Would your prayers spare an entire nation? Do you pray for God’s glory, even if it costs you something? How is it possible that such a wretchedly sinful nation as Israel (like us!) could still be in a relationship with God? The story of Moses, a powerhouse intercessor answers these!
You know the story (Exodus 32). Moses is up on the mountain with God for forty days, getting revelation from God. And while he is doing that, Israel is down below getting impatient and making a golden calf. God is hot – and rightfully so! God notes that their sin is serious. They have corrupted (destroyed) themselves (32:7). They have so very quickly left the path that God commanded them (32:8a) – in such a short time turning from their God. They have shown huge disrespect by claiming that this golden calf brought them out of Egypt (32:8b). And, they were stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, and bullheaded (32:9). God was hot and ready to destroy them. Honestly, their actions reflect how we believers treat God so many times in corrupting our lives, turning from God, being unthankful, and stubbornly resisting Him.
At this point, the message of Exodus is telling Israel (and us!) how God took care of His people. He provided for them (Exodus 16) and protected them (Exodus 17) and now we have to see what He did to enable them to continue on in a relationship with Himself – when they had sinned so absolutely terribly. What could possibly deal with a sin like this?
God’s remedy for this situation is intercessory prayer. God threatened to destroy Israel, but what He wanted was for Moses to pray and the nation to be spared. God had made promises to the twelve tribes (Genesis 49), so the nation could not be destroyed. But the nation deserved to be destroyed. God’s solution was to set Moses to praying. Someone has said that when God sets out to do a work, He sets someone to praying.
God led Moses to pray in a couple of ways. He told Moses to leave Him alone (Ex. 32:10) and He would destroy Israel. When Moses heard that, he clearly connected Israel’s destruction to leaving God alone. In other words, if Moses did not pray, God would destroy Israel. Also, God stirred up Moses by offering to Moses the same promise that God had made to Abraham (Gen. 12:2) – becoming head of a great nation. Though Moses could have personally benefitted from this, this statement immediately prompted in Moses’ mind exactly what God wanted Moses to think – Moses could not be the head of this great nation because God had already promised that to Abraham! Such praying for Israel would cost Moses personally.
So Moses besought God (Ex. 32:11) in prayer. God’s face was hot, hardened, harsh, and ready to execute judgment, but Moses besought God – literally meaning he “softened God’s face.” He appeased God and changed God’s face from anger to favor. What a beautiful picture of intercession this is!
The prayer itself was simple. First, Moses reminded God of His property (32:11). Although God was ready to disinherit Israel (32:7), they were actually God’s people (32:11 – “thy” and “thou”). Second, Moses was concerned about God’s glory based on what the Egyptians would say (32:12). Finally, Moses claimed God’s promises (32:13). And with this sound practice of intercessory prayer, God repented of the evil which He thought to do. God spared Israel like He wanted to do in the first place!
Moses was a prayer warrior for Israel. It cost him something personally in order to pray like this. It followed the leading of God to pray like this. It took a primary concern for God’s property, glory, and promises to pray like this. All true intercessors must accept these things.
But maybe a bigger Intercessor is in view here. As noted earlier, God was teaching Israel that He was providing everything that they needed for their new life with Him – including on-going cleansing for their sin! And even though they were God’s people, they sinned horribly. And what God “needed” in order to bring cleansing was this – an Intercessor, a Mediator, an Advocate. He needed Someone who would set aside His own privileges (Phil 2:5-10) and give of Himself to intercede for God’s people. The people absolutely did not deserve it; even though they were God’s people, they were still totally unworthy. But this Intercessor would pray on their behalf and God would pardon. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 John 2:1). He is even at the right hand of God, making intercession for us (Romans 8:34). He appears in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24). Glory to God, what a privilege we have – for every honest Christian knows what it is like to sin just as wretchedly as Israel had sinned. Hallelujah, we have been given a wonderful Intercessor – an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous!
And with the model of Moses to follow – and even better, that of Jesus Christ – let us be motivated to set aside our personal desires so we can intercede for undeserving people to the glory of God!