Intercession in the Old Testament
Intercession in the Old Testament
We find a striking example with Abraham, the friend of God.
"And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
And said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:" Genesis 18:1-3
God and the angels not only agreed to wait for dinner to be prepared, but they did eat. The messengers from heaven had now dispatched one part of their business, which was an errand of grace toward Abraham and Sarah, and which they delivered first;
"And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on their way.
And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham the thing Which I do;
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Gen. 18:16-18
Now the messengers have before them a work of another nature. Sodom is to be destroyed, and they must do it.
"And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not I will know. And the men turned their faces thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord." Gen 18:20-22
Here we have another proof that God receives knowledge of true conditions and becomes acquainted with existing facts. Men are apt to suggest that His way is not equal, but let them know that His judgments are the result of an eternal counsel, and are never rash or sudden resolves. He never punishes upon a report, or common fame, or the information of others, but upon His own certain and infallible knowledge.
As with the Lord, there is mercy, so He is the God to whom vengeance belongs. Pursuant to their commission, we find here that the two angels looked toward Sodom, they set their faces against it in wrath, but Abraham stood with the Lord.
"And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?" Gen.18:23-24
Abraham now draws closer to God. He takes the initiative to plead with God on behalf of his neighbors. Here we have the first example of intercession in Scripture. According to the Law of First Mention (Hermeneutics), there should be a wealth of information gleaned and some concrete examples to learn from this touching friendship.
Notice How he pleads with God for mercy on others, giving reasons for his requests.
Here God was giving Abraham a lesson and showing him that He was just and merciful; and that in His moral government of the world, the principle of justice was ever paramount. Hence Sodom must be punished, and that punishment ever afterward would be a lesson to Abraham and his seed.
Now we come to the man Moses, the lawgiver, and leader of Israel. The man that was inspired by God to write the Law, The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Moses built a nation from a race of oppressed and weary slaves. In the covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given, he founded that religious community known as Israel. As the interpreter of these covenant laws, he was the organizer of the community's religious and civil traditions
This great Hebrew leader and legislator was born at a time when the king of Egypt had determined to kill all the newly born male children among the Israelite's.
The story of his rescue from the water by Pharaoh's daughter and his rise to prominence in the palace is nothing short of Divine intervention that has thrilled the hearts of millions for thousands of years.
In the life of Moses, there were two great streams of influence that molded his life. The one is drawn from the Egyptian surroundings of his early days, the other from his mother's teaching. On the one side, he had the deities of Egypt always in his face, and on the other, he had a belief in the governing providence of God.
Moses lived for 120 years, a period divided into three sections of 40 years each. The first forty years - from his birth until the flight into Midian. As Pharaoh's son, Moses learned how to be somebody. The second forty years - from the flight into Midian to the Exodus. In the desert place, he learned how to become a nobody. In the third forty years - from the exodus to his own exodus. As the leader of God's hosts, he learned that God was Everybody - the One he could speak to face to face as a man speaks to his friends.
Moses as an Intercessor and a Mediator did not possess a natural talent for this task; he slowly developed his skills. His first attempt to mediate a conflict between an Egyptian guard and a slave failed. Shortly afterward, he tried to reconcile one Hebrew with another one and it led to him having to flee from Egypt, not a resolution of the argument.
Perhaps in the desert, he learned to listen, to observe, and to reflect, so at the burning bush, he began to understand how to balance commitment with personal gifts.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Exodus 32:9-11
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.
And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." Exodus 32:9-14
Here we have a marvelous example of how much God Almighty honors intercessory prayer. What could anyone do to turn away God's wrath? God just told Moses to leave him alone so He could consume Israel.
When God resolves to abandon a people, and the decree has gone forth, it seems as though nothing can prevent it. God's Word declares His righteous judgments. Who could find fault with His justice?
Nevertheless, The God of Israel placed such an honor upon prayer, intimating that nothing but the intercession of Moses could save them from ruin.
That the intercession of Moses might appear the more illustrious, God fairly offers him that, if he would not interpose in this manner, He would make of him a great nation.
However, Moses is not looking for honor for himself, but for mercy upon God's chosen people. Moses earnestly intercedes with God on their behalf. Now he is standing in the gap to turn away God's wrath.
Moses pleads God's promise to the patriarchs that he would multiply their seed, and give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance, and this promise confirmed by an oath, an oath by, Himself since He could swear by no greater.
God's promises are to be our pleas in prayer; for what He has promised He is able to perform. God allows Himself to be prevailed with by the humble believing importunity of intercessors.
The compassion of God towards poor sinners is that He finds no pleasure when they die. Not only is God quick to forgive upon repentance of sinners, but spares and reprieves upon the intercession of others for them.
So Moses died in the plains of Moab at the ripe age of 120 years, while yet "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated," God called His faithful servant to climb to the summit of Mount Nebo where God buried him.
Unlike Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, Moses has no one to visit his burial place and God in His infinite wisdom had a good reason.
The book of Habakkuk explores the question of why - whether - God permits evil to exist unpunished. The introduction is marked by simplicity and a sense of spiritual authority. Habakkuk's name and office are stated but attention is concentrated on the nature and origin of his message.
Habakkuk was raised up to announce God's intention of punishing the iniquities which prevailed among his people. A catastrophe of strange and incredible extent was to overtake them. It is profitable to trace how the prophet expostulated with God.
For Habakkuk, the grimness of this tragic state of affairs is accentuated because he sees the situation all too clearly. He virtually censures God for compelling him to gaze upon the desperate plight of his people.
For Habakkuk, the deepest problem and the root cause of his distress is that God appears both silent and inactive. Habakkuk's intercessions have been urgent and sustained, and indeed his alarm at times erupted in a cry of "Violence".
"The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see." We can see how appropriate is the word "burden" used by the prophets to describe their gift and duty. The obligation laid on them often involved strain and danger.
Nevertheless, it was a glorious privilege to be commissioned by God, to act for Him, to be His mouthpiece to the people. Habakkuk's burden was the sight of the general evil and corruption prevalent in the Holy Land, among the chosen people.
What burden can be heavier than this, to see evil prevail among God's people, and to be unable to remedy it? Two lessons - Every privilege entails suffering. Do not lose heart.
Habakkuk questioned the seeming deaf ear of God in the face of the corrupt and religious condition of the Israelite's. Violence, strife, and contention dominated his society. The Law was lifeless. It either was not enforced or was misapplied.
The righteous were outnumbered and suffered injustice at the hand of the majority. Why were these wicked not punished?
The divine silence is broken with an oracle revealing that God is not inactive. A new nation, the Chaldeans (Babylonians), were destroying and enslaving nation after nation; this tyrant would be the instrument of God's judgment on Judah.
God's answer plunges Habakkuk into deeper perplexity. He has heard the unbelievable and expresses the cry of all humanity: Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?
How could God, who is eternal and holy, appoint this oppressor to swallow up those more righteous? The prophet is stunned that God would use this pagan nation to judge the covenant people.
As a watchman climbing his tower to scan the horizon, Habakkuk looked for God's answer. The impatient prophet was informed that God's judgment was sure but would be according to the divine timetable.
Habakkuk was to wait in faith for God to act. He was assured that judgment on evil would surely come. It will not be late.
Habakkuk was questioning why the wicked were prospering, but God assured him that the wicked will be doomed but in God's time.
The wicked man is doomed to dissatisfaction. He is like a furnace and each success like fuel added to a burning fire. The more he gains, the hotter the fire burns, and the more empty his life becomes.
The wicked man builds monuments to his achievements, even as Herod built cities to preserve his name and Hitler strove to create a "thousand-year Reich"
Yet every such effort is in vain: they exhaust themselves for nothing. God intends this world to be filled with the knowledge of Him, not with monuments to murderers.
In contrast, the character of the righteous in the darkest days will be marked by integrity and trustworthiness.
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19
In Habakkuk's closing prayer he sees God as still being in control, a saving God coming to silence all opposing forces. The book closes with the prophet's commitment to faithfulness no matter what the conditions of the world might be.