Our prayer and contrition—confessing our own vile sins and the corporate sins of the church—must resemble what we see in Jeremiah—he is traumatized to the core because of his earnest concern for the glory of God (51:10)
"The church, rather than closing its doors and saying, 'No public worship for three weeks' should be saying 'We're having public worship every day! And we're going to bow before God and cry out to Him to repent!' The true remnant may be mocked, but the true remnant will humble themselves, not lift themselves up as if they'll conquer whatever comes, not distract themselves with all the cares of this world to the exclusion of what matters most. My heart cry is that God would put within us a sincere prayer that 'Lord, we will not stop seeking Thee, we won't. We won't stop seeking Thee, and we could care less what anyone else does—each has to appear and give an answer to his own master. But we will not stop seeking Thee. Do what Thou wilt to us, and we will bow under it, confess our sins, and glorify Thy name.'" — Robert McCurley (48:52)
Closing Thoughts (51:25)
It is not all gloom. There is tremendous hope, but it must be God's hope sought in God's way (51:45)
"Hope is found in coming to the Lord on His terms and in His way—that is where true hope is. It is turning to the Lord and begging that He would turn unto us. That He would, as Jeremiah says elsewhere, turn our hearts that they might be turned, that we might be turned toward Him, and He would be graciously turn toward us in His favor—not to merely put band-aids on our silly little broken idols that are being ground to powder, but that He might put life in us and renew us, that spiritually we might have vitality, that we would walk in the fear of God, that we would deny ourselves and follow Him, that we would delight in Him, that we would prize communion with Him, that we would seek to uphold His glory and His honor. That's what we seek, that the Lord would put those things, renewing those things in our hearts; that's God's way of hope—not the cacophony of nonsense that is blaring in our ears. This is biblical and well-grounded hope. Let us not steer clear of it to the right or to the left.
The events of the present day are a whisper, they are breeze that the Lord has sent through the halls of this land. How will the church respond to the breeze? … We must, by the grace of God, set our faces to seek the Lord. And whether He sends us a breeze or tsunami (metaphorically), we will be found at His feet, because then you are very well prepared. If everything else in your life were to vaporize, if the Lord brings His hammer, you will be incredibly well prepared, you will be snuggly tucked away in the ark when the floods come." — Robert McCurley (54:22)
Kiss the Son, Lest He Get Angry
"I entitled this sermon, 'Corona: The Church's Warning' because I believe it is that; I believe it is a warning, a tremor. And I want, by the grace of God, for our congregation to hear and heed the warning, to not be deaf to the Lord's voice, to not be blind to the Lord's hand, but rather to come under Him with attentiveness and spiritual exercise, with God-centeredness, to magnify the Son. He sits in the heavens and He wields an iron scepter. What for? To smash to smithereens those who rebel against Him. It's not an idle tale, this is reality, the truth. Blessed are those who trust in Him. Blessed are those who mingle their trembling with their mirth, who serve the Lord with fear, who kiss the Son. My friends, let us kiss Him, and if called upon, let us kiss His rod and vindicate and glorify Him in it. But whatever else, let us be found turning to Him." — Robert McCurley (57:35)