INTERVENTION: RESPONDING TO COVID-19
On December 31, 2018, at 10 pm, while attending at a New Year’s Eve service, the Lord spoke to me about a great crisis that was coming to the United States. He showed me that it would come within 17 months. As I sat there praying, I saw the New York Stock Exchange and money markets beginning to sink. As New York continued its slide, California was flipped up in the air, and the entire nation began to slide into economic chaos. People begin to cry out about a recession and depression. Just as the turmoil in my heart reached a crescendo, the hands of the Lord reached out and caught our nation. I knew then that the United States was rapidly approaching a tipping point, and the church was the answer.
Later, in the fall of 2019, the Holy Spirit put China on my heart very deeply. I sensed a time of trouble and shaking coming to that nation and its government. My burden continued to increase as we came to the end of the year. In early January—before the virus had even escalated in China—I found myself praying with a sense of impending doom. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me that thousands and thousands would contact the virus in China, and thousands would die.
By the beginning of February, I was not just praying for China; I was also praying for the United States. I would hold both nations before the Lord in prayer, night after night. Unlike my prayers for China, however, my prayers for the USA were not directed toward the virus. I simply could not shake an imminent sense of God visiting our nation—in a sweeping move that would drive back thick darkness and flood the United States with the light of the Gospel. As I cried out to the Lord, I was troubled with a question from the Holy Spirit: “Can they pay the cost? Can they pay the cost?”
This question so gripped me that I would cease praying and feebly attempt to reply to the Holy Spirit. Every time I tried to say, “Yes,” I was stopped by an ominous feeling that I did not fully understand the cost. It was not until COVID-19 manifested on our shores that I began to grasp what this “cost” would truly entail. We could have the harvest we longed for, but COVID-19 and all of its implications would be the plow that God would use to break up our nation’s –as well as our planet’s—fallow ground. How do we respond in this epochal moment?
Although I realize we will need a multi-faceted response, this is the one the Holy Spirit suggested to me. On Friday March 6th, the Holy Spirit deeply impressed Isaiah 59:14-16 on my heart. I was struck by the fact that God was displeased with the evil and injustice in the world, but He was appalled by the fact that when He stepped down into history, there were no humans to cooperate in His intervention. This left me with a critical question: What is God looking for at this moment in history?
So, justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so, His own arm achieved salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him. (Isaiah 59:14- 16 NIV)
By the following Friday, the Lord begin to clarify the intervention He desired. This clarification began with the Holy Spirit reminding me of the story of Aaron being used by God to mitigate the terrible plague described in Numbers 16. I use the word “mitigate,” because 14,700 people died before Aaron’s bold act of worship and prayer was used by God to end the plague.
...and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. And 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. Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped. (Numbers 16:44-50 ESV)
Unlike COVID-19, this plague was a seemingly instantaneous killer. Moses and Aaron refused God’s invitation to “get away,” even though thousands of Israelites were dropping dead all around them. Instead, Moses stood his ground and ordered Aaron, armed only with a censer, to run into the very heart of the plague’s kill zone. Scripture states that Aaron “... stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.” This passage led me to examine the whole subject of plagues during the forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness. There were at least four plagues, including the one I just described. Here are the other three:
Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made. (Exodus 32:35 ESV)
Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. (Num. 25:9 ESV)
While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the
Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. (Numbers 11:33 ESV)
We know that the severity of the plague mentioned in Exodus 32:25 was mitigated by Moses’ intercession before it ever started (cf. Num. 32; Ps. 106:23).
The plague of Numbers 25:9 was stopped through Phineas’ intervention—after 24,000 people had died (cf. Ps. 106:29-30).
Why were all three men [Moses, Aaron, Phineas] from the tribe of Levi? Obviously, Moses was the Israel’s leader, and the other two were priests, but I think there was a deeper reason. The consecration rituals and purposes of the Levites are described in Numbers 8:5-22; verse 19 below is germane to this discussion. In this verse, we find there was something in the lives and ministries of the Levites, and not just the priests, that was directly related to keeping Israel free from plagues. What does this have to do with us?
And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.” (Numbers 8:19 ESV)
The answer is, “Everything!” If the Old Testament priesthood and the Levites had the power to mitigate plagues, what about those God declares to be His Holy Priesthood?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
What about us—and the movements we represent? I am convinced that if we will unite and rise up as one body across the United States, we can mitigate this plague and prepare the way for the move of God’s Spirit we all desire. This, however, will take more than a conversation. Could it be that God will use us to birth a movement of prayer that captures the hearts of America’s preachers and the people they lead? In an hour when the only buildings we have left to meet in are “temples made without human hands,” may the homes of the people we serve become houses of prayer!