Moses is a great example of a powerful intercessor. Over and over again, he pleads with God to forgive unrepentant and rebellious people.
In Exodus 32, two times Moses asks God to forgive an unrepentant people for their sin. The first time is in verses 9-14:
“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
Just a day or two later in verses 31-34, Moses has to speak with God a second time on behalf of a rebellious nation:
But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
Moses is repeatedly referred to a “humble”, and humility is discussed in a previous article as a vital condition for us when approaching a just and holy God (see Numbers 12:3). But Moses not only bypasses God’s offer to make him the new ‘father of nations’, he reminds God of the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel). He also concerns himself with God’s image to the on-looking heathen nations. In the second conversation, Moses takes his argument even further, putting himself on the line for the sinful and rebellious Israelites, saying essentially, “God, if you won’t forgive them, count me as unforgiven as well.”
Have you ever been so distraught about a sinner’s lack of repentance that you asked God to put their sin on your ‘heavenly account’? Moses’ sincerity and commitment to the people is clearly demonstrated in his petition. We see this yet again in Numbers 14:
The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’
“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea. ”
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say:
When the humble, sincere petition is rendered, forgiveness is not withheld. However, forgiveness did NOT mean there were no consequences to the rebellious actions, nor did Moses’ have that expectation according to his statement. God punished the facilitators of the rebellion with swift judgement in the form of a plague, and all of the participants were punished according to their faith. “I will do to you the very thing I heard you say.” This is an extremely important lesson and well worth taking the time to learn. See the teaching on “Words” at www.praymichiana.org. The intercessor is limited to forgiveness; without true repentance on the part of the sinner, the seeds that have been planted will produce the harvest. (See Galatians 6:7.)
In John 20:21-23 Jesus tells His followers they have the power of forgiveness. “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
This kind of intercession demands a love that can only come from God. It is exactly the love and unity Christians are called to exhibit but is rarely seen. Jesus and Stephen both showed this kind of intercession in their death. The writings of the Apostle John also show this kind of love. If we want to practice truly revolutionary intercession, the foundation of God-inspired love must come first. Only when we spend time in our prayer life seeking God-like love will we find a deeper ability to intercede for loved ones, unsaved people and even a nation.
Want to amp up your prayer power? Consider joining a prayer group or getting a prayer partner, pray in the Spirit, and plan enough time to quietly "wait on the Lord" after you pray. You will be amazed at the difference it makes! Prayer groups are listed on the website www.PrayMichiana.org and new prayer events are being added as we become aware of them. Contact info@PrayMichiana.org to find a group near you or submit information on a prayer group.