Prayer Can Revoke Judgment
By D. M. Panton
It is impossible for the Scriptural observer to watch God’s church today without deepening alarm and even heartbreaking sorrow. Consider the appalling abandonment of belief in the Word of God; the flippant worldliness of method, walk and heart; the church divisions, jealousies, quarrels; the open backslidings over which we seem absolutely powerless; above all, our own failure to meet it all with our faces in the dust. Then we begin faintly to understand Jeremiah when he said: “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1).
Out of such black disaster arises one of the most exquisite privileges of the Christian. The Holy Spirit has drawn a parallel. “Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured [the rebellious people in Numbers 16:41] and perished by the destroyer. Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they are written for our admonition” (1 Cor. 10:10).
Ponder the scene to which the Holy Spirit thus draws attention. Moses is the mediator, the type of Christ (Heb. 3:1-2). Aaron is the priest; and we are priests (Rev. 1:6). The incense is prayer (Psa. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). We are priests come up white from the laver, with command over the incense, equipped for the intercessions of God.
Nearly all the great prayers of the Bible are intercessions: Abraham for Sodom; Moses for Israel; Solomon for the Temple; Daniel for the Captivity; our Lord and Paul for the church.
The action opens with God; the Glory appears in the cloud (Num. 16:42). “They continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psa. 42:3). Instinctively they turn their faces to the cloud. God responds with a vision of devouring fire.
This is the purging terror needed by the modern church. We have forgotten the sword in the mouth of Christ. We have forgotten that even on Jesus rested the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:2). The awful certainty is that sooner or later, God is bound to deal with His people. The blessed certainty is that God is in the Holy of Holies, waiting for intercessions. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they [Moses and Aaron] fell upon their faces” (Num. 16:44-45).
Mark the tender marvel of it all. The mediator directs the priest to rush in with the incense. “And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun” (Num. 16:46).
Intercession Reaches the Judgment Seat
Now observe the magnificent results:
(1) “The plague was stayed” (v. 50). The people were no worthier, but the prayer was accepted. Two men saved two million. God’s judgments are actually stayed by the intercessions of His priests.
(2) Prayer can remove sin, as well as revoke the plague. “Let them pray over him...and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him” (Jas. 5:15). It is an amazing fact that intercession can reach even to the Judgment Seat. “At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account” (2 Tim. 4:16; see also 1:18).
(3) Plead blessings on others and we invoke blessings on ourselves (Jas. 5:20). In the next chapter Aaron’s rod blooms alone (Num. 17:8): he and his house are made perpetual intercessors before the Lord (Num. 18:1, 7).
Hearts for Intercession
It is the spirit of intercession which produced, in a closely allied incident, one of the most wonderful occurrences in the history of the world. “I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them,” so awful had been the defection of His people, “and will make of thee [Moses] a nation greater and mightier than they” (Num. 14:12). Never before or since has such an offer been made. It was an offer made directly by God Himself.
…Moses was never greater than in this supreme crisis in his life. He who was tried so sorely as to lose the Holy Land through the infidelities of this very people, is as silent as the grave on the offer. He will never raise his house on the ruins of God’s people. His one cry is: “Pardon, I pray Thee, the iniquity of this people” (v. 19). Oh, that the very sins of the church, and the anger of God, may now awake such God-like intercession and such Gethsemane intercessors!
The door of intercession stands opens. God’s heart is just one great sob over a lost world. Our hearts are to be one great sob over an errant church. “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face...because we have sinned against Thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses ...O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear...for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies’ sake. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God!” (Dan. 9:8-9, 18-19).
Adapted from an earlier issue of Herald of His Coming.