We Can Stand Between The Living And The Dead
And Stop This Plague!
"Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 'If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?' The priests answered and said, 'No.' Then Haggai said, If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?' The priests answered and said, 'It does become unclean'" (Hag 2:11-13).
Scripture tells us, if that which is unclean touches that which is clean, it contaminates it, making it also unclean. Contamination spreads outward, not cleanliness. That's why the Law declared anyone who touched a dead body as unclean for seven days (Num 19:11). That's also why the Law drove the leper out, admonishing him to warn anyone that drew near by calling out, "Unclean! Unclean!" (Lev 13:45). Similarly, we're told, "Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor 15:33).
Today we find Social Distancing has become an epitaph of current events. Because our clean state is so fragile, we must withdraw from each other, and quarantine the sick. Doctors and nurses, as prone to infection as the rest of us, need the protection of gowns and gloves and N95 masks to protect them from the sick patients they care for.
Yet, Jesus was approached by a leper who said, "'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.' And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I will; be clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed" (Mt 8:2-3). I notice not even His enemies insisted Jesus had to stay outside the camp for seven days (See Num 19:11 and Num 31:19). It was plain to all that the leper didn't impart anything to Jesus, rather He had imparted health to the leper.
That's because Jesus wasn't merely clean, He was holy. He had a vigorous holiness that exhibited an outward pressure. He was an artesian well of holiness, bubbling up and overflowing. The woman with the issue of blood discovered that (Mk 5:25-34). With joy she drew water from His well of salvation (Is 12:3). More often, He intentionally administered His infectious purity to the lost and broken. They found His virtue was "catching", yet He was immune to everything that plagued them.
The concept of "positive pressure" is used in our day to create a "clean room", a room into which unclean particles won't drift. This is done by constantly pumping clean air in, causing the room to have a higher air pressure than the space around it. Therefore, air rushes out when one of its doors or windows is opened, preventing anything airborne from drifting in. We need to ask the Lord to pour His Holy Spirit into our lives, creating an outward pressure that protects us from the physical and spiritual toxins of this sick world! "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him" (Lk 11:13).
Consider the vacuum of space, that it is mind numbingly cold and blindingly dark. The stars in the sky aren't dimmed or cooled by their surroundings. Instead, they push back the cold and dark around them. Our local star, the sun, warms and enlightens everything in its sphere of influence. That sphere, called the heliosphere, reaches out billions of miles in every direction, far beyond our most distant planets.
Well, we are referred to as stars in several scriptures. Remember the Lord's promise to Abraham: "He brought him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.' Then He said to him, 'So shall your offspring be'" (Gen 15:5). Paul promised us in Philippians if we heed his godly counsel in this crooked world, we "will shine among them like stars in the sky" (Phil 2:15b NIV). The prophet Daniel was told, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Dan 12:3).
Stars also impart warmth. Scripture tells us when Elisha raised a dead boy back to life, he laid on the boy until he "grew warm" (2 Kg 4:34). Solomon explained, "If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" (Eccl 4:11) The lost all around us are the first person in a colossal Pair that represents this generation. The Church ought to be the second person, enabled by The Parakletos, the Holy Spirit, to be a parakletos to our foolish companion. The Greek word parakletos, translated 'helper' and 'comforter', literally means "one who comes alongside". By the grace of God, we ought to come alongside our stone-cold neighbor and warm him!
Currently, the Church is hiding away from this current pandemic like everyone else. We are palpably aware that we don't yet possess that positive outward pressure that poured out of the Master. Yet, He cried out, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (Jn 7:38). This ability ought to be one of the signs that "accompany those who believe" (Mk 16:17). Psalm 91 is wonderful, it's also Old Covenant. Not only should the pestilence not touch us, we ought to touch the pestilence. That psalm promises we won't fear the pestilence. I say the pestilence ought to fear us!
Well, that leaves quite a gap between where we ought to be in God and where we are. Too long have we been content with daydreaming about our "position" in Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:4-6) as we wallow in the muck and mire of this profane age. Enough with the disconnect! If a once-a-century pandemic can't stir us into action, then nothing will. What other evidence do we need that we've lost our saltiness? God help us before the world tramples us (Mt 5:13)!
"The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on" (Prov 16:26 NIV). As it is written, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Mt 5:6) A greater awareness of our lack and need will increase both the quantity and the quality of our petitions to heaven. Don't sigh about it; cry out to God about it!
Blind Bartimaeus wouldn't be silenced or denied when he heard Jesus was passing by (Mk 10:46-52). His desperate need pushed through the resistance. The Canaanite woman wouldn't let insults and rejection deter her from seeking help for her daughter (Mt 15:22-28). Her desperate need pushed through the resistance. Jesus told His disciples the parable of the widow seeking justice (Lk 18:1-8) "that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Lk 18:1). She wore out the unjust judge because she could not abide her lack of justice. After telling us about her, Jesus then said, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Lk 18:8). Chasing after God because of our need is an act of faith.
The Church Age dawned when John the Baptist stirred the people of God then out of their complacency, compelling them to draw near. The result? "The people were in expectation" (Lk 3:15). Jesus admonishes the last church of the age, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (Rev 3:19). That message is for us, isn't it?
On the day of His resurrection, the Good Shepherd found two of His scattered sheep wandering away from Jerusalem. Though they didn't recognize Him, His stirring words melted their discouragement away. "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lk 24:32). Those two were drifting away when He found them. He put a fire in their souls that compelled them to hurry back that very night, with testimony on their tongues!
We need to seek after an outflowing of virtue that renders the unclean clean and that makes the sick well. We need to be like John G. Lake, who boldly had a live culture of the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague placed on his skin. They then looked at that culture under a microscope and saw it was dead. He was a plague to that plague!
I'm not looking to merely start a theological discussion. A plague is currently in our streets! It's marked by thousands of people suffering and dying all alone. Thousands gasp for breath and then expire, cut off from their loved ones. I pray the Lord visits them, but I also pray the Lord will send us to visit them, and to heal them.
So, the merely clean thing can't impart cleanliness to an unclean thing. Its cleanliness is too weak and fragile. But scripture shows us the holy thing imparts holiness! That's why Jesus asked, "Which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes it holy?" (Mt 23:19) He certainly knows His own word: "Whatever touches the altar shall become holy" (Ex 29:37).
Consider: If Moses is a type of Christ, and he is, then Aaron is a type of a brother of Christ, as well as a priest before Him. Well, after His resurrection, Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene in the garden. That visit ended with Him telling her, "Go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.'" (Jn 20:17) Further, Peter calls us both a "holy priesthood" and a "royal priesthood" in the space of a few verses in his first letter (see 1 Pet 2:5,9).
Therefore, listen, you priests, to what the first Aaron did, at the direction of his Moses:
"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." (Num 16:46-48)
He stood between the living and the dead. Psalm 91 isn't written for someone hiding in the basement. It's written for people who are out and about. It's written for the one in the fray. Can't you picture Aaron trembling as he stood there, waving that incense? Yet the plague was stopped. I believe Lord! Help my unbelief! (Mk 9:24)
Did you notice the altar mentioned once again? Fire from the altar helped stop that plague. Isaiah 6 declares a similar truth. Isaiah found himself in the presence of the Holy God, surrounded by holy angels worshipping Him. He despaired because of his "unclean lips" (Is 6:5). But an angel took a "live coal" from the altar and touched those lips. "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (Is 6:7). Just as Aaron killed the plague rather than be killed by it, so also Isaiah's lips didn't contaminate the "live coal", rather that coal cleansed his lips.
And what was the result of Isaiah's cleansing? A moment earlier he was an out-of-place spectator of this amazing vision. Now he was an active participant. The prophet heard God speak to him immediately after his cleansing. He was commissioned and given a word. I tell you, there are evangelists-to-be burning with fever right now, some gasping for breath, who are waiting for their living stone to not only heal them, but to also usher them into His presence that He might deputize them and send them out (Mk 5:18-20)!
Notice, the angel didn't touch Isaiah's lips directly. He used tongs to pick up a "live coal" from the altar and then touched Isaiah's lips with it. Why is that important? The word translated "coal" is elsewhere translated "pavement" and "stone". I think the translators used coal because of the context. After all, it came from the fire burning at the altar of God. But God Almighty doesn't need coal to fire his altar any more than He needed the bush to burn when He appeared to Moses.
I say it's a "live stone" in Isaiah 6, and I connect it with the "living stones" of 1st Peter chapter 2: "As you come to Him, a Living Stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 2:4-5). 1st Peter wasn't a private letter to other apostles. It wasn't a speech given at a pastor's convention. It was written to us. We are those living stones. "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!" (Mt 3:11) We are energized to cleanse the unclean, to heal the sick, to even raise the dead! Power needs to flow out of us like it flowed out of Jesus when He cast out unclean spirits. After all, "we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat" (Heb 13:10). We are empowered to be the downfall of this pandemic.
"The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" (2 Cor 10:4). The way to learn to swim is by swimming. Aren't medical schools, right now, rushing young doctors-to-be and nurses-to-be out their schoolhouse door because of the current need? Isn't it high time we entered the breach?
I'm not talking down to anyone here, since I've been cooped up in my house for weeks. But, let's take heart and believe we are a corporate priesthood, one that can ascend our Jacob's Ladder, petition God Almighty for our sad world, and return with kingly gifts (Jn 1:51)! Let's make a covenant with each other and be intentional about this.
I say we envision a goal: By the muscular mercy and great grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, this awful plague will be the black felt on which the jewels of Christ are displayed! Those jewels are anointed Christians, dedicated to glorifying Him.
Paul declared the Church is "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23). Like many of his rich sayings, this one is glossed over too easily. Well, I’m putting a "selah!" by it. In this God-breathed phrase, the Church is the noun of the verb. Jesus is doing something, and the Church is how He is doing it.
For instance, we most often use the word cork as a noun – a stopper used to plug a bottle. But cork is also a verb. It is just as proper to say, "Cork that bottle" as it is to say, "put a cork in that bottle". We cork a bottle with a cork. The Church is the fullness of Him Who fills all in all. We are how Jesus fills all in all. We are what He uses as He fills.
We watch a movie on a screen. We don’t watch the screen; we watch the movie on it. People often fall in love with the character on the screen, but never with the screen itself. Yet, it’s quite difficult to watch a movie without a screen, isn’t it? We are to be screens for the Lord. We are to project and display His presence. People ought to see Christ in action through us. They ought to hear Him when we speak. They ought to fall in love with Him because of us.
In Luke chapter 2, an angel appeared to shepherds in the field the night Jesus was born. He spoke to them, declaring the good news and giving them a sign to look for. After he departed, the shepherds said, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us" (Lk 2:15). They didn’t say, "which the angel made known to us". Angels are messengers, but the message is the Lord's. Notice, also, that angel appeared with the glory of the Lord (v9), not with his own glory.
Could this be touching on our problem and our lack? Do we draw attention to ourselves rather than to Him? Do we display our own glory and speak our own words? Wouldn't that explain why so much of the world is bored with the church? Are we carrying ourselves as masters or as servants of the Master? This plague can be banished by Him, but it won’t be bothered by us. The only mere men and women threatening this pandemic are doctors, nurses, and scientists – not people who have religion for a hobby.
"For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4:5). Let's repent of the notion of presenting ourselves and let's take Jesus Christ to the sick and dying. Let's portray the authentic Christ to them. He was always teaching and healing, confronting and forgiving. I'm confident that, if we do this without guile or ulterior motive, His glory will shine around us, too!
Let everything be established by two or three witnesses (2 Cor 13:1): Elijah, Elisha, and Peter all raised the dead (1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 4:32-37; Act 9:36-41). Jesus Christ has not grasped that prerogative as His own (Phil 2:6). Instead, He encouraged us with these words, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father" (Jn 14:12).
Rachel grabbed hold of Jacob, and said, "Give me children or else I will die!" (Gen 30:1). Just a few years later that same Jacob clung to God, saying, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Gen 32:26). Let's get a hold of God in our time of need that He might be glorified in His church as we meet the desperate need all around us and subdue this plague. Let's not make them wait a year or more for a vaccine. "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2).
© Matthew Schilling March 2020