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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 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? 12 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. 13 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.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God, you said in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 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.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 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.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 15, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , ,

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