WHAT IF PRAYER IS REALLY LIFE AND DEATH?
“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.” Numbers 16:46
I wonder how Aaron would have felt receiving such a difficult order from his brother? Surely when it comes down to personal safety or individual rights, one could refuse a life-threatening command. Running into the epicentre of a terrifying plague is suicide.
I wonder what Aaron would have felt when he stood in the midst of the dying and the dead? The invisible plague was sweeping in. Yes, the people rebelled against God, they grumbled and complained, but they were also people he knew; they go way back as slaves in Egypt. The horror Aaron would have felt, seeing them perish before his eyes. Maybe that was what drove him… desperate compassion. Only compassion could help us intercede as if another life depended on it.
I wonder what Aaron would have felt racing through the crowd with the censer of incense in his hand pursuing after the wrath of God? If he slowed down or succumbed to fatigue, more would die. He had to get ahead of death, to the point where he could stand between the living and the dead. Death had a head start but the priest ran with all his might. He could do something to arrest judgment, and when Aaron overtook death, the plague stopped, the people no longer died.
There are few narratives in the Old Testament that are both urgent and dramatic, Numbers 16 is one of them. The person given to God’s task made a significant difference by defying logic, fear and fatigue. He stood between finite humanity and the infinite Magistrate. In that moment, intercession became life and death. The effort to run to the gap replaced punishment with mercy. Similarly, we need to pray. Peoples and nations need our life-giving cries to God. Let us build personal and corporate intercession into our spirituality. Prayer is really about life and death.
Ps. Loke Chi Shyan