In Numbers 16 there are several intriguing stories about God’s chosen people. The people chosen by God and led by Moses are a bunch of whiny complainers. They don’t like the food. They don’t have enough water. They think all this talking with God has gone to Moses’ head. When a group of people tries to mutiny against Moses, God opens up the ground and swallows them whole. But, instead of learning a lesson from this, the next day people are complaining that it is Moses’ fault that they are dead. God has had it. He has threatened to wipe everyone out and now he is ready to do it.
God sends a plague that kills people instantly. As it moves through the people, they are dropping like flies. Aaron grabs his holy censer, puts some incense in it, and runs into the midst of the people. There, among the people being struck with and dying of the plague, Aaron makes atonement for their sin before God. Numbers 16:48 says “He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.”
When I read this verse, I immediately thought of Jesus and the way he stands between the living and the dead. All of us have been struck by a plague. It is called sin and all of us are guilty. I laugh sometimes when people tell me that babies are innocent and free of sin. The essence of sin is selfishness and babies are the most selfish things around. Children have to be taught to think of others first and turn away from self-interest. Unfortunately, not everyone learns that lesson as they grow up. But we are all sinners from the moment we are born. It is an instinctual behavior and we have to learn to overcome it. No matter how good we get at overcoming, we are never anything but sinners. As sinners, we are all condemned to death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life in Christ Jesus. Jesus stands between the living and the dead and stops the plague of sin. We are still sick from it, but we can have the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. We don’t earn it. We can’t live up to it. It is a gift that Jesus offered by giving up his life. He died so that we don’t have to. All we can do is accept the gift and live.
Jesus is standing between the living and the dead. We can choose life in him or can continue in our sin and choose death. By offering his life, Jesus makes atonement for our sin and sets us on the right path with God.
So the question is: on which side will you chose to stand?