Numbers 16:47-48 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Eugene H. Peterson
47-48 Aaron grabbed the censer, as directed by Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation. The plague had already begun. He put burning incense into the censer and atoned for the people. He stood there between the living and the dead and stopped the plague.
Paul and I are still slowly digesting Watchman Nee's little book, Sit, Walk, Stand, a tiny bit at a time over breakfast each morning. We must seem like very slow readers, but we want to absorb this teacher/preacher's thoughts and consider them well.
We had just finished reading Watchman's words about the great legacy to the Church; the name of Jesus, in which we are invited to pray, when I read in the book of Numbers chapter 16, verses 47-48, the story of the plague that was judgement for the sins of the people and which was stopped when Aaron the priest, burned incense before the Lord and atoned for the people.
The image of Aaron, standing between the living and the dead was such a vivid picture of the ministry of prayer that we are called to if we follow Christ.
1 Peter 2:9 (New International Version)
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
We believers are a royal priesthood, according to 1 Peter, and called to stand between the spiritually dead and the living and stop the plague of sin through prayer, which is symbolized by incense, rising to heaven.
Watchman's words on praying in the name of Jesus were sobering. He says that the authorization to use that name is "a fruit of obedience to God and of a resulting spiritual position known and maintained."
When God knows us because we show up daily to know him and be known of him, he can trust us with his name. We won't then be like the exorcists in Acts chapter 16 who tried to use the name of Jesus over some people in the grip of evil spirits, only to have the spirit call out, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" I don't want to be written off by the forces of hell as a weak link, out of connection with the source of spiritual authority and power, one whom they need not worry about. I want to cause a stir because I carry Christ in me and with me.
The name of Jesus is backed by all the power of heaven. So I have renewed my commitment and efforts to pray as faithfully as I can for those God has given me to pray for.
About four weeks ago we started praying for some of our nephews. One of them is John, my brother's 20 year old son in England, who has been drinking heavily enough to be concerning since alcohol addiction is in our genes. On our weekly phone call just after we began to pray, Robert said, "John hasn't had a drink for a few days." Last weekend Robert said that it was now 3 weeks since he'd had a drink--and John said it's the longest he's gone without a drink since he was 14. Coincidence? Maybe; but I don't think so. I thank God for what he is doing in John's life.
God in his mercy and grace hears and answers even the weakest prayers when we least deserve it, but to engage fully in the unseen spiritual battles that rage all around us, we need to go deeper and closer to Jesus. He has given us his name to use.
Revelation 5:8 (American Standard Version)
8 And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.