I listened with pandemic-altered attention as these words were read aloud in a morning devotional…
“And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.”
Numbers 16:48 (ESV)
Words in the Bible referring to a plague or pestilence now easily translate in my mind to COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic. In the same way, I now identify readily the biblical descriptions such as “people in exile,” “wandering in the wilderness” or “captivity” with quarantine, containment, isolation, and #stayhome.
As I continue to read particular accounts in Scripture related to plagues, pestilence, exile and captivity, I imagine writers like Moses and Jeremiah ending their writing with — #lifeinexile #trapped #isolated #plague #captivity #whenwilliteverend #whyus #deathtollrising #desperateinEgypt .
It’s funny how passages in the Bible are now coming to life with new understanding after being sucked into this COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Learning how to pray during a pandemic from Jeremiah’s agonizing plea for God to help in time of exile, this passage in Numbers begged me to look deeper as well. What was going on in this story? Who are the characters? What was the problem? How did they respond? Ultimately, what might I learn to help me through my own quarantine in our current pandemic.
“And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.” (Numbers 16:48)
Without getting too deeply into the bulrushes of this larger story, here’s the simple background. A contemporary with Moses and Aaron in Bible times, Korah was a prominent leader from the tribe of Levi –a tribe set apart by the Lord to minister to the people on His behalf. Unfortunately, Korah wasn’t satisfied enough with his already-privileged position and wanted more. It seems he wasn’t too happy with God’s pick for the leaders and decided to grab some other disgruntled souls and rebel against the system.
He basically said, “Who died and left you boss!? We’re just as good as you are.” (My interpretation to his complaint to Moses , “You have gone too far.” )
Turns out, Korah was the one who had gone too far this time. His bad attitude not only cost him his own life but it infected thousands of other people as well.
Bad breeds bad. Good breeds good. Never underestimate this simple truth: your actions — positive or negative — will significantly affect many others.
Here’s where the plague comes on the scene. Complaining had become a soul-sickness of pandemic proportions and now a physical sickness was beginning to spread like wildfire.
Moses intervened before the Lord on behalf of his people.
And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.” So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.
Numbers 16:46-48 (ESV)
Hear me well on this, I’m not making exact parallels from this plague to our current coronavirus plague but I do think there’s an important lesson to be gleaned for us in 2020 and here it is …
As light bearers of Jesus Christ, we need to take up our shield of faith and our torches lit with the fire and incense of prayer and run into the middle of the dead and the living and cry out to God for mercy and help in this unparalleled time of sickness and disease.
While many are advocating to “take a stand against…” or “stand up for America,” I think we need to lay our political and personal agendas down and stand in the gap for the lives of our fellow human beings.
We’ve spent so much time complaining and standing up and out and all around that we’ve forgotten our God-given responsibility to stand with and for those who are hurting, broken, vulnerable and afraid. This is not a time to wield your opinionated swords back and forth as to why this is happening or who’s to blame but this is a time to lift the Sword of the Spirit against the work of the real enemy who is seeking to kill, steal and destroy our very lives. This is a time to use our prayer privileges as a child of the Father and go boldly before the Throne of God to ask for help in our time of need.
This is not just about you and your well-being — we truly are #allinthistogether.
With rights and privileges comes responsibility. It’s no different in God’s family. Our inheritance always carries a responsibility clause to bless and pray for others.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:14-16 (NLT)
Please stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters of the human race. Run into the middle with me and others and cry out to God for your life and the lives of your family and all the families of the world.
See your place in the family line and stand up in prayer for God to end this plague. Lives are at stake …your’s, mine and our’s. Lay down your petty weapons of complaint and opinions and pick up your greatest weapon to defeat this COVID-19 enemy …prayer.
Prayer of Yielding
I humble myself before you, Lord – I need you today.
I seek your face with all my heart – I yield to your leadership today.
Heal us from the sickness that brings death to the body – deliver us I pray.
Heal us from the sickness that brings death to the soul – forgive us Lord I pray.”
**(From https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional , April 25, 2020)**
Prayer Prompts: 20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic, and 20 More Prayers to Pray as We Approach the Pandemic’s Peak — both by Jen Pollock Michel for Christianity Today.