Like many of you, I have been watching the news and following the story of the Liberian man, Thomas Duncan. Leaving his West African country that was looking like the set of a horror movie, he was desperate enough to lie in order to get here. Reportedly, he was trying to fix the broken pieces of his life and reunite with his long-lost- love of twenty years past: the mother of his now college-aged son. Ebola Guy’s motives were lofty but his timing was awful! Bad timing, in this instance, is the understatement of the century and, there were notable, tragic lapses in judgment that occurred along the way. It cost him his life and may well result in a lot more tragedy as time goes on.
This whole story took a more interesting turn when I recognized the name of the Apartment complex where they lived. They live in a neighborhood not too far from where I grew up. The elementary school where some of the children in that apartment attend is my old elementary school in Dallas. This poor woman’s church was the church that my family attended years ago. I was baptized there. I recognize the neighborhood where the new victim, a nurse, resides. Admittedly, these are distant connections but they do serve to make the situation seem less like “news” and much more personal and real.
I am reminded of the 1993 movie, Six Degrees of Separation. A quick synopsis being that the world is not as big as we like to think and that there are only 6 “degrees” or removed relationships between an actor (and presumably me or you) and any body else who may know him. While this made for a funny and interesting premise in that movie, it makes for terrifying non-linear math when we consider a few infected people, who they interact and network with and a long 21 day incubation period. As we are seeing, anything can happen.
In the process of doing the research for my novel, Fever Season, set in the deep south during the Civil War, I have encountered a lot of nasty, possibly fatal diseases. It is a wonder that anyone’s ancestors survived life’s gauntlet prior to indoor plumbing and Deep Woods Off! Lately, we here in America, for the most part have been privileged, with good nutrition, medical care and clean conditions and have not met those old foes of Diphtheria, Small Pox,Typhus, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Cholera or Consumption. My title, Fever Season, speaks of several things in addition to that time of year when the weather began to broil and deadly fevers and disease spread throughout the South. People back then didn’t know about germs or mosquito borne disease. They only recognized the timing: The dangerous seasons and signs that brought the trouble.
Timing, then, is critical. No one would ever argue that it is not a good idea for the overall public health to keep an eye on infectious disease of every sort and to take all common sense precautions. As a sign watcher on the proverbial, prophetic wall, I want to always be cognizant of the timing of events as a whole. As one of those, metaphorical Matthew 25, “wise virgins” I am awaiting the bridegroom with my oil lamp full. I think we should always be evaluating the news thru a multi-layered sieve. I have stated in the past, we need to watch what is happening in Israel.I try to keep an eye on things that happen during the Feasts of the Lord and in Shemitah years as stated in last week’s post, Pulse Points. Additionally, I am watching world events weighing them against prophetic scriptures, keeping my head on a swivel and always trying to be aware of signs which alert me to the return of the Messiah. In order to do my job and effectively spread the Good News of Jesus, I need to know how much time is on the clock. It is one of the things we, as Believers, are called to do. Jesus said that when you see these things start to happen, LOOK UP! (Luke 21:28)
In Matthew 24 Jesus is asked by his concerned disciples for illumination on what will be the signs and calling cards of the End of the Age. He responds with interesting bullet points: * Take care that no one deceives you. * Wars and rumors of wars. *These things MUST come to pass. * Ethnic group will rise against ethnic group. *Kingdom against kingdom. * There will be famines. * There will be pestilence ( Old timey word for disease that will kill you!) and* earthquakes…all in different places. Revelation 6 shows Jesus pulling the seals off of a big ol’ scroll. This seems to be happening, to my interpretation, well before any perceived Wrath of God stuff occurs, and as such, possibly happens while we as Christians are still here on earth. When I consult my literal Greek Translation, Revelations 6: 8 reads as follows: “And I saw a greenish horse and the name of him who is sitting upon it is Death and the Unseen followed him, And jurisdiction was given them over the fourth of the earth,( 25% of the global population) to kill with the blade and with famine and with death and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Sounds like death by blade is ugly, up close, war and brings to mind the cranky ISIS guys who are beheading folks. Looks like a whole lot of people are going to die with nothing to eat…famine. And a whole lot of people are going to die by benefit of animal borne diseases. That sounds like crazy talk, doesn’t it?
Historically, though, all the influenza strains seem to regularly originate with birds and swine, HIV-AIDS was purportedly a viral mutation from chimps. The johnny- come-lately, hemorrhagic Ebola also traces it’s origins to some sort of African monkey. Many serious fevers as mentioned earlier are mosquito borne and many are found to come from fruit bat parasites in tropical areas. Black Plague during the Middle Ages, and it’s modern day variant, Hantavirus is carried by the fleas on carrier rats. I will state, that in scripture the idiom “wild beasts of the earth” is used in several places to indicate demonic activity here on earth. Note the plural usage. It doesn’t need to be just one disease, nor does it have to be disease excluding demonic activity. I would add that I don’t think these two interpretations are necessarily mutually exclusive.
I don’t want to scare anybody. Fear is never a good objective but, neither do I want you to be an ostrich with your head stuck in the sand totally ignoring the timing,the signs and important scriptural details. I just read you 2 separate passages that predict ethnic wars, famine ( that’s code for NO FOOD) and Pestilence. I don’t know about you but I believe in the inerrancy of the Word of God. I Believe that it is accurate and true. Therefore: When we also see everything on Jesus’ list coming to pass then I think it is time to make some reasonable, rational, common sense, basic preparations for our families. Jesus didn’t share this information just to be spooky,scary or mysterious. He shared it so that His people will be ready when things get difficult. He shared it so that we would have a clue that the End of the Age was getting close. Even if you aren’t a Christian and don’t believe in the absolute truth of God’s Word, these types of plagues and virulent diseases are not unprecedented. Historically, we have encountered many serious, lethal diseases. We will again. The Black Plague was estimated to have decimated 1/3 of the global population at that time. They didn’t just call it the Dark Ages because there was no electricity. It was a bleak and ugly time. More recently, The Spanish Influenza at the close of WWI decimated the populations of Europe and the Americas. Our world is much smaller now. Traveling germs that once took months or weeks to travel by wagon or boat now can circle the globe in a day or two. Through out world history, governments have lied to their populace to keep panic at bay, society well- ordered and to keep the economy rolling. They will again. I highly recommend reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. This is a fascinating read that chronicles not only the path of destruction of the Spanish Flu and the development of modern medicine but also, the total breakdown of government services when overwhelmed by a crisis of this magnitude. In that day, stores, banks, theaters and schools were closed, trains and trolleys were not running, people were left with putrefying dead bodies for days because the social services were totally overwhelmed. Young healthy people were dying like flies. Sounds like Liberia or Sierra Leone doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t. It was Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Dallas in our grandparent’s day. It was scary and bad. We have a much larger population today.
It is tragically easy to see from the current news coverage that it wouldn’t take much for local and federal government, hospitals and the CDC to be totally blindsided and swamped. It may be a combination of a natural disaster and several potent viruses that could overwhelm multiple public systems. Remember, it was less than 10 years ago that it took FEMA 3 or 4 days just to get potable water to the Superdome after Katrina!! I recommend, just on the off chance that history repeats itself and that the Bible might actually be true, that you have a really good store of food and supplies on hand in your home. Then, if this or any other disease or disaster makes perambulating around in society a bad idea for a few months you can just stay home and keep your family safe. My father always said that it was better to have it and not need it than to need stuff and not have it. Think about it. Pray about it. Do it Now!