Prayer is powerful. Prayer moves the heart of God. And prayer is often overlooked and rushed through in our modern, crazy life. However, as we find ourselves in a season of slowness due to COVID-19, we have the opportunity to grow our prayer life and learn from one of the greatest intercessors in biblical history, a man who not only prayed big prayers but moved God’s heart and saved an entire people from destruction.
Moses was not only a great leader, but he was also an exceptional intercessor. Up to this point in Exodus, we’ve watched the transformation of this impulsive, strong willed, and easily angered man become someone who seeks God, stands in the LORD’s presence, and works mighty miracles by the power of the Spirit. We’ve seen Moses go from being a runaway and wanted murderer to a judge and receiver of God’s Law. So much of Moses’ life has been transformed by the power of God and fellowship with Him. Now, we’ll get a sneak peek into how strong the relationship between Moses and God was. We’ll see Moses the great leader, great warrior become Moses the great intercessor who changed the heart of God. That’s the power of an intimate relationship with the Lord!
Before we jump into the Scripture, a little background refresh. The Israelites had just erected an idol for themselves and began worshipping it with a raging party. They rejected Moses as their leader and broke the covenant that they made with God. Now, as Moses and God were fellowshipping up on Mount Sinai not far away, God sees the Israelites’ sin and says, “Enough!” He asks Moses to leave so that His anger may burn against the Israelites and He might destroy them for their wickedness and lack of love. God promises that He will make Moses into a great people if Moses would just leave and give Him room to judge.
However, Moses intervenes in probably his greatest act of courage to date. He asks God to change His mind and reminds Him of the covenant God had made not only to the Israelites forty days previously but also to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob decades before. Here’s what Moses says:
“But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, ‘O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.”’”
God heard Moses’ cry and relented from destroying the Israelites. That’s powerful! Our prayers move the heart of God!
Notice how Moses prayed. It wasn’t just a “LORD, don’t kill them because they are Your people.” Moses was passionate, he was genuine, and he knew God’s promises. He quoted back to God the covenant God had made with the Israelites. He reminded God of the reason why He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt.
Moses’ prayer was powerful and effective not because he simply spoke up, but because He knew God’s Word. He knew and remembered what God had said and was able to remind God of His promises. Moses was well acquainted with God’s Word and, therefore, knew God’s heart. So when he started to intercede for the people, Moses’ prayer wasn’t filled with personal reasons or opinions, but rather, full of God’s Word quoted back to God.
Did God need reminding? Had He forgotten? No, but by telling God these things, Moses was taking ownership of the promises too. He was showing his heart of extreme love for this wayward people. He was standing in the gap for the Israelites, and they didn’t even realize it. However, because Moses interceded on behalf of the people, God changed His mind and spared the people from utter destruction.
But did that spare the Israelites from the consequences of their sin? No! We’ll see next week how many of them died because of their idolatry and lack of faithfulness. However, compared to what God was originally intending to judge this wayward people, that punishment was merciful and gracious.
So what can we learn from all this? This story shows us that while God doesn’t need our involvement, He wants it. He wants us to become vested in the work He’s doing. He wants us to grow a heart for His people and desire their wellbeing even at the cost of our own. And if we’re going to be effective intercessors, we must know God’s Word.
Moses prayed God’s words back to God and that’s what changed the future of the Israelites. So if we want to change the world and change the future of others, we need to start praying Scripture. We need to intimately know God’s Word and understand God’s heart, so that our prayers can be effective.
However, with that being said, God doesn’t need our prayers. Jonah is another great rescue story; but the prophet Jonah would not be considered a great intercessor. On the contrary, Jonah was the guy who tried to run away from God because he didn’t like the assignment that had been given him. Then, when he finally did as he was told, he never gave the Ninevites the full story. He just told them that God was going to judge the city, end of message. Yet through Jonah, God brought deliverance to an entire city and changed His course of destruction.
So while God doesn’t need our prayers, our prayers can move God’s heart as revealed in Exodus 32. Because the God of the universe wants intimate relationship with us, He wants us to come to Him with our hearts through prayer and to ask for big things. He wants to have open communication with us. And if our hearts are in the right place and our understanding and relationship with God is solid, our prayers just might move God to act in unexpected ways. Therefore, don’t diminish the power of intercession. Remember this story of Moses. And who knows, your prayers just might bring the next miracle.
“And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”
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