The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the LORD’s people,” they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So, Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped. (Numbers 16: 41-50)
Moses was having another trying day. The day before Korah and his followers had challenged Moses leadership and authority. Moses hadn’t asked for the job. He had been sent and commissioned by God Almighty, who, by the way, had worked miracles so they could be freed from slavery in Egypt. God doesn’t take too kindly to rebellion. After warning people to distance themselves from the rebels, God caused the earth to open up and swallow the rebels and everything and everyone they had. Now if that isn’t a sign to stop rebelling and grumbling, I don’t know what is!
Anyway, the very next day, the assembly gathers in opposition to Moses. Suddenly, the glory of the LORD appears over the Tent of Meeting. Moses knows God is not pleased AT ALL and something is going to happen. Moses tells Aaron to hurry and take incense with holy fire and go among the people. “He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.”
This is significant to what is going on today. I was going to write on this several days ago, with the coronavirus spreading and the fear escalating, but I stopped because I don’t believe the LORD sent this virus.
Jesus died for our sins – past present and future. We are told in Isaiah 53.5 “…by His stripes we are healed.” And in I Peter 2:24 we learn that “by his wounds you have been healed.” Past Tense. If Jesus paid the price for sin, and was brutally whipped for our healing, why would God now send disease? And if God sends disease, was Jesus working against His Father when He healed all those people? No. And if God makes people sick, why did Jesus tell us to “Heal the sick, raise the dead…” That is right before He gave us the Great Commission! People get sick for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that we live in a fallen world.
I believe this coronavirus – or COVID-19, is straight from the pit of hell. Jesus said in John 10:10, The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Steal, kill and destroy. That pretty much seems what he is trying to accomplish with this virus.
So, why am I talking about this in reference to our verses from Numbers? What really stuck out to me is that Aaron was sent into the assembly with incense burning with holy fire from the altar.
Revelation 8:4 reads, “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Over and over in scripture incense is mentioned with burnt offerings, being fragrant offerings.
In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, we read, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.”
I believe that our Lord wants us to be ambassadors of His Kingdom here in this “plague.” Remember, when teaching His disciples how to pray, He instructed them to say “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There is no coronavirus, no sickness in heaven! Our prayers, our praise and our love rise to heaven as sweet incense. We must stand, in prayer, between the people and the plague.
The enemy wants to not only kill people, but also to ruin lives, economies, and nations. But Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, right after Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Please notice, the GATES of HELL. Gates are defensive weapons. They don’t go out and attack. They are for keeping people (the church) out… and captives in.
And we not just ambassadors who sit behind a desk and push paper around. We have also been given armor for a reason. Most of it is defensive, but the sword is not. Our sword is the Word of God, declaring what is true. We don’t only fight with God’s Word, we fight with our words, too. When we put God’s truth into our words – instead of doom, gloom and fear – we are fighting with God.
Remember, when the Israelites were going into the Promised Land, they had to fight for it. When they fought with God, they won. BUT, when they tried to do it on their own, they lost. (see Numbers 14:39-45.) Just like an ambassador agrees with and acts according to what the leader of his country (kingdom) says and does, so must our words and actions agree with what God says.
Jesus won! Satan lost! Death was defeated! We have the victory in Jesus! Send your prayers up as fragrant incense to the Throne of God.
God has placed each one of us in this day and time, right where He wants us. FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. And Numbers 16 ends with, “for the plague had stopped.”
One thought on “Plagues, Prayer and Incense”
Thank you for this encouragement and insight.