2 WAYS TO STOP A PLAGUE
Once again, I’m behind in my one-year Bible reading plan. I should be in Joshua—one of my favorite books. Instead, I’m in Numbers. I must confess I was thinking, “I’m in the middle of a pandemic, and I have to read Numbers? How is this book going to help me get through this crazy time?” And low and behold, God spoke. He highlighted the following stories to me and said, “Share this.” I believe these stories reveal how the church must respond to the coronavirus crisis.
After Korah, Dathan & Abiram’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron (remember when God opened up the ground and swallowed people? It was those guys), the whole community of Israel verbally attacked Moses and Aaron. They said, “You two have killed the Lord’s people!”(Num.16:41) This made God very angry.
Moses knew they had to act fast. He told Aaron, “Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay on it and carry it quickly among the people to make atonement for them. The Lord’s anger is blazing among them-the plague has already begun.” (Num.16:46) Aaron grabbed the incense and ran out among the people, but 14,700 people still died.
In Numbers 25, we see another plague hit the people of Israel. This time some of the men of Israel were guilty of sleeping with the local Moabite women. Not only that, but they began worshipping the gods of Moab, like Baal. They became absorbed by the pagan culture. This caused the “Lord’s anger to blaze against his people.”(Num. 25:3) As Moses ordered all those who had worshiped Baal to be executed, a plague began to spread through all the Israelites.
Just as Moses and the leaders were weeping in front of the tabernacle, an Israelite man and a Midianite woman walked right in front of them. To make matters worse... the pair were on their way to the man's tent to have sex! This enraged Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas; he immediately jumped up, left the assembly, grabbed a spear, and rushed into the man’s tent. The Bible says he “thrust a spear all the way through the man’s body and into the woman’s stomach.” (Num. 25:7) The plague stopped, but not before 24,000 people died.
Then God told Moses, “Phinehas ... has turned my anger away from the Israelites by displaying passionate zeal among them on my behalf. So I have stopped destroying all of Israel as I had intended to do in my anger.” (Num. 25:11) Did you catch that? When Phinehas rose up with righteous zeal to attack the problem, God ended the plague!
Prayer Can Stop a Plague
Two things stopped these plagues on the Israelites: incense and a sword. Throughout scripture, incense represents the prayers of believers. David prayed, “O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! ... Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering. (Psalm 141:1-2)
We see prayers and incense again in the book of Revelations. “The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.” (Rev. 8:4)
If you look up the definition for plague, there are many similarities to the coronavirus: contagious infection, high fever, and respiratory problems. Just as prayer can stop a plague, this virus can also be stopped with prayer! Solomon wrote, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chron. 7:14)
If you’re like me, you’re already praying for your loved ones, but don’t stop there. Pray for the sick. Pray for those on the front lines in the medical field: doctors, nurses, EMT’s, etc. Pray for those in the scientific community to find a vaccine. Pray for those in service: firefighters, police officers, military, teachers, etc. Pray for our pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and those who serve with them to meet our spiritual needs. Pray for our national and local leaders who must make unprecedented decisions with limited information. Most importantly, pray for those who don’t know Jesus to be saved. I cannot imagine going through this crisis without the Lord!
God’s Word Can Stop a Plague
Our second weapon against a plague is the sword, as we saw in the story of Phinehas. In the New Testament, the sword is the word of God. When Paul lists the armor believers must put on each day he writes, “…and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)
I believe there is divine power released when we speak God’s word out loud over the problems in our life. God watches over his word to perform it. (Jer.1:12) Jesus is also called “the Word” in John 1:1, so when we declare God’s word over a situation, we are announcing: “JESUS IS HERE!”
We need to start declaring God’s word over this pandemic. Here are a few scriptures and declarations for such a time as this:
Declare: God hears me! God will rescue me! “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me… I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed…” (Psalm 55:4-5, 16-18).
Declare: God is mighty to save! “Never again will you fear any harm… The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:15, 17)
Declare: God is for me! God loves me! I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus! “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31-32, 35-37)
Declare: God is with me to help me! “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble!” (Psalm 46:1)
Declare: God will keep me safe! “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? … For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling!” (Psalm 27:1,5)
Declare: God is my healer and my rescuer! “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave” (Psalm 107:19-20)
Declare: God is my deliverer! “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)
Declare over the spread of the virus: Peace, be still! “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39)
Declare over our president: God will guide our president to do his will! “The king’s (President Trump’s) heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov. 21:1)
Declare over the earth: God’s will be done all over the earth! “Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)
Brothers and sisters, I believe God is calling us to spend time each day in focused, strategic prayer and to declare the promises in his word as we pray. Just as Aaron and Phinehas rushed into action, we cannot sit idly by and miss this moment! Let’s make prayer and declaring God’s word a priority!
One encouraging phrase repeated multiple times in scripture says, “and it came to pass.” This pandemic will end. Did God send the corona virus, this modern-day plague? I don’t know. But I do know that he is able to turn it into something good. So, here’s one last declaration I’ll leave you with:
ALL things (even all things related to this coronavirus pandemic!) work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)