Turn on the news these days and the main stories are all about the coronavirus pandemic that is plaguing the world at this time. There are reports about the death tolls; lockdown; home schooling; social distancing; NHS is stretched and needs personal protective equipment and ventilators; preparation of temporary hospitals, COVID-19 test centres and morgues; financial help etc. etc.
To date (20/4/2020), there have been over 69000 deaths from coroavirus worldwide. I cannot help but think: that is over 69000 souls out into eternity and where are they now? On my local news, I am told that the experts are predicting this first wave to peak between 6th to 13th April and estimate that there could be as many as 3000 deaths here. I am just trying to get my head around the fact that in this little corner of trhe world where I live, Northern Ireland, there could be 3000 deaths! The reality of that does not bear thinking about. And what will be the final total worldwide of those slain by COVID-19?
Then, my mind just floats away to the time of a plague in the wilderness journey of the Israelites. You can read the account of it in the Bible in Numbers chapter 16. The events run something like this:
The rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against God’s way of worship; the earth opens and swallows them; fire from God consumes 250 men supporters; the people turn on Moses and Aaron, blaming them; God appears at the tabernacle; God sends a plague and 14700 die; Aaron rushes to make atonement; he stands between the living and the dead and the plague is stayed.
So, where am I going with all this? What am I trying to say? Well, I just simply want to show you some ways Aaron dealt with his crisis that perhaps might be beneficial to think about as we struggle to know how to deal with this time of coronavirus crisis.
Aaron knew the people were guilty
God hates all sin and must punish it. Remember God sent this plague because He was angry at the people’s sin. In fact, He was going to consume them in a moment (v45+46). They had refused to worship God’s way. They called the rebels the people of God (v41). They blamed Moses and Aaron. Yes, Aaron knew the people were guilty. They had sinned and God was punishing them. He did not try to make them feel good about their sin. They had offended the Thrice-Holy God.
All this sound familiar?? People do not want to worship God, God’s way. They still want to falsely accuse those who stand for the truths of God’s Word. If you want to be faithful to God, do not try to cover over sin or make people feel good about their sin. Sin is serious. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6v23). Now I am not suggesting that everyone who gets sick and dies in this coronavirus pandemic is immoral and anti-God. But as you read the Bible you will read about times when Israel as a nation turned away from God and then the Lord used times of great troubles to bring them back to Himself.
Aaron showed love
Moses and Aaron could have just let God destroy all the people because of their sin but they didn’t. They loved the people and they hurried to appease the wrath of God. They could not just sit back and let God destroy the people. It is not enough to know that people are guilty. We need to love them enough to seek to rescue them from judgement. Christ showed His love for us when He died for us on the cross and we should let the love of Christ constrain us to reach out to others. (Romans 5v8; 2 Corinthians 5v14).
Aaron acted as their high priest
Aaron the high priest of Israel had two sides to his work:
1. He offered incense. This symbolised prayer (Psalm 141v2). He had to intercede for the people.
2. He offered animal sacrifices. They pointed forward to Christ’s atoning death (Hebrews 9v22).
But in this scene there was no time to offer animal sacrifices. The people were dropping dead all around. Moses told Aaron to go quickly for the incense. God had to be appeased. Aaron ran into the middle of the congregation. He stood with the incense in the censer pot. It was fresh from the altar in the tabernacle. The smell of incense rose to God. The Bible says that Aaron stood between the living and the dead and the plague was stayed (v48). God, in His mercy, stopped the plague but 14700 were dead!
Just stop and picture in your mind’s eye, Aaron standing between the living and the dead. The people are dropping dead but as the incense ascends to heaven as a sweet smell before God…. God, in His mercy, suddenly stops the plague. Yes the people were guilty and deserved to die but Aaron loved them and interceded for them. Yes there were 14700 bodies to bury that day but God had shown mercy as a result of their high priest’s intercession for them.
Intercession in the crisis
In this coronavirus pandemic we must show love and support for all the medics, carers and key workers on the front line and also care for the vulnerable. We are so proud of them all for what they are doing and we are so thankful for charities, churches, organisations and other people helping. However, we have been asked to stay at home to help save lives. If you are a Christian, I want to suggest that you use some of your time interceding in prayer. It will not be wasted time!
The Bible tells us that Christians are priests before God (1 Peter 2v5+9). We do not have to take out the incense or offer animal sacrifices like Aaron did as Israel’s great high priest. Those days are finished because Christ has come and died the atoning death for our sins and He ever lives in heaven to make intercession for His children. Nonetheless, our prayers and praises are as a sweet smelling incense to God.
Believer in Christ, God has made you a priest. He wants your prayers and praises to ascend to Him like a sweet smelling incense. He wants you to intercede at this time. Souls are dying from coronavirus all across the world. Why not be an Aaron? Stand between the living and the dead by interceding for God’s mercy to be poured out. Never forget our God can stop the plague but He wants us to turn to Him with all of our hearts.
Keep safe. Stay at home. Pray at home. Keep interceding for God’s mercy.