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I want to talk to you on what I believe is one of the greatest themes of the Christian life, that is, the theme of intercession. For an opening scripture, I would turn to 1Timothy 2:1 where Paul says this:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.”(KJV)
Notice that that comes first of all. The prayer life of a Christian assembly or group is its first priority and its first ministry. First of all, Paul says, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.
There are various different words used there. The word supplication essentially relates to the theme of mercy. The cry of the suppliant is mercy. It can be summed up in that one word: Lord, I need mercy and I need it now. I’m not asking for justice. I’m asking for mercy.
And there also in that first verse there is the word intercession. The word that we have in English, intercession, comes from a Latin root which means to come in between. The intercessor is one who comes in between. In between who? The answer is in between God and those who deserve the just wrath and punishment of God. The intercessor is one who steps in between. He lifts up his hands to Almighty God and he says, “God, these people deserve your judgment. You have every right to smite them. But if you smite them, you’ll have to smite me first because I’m standing in between you and them.”
Intercession was one of the great marks of the ministry of Jesus. In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah we have that well known and glorious description of his atoning work. I suppose Isaiah 53 is essentially the atonement chapter. And the closing verse reads like this:
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors and he bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”
You’ll notice that there are four things recorded there of Jesus. He hath poured out his soul unto death. Scripture says in Leviticus 17:11: “The soul of all flesh is in the blood.” Jesus poured out his soul unto death when he poured out every drop of his blood
He was numbered with the transgressors. He was crucified with the two thieves.
He bare the sin of many. He became the sin offering for us all.
And he made intercession for the transgressors. He made intercession from the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. The judgment that is due to them, let it come upon me.” And it did.
And then in Hebrews 7:25 we read about Jesus after death, resurrection and ascension as our high priest at God’s right hand. And it says there:
“That this man [Jesus Christ] because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood [one that never passes from him] wherefore he is able also to save them to the utmost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
If you study the life and ministry of Jesus you arrive at some rather interesting time comparisons. He spent 30 years in obscurity in perfect family life. Three and a half years in dramatic powerful ministry and nearly 2000 years in intercession. That’s what he’s been doing since he ascended. He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
If we turn again to Isaiah 59 we find a terrible list of the sins of God’s backslidden people. And bear in mind that the 59th chapter of Isaiah is written to backsliders, to people who have known God and turned from him. To people who are religious but in rebellion against God. The list is a terrible one, I cannot go into it all but I’ll just begin in the 12th verse:
“For our transgressions are multiplied before thee and our sins testify against us. For our transgressions are with us and as for our iniquities, we know them. In transgressing and lying against the Lord and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood, and judgment is turned away backward; and justice standeth afar off. For truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter. Ye, truth faileth and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. And the Lord saw it and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man and wondered that there was no intercessor.”
Gradually I believe the Lord has been showing me that this fearful list of the failings of God’s people, the religious people, comes to this climax with that statement: there was no intercessor. And I believe that when there is no intercessor to be found amongst God’s people, that is the supreme mark of our failure in our responsibility to God and to man.
And I wonder, as God looks across this large congregation this morning, how he feels about you. I wonder whether he wonders that there is no man and that there’s no intercessors. In a congregation this size I guarantee we have many critics but I wonder whether there’s an intercessor. As a Christian, God didn’t call you to criticize. He has placed upon you a responsibility to intercede. The people who fail in intercession are usually the most critical.
I want to speak to you now about what it means to intercede. What is involved. I want to take some patterns from the great saints of the Bible. I believe the greatest saints were often the greatest intercessors; the men that were closest to the heart of God. I want to begin with Abraham. Turn with me, if you will, in Genesis 18. In this scene the Lord with two angels comes to visit the tent of Abraham. And Abraham entertains the Lord and the angels, he kills the calf, he feeds them. It’s a very remarkable picture: the Lord and his two angels enjoying the hospitality of Abraham’s home. And then at the end, the scene comes to this climax. In verse 17 the Lord said:
“Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?”
Seeing Abraham is my close personal friend, shall I not share my plans and thoughts with him?
And in Amos 3:3 it says:
“The Lord God will do nothing, but he maketh known his secrets to his servants the prophets.”
I’d like to offer you this thought: That if God is willing to share his secrets with you, you better know how to keep them. Because if God shares his secrets and you spread them abroad, he won’t share the next one with you.
And then the Lord unfolds to Abraham his purpose. He begins here in Genesis 18:20. The Lord said:
“Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.”
God is very, very just. He doesn’t accept hearsay evidence. He says, “I’ve had a lot of bad reports from Sodom and Gomorrah but I’m not going merely by what I hear, I’m going to go down and inspect the situation for myself. Then I’ll take appropriate action.”
Now Abraham was very much concerned about Sodom and Gomorrah because his nephew, who was in a certain sense in backslidden condition, Lot, was living there in Sodom. And Abraham knew that if judgment came upon Sodom, Lot and his family would be part of that judgment. So there follows a very fascinating discussion between the Lord and Abraham. And it says:
“And the men [that’s the two angels] turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord.”
Now that’s the position of the intercessor. Abraham stood in front of the Lord and said, “Lord, hold on a moment. Don’t go just yet, I’ve got something to say to you.” In a sense he held the Lord back. That’s intercession.
“And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
I would say it takes some courage to talk to the Lord like that. And I marvel at Abraham’s intense conviction that God had to be absolutely just. And I believe there’s a very important lesson for us. Abraham states the principle and by implication the Lord accepts it. That it would be totally unjust for God ever to deal with the righteous as he deals with the wicked. That if God ever brings judgment upon the wicked, it would be totally out of keeping with his character and contrary to his justice to let that judgment fall upon the righteous. I wonder whether you believe that? You better make your mind up because it affects you.
In Psalm 91 it says to the believer:
“A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come near thee. Only with thine eyes shall thy behold and see the reward of the wicked.”
Whatever comes as the reward of wickedness, whatever is God’s judgment upon wickedness, it must not touch the righteous. He can be right in the midst of it, a thousand can fall at his side, ten thousand at his right hand, but God’s justice is pledged that his judgment shall not fall upon the righteous. How much we need to understand this. You know the trouble with most Christians? They don’t know whether they’re righteous or not. That’s the truth. If I’ve been justified by faith in Jesus Christ, I’ve been made righteous with his righteousness. And if I know that, stand on it and live according to it, no judgment due to the wicked shall ever touch me.
Now let’s add one thing: I will be persecuted for righteousness sake. The Bible says that every one that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But let’s notice there’s a vital basic difference between persecution for righteousness sake and judgment for wickedness. Persecution for righteousness comes upon the righteous from the wicked. Judgment for wickedness comes from God, who is righteous, upon the wicked.
Now we are all called to endure persecution. None of us who are believers should ever endure God’s judgment upon the wicked. I believe if you really understand that you’ll heave a sigh of relief. But as I say, the majority of Christians really don’t know where they stand.
In Luke 21 Jesus spoke about the close of this age and right at the end of his message speaking to his disciples he said, “Watch and pray always that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come upon the earth, and to stand before the Son of man.” He indicated that it was the will of God for his disciples to escape the judgments of God that were coming upon the wicked earth. That’s in line with the whole teaching of scripture. But he said you’d better be watching and praying. Because if you’re not watching and praying, you won’t qualify to escape. And then he said, “Watch and pray that ye may be counted worthy...” Notice that. Were you worthy to be saved? No. You were saved by grace. You didn’t merit it, you couldn’t deserve it. But when you have been saved you are required to lead such a life of righteousness that it would be unrighteous of God to judge you with the wicked. That’s the Christian life. We need a very sharp distinction between the righteous and the wicked. At the end of this age don’t let the lines get blurred because you might be on the wrong side. Jesus said in Revelations 22, “The time is at hand. He that is unrighteous, let him still be more unrighteous. He that is filthy, let him be still more filthy. He that is righteous, let him be still more righteous. And he that is holy, let him be still more holy.” There’s a wider and wider gulf coming between the righteous and the unrighteous, the filthy and the holy. The unrighteous and the filthy are going to get worse. The righteous and the holy are going to get better. You better know which company you’re in.
I deplore the teaching which gives Christians a fatalistic passive attitude towards world affairs. Don’t you know, Brother Prince, that everything is getting worse? No I don’t. And if you find that in the Bible, show me. I’ve never found it there. It says wicked men and seducers shall wax worse and worse. If I’m not a wicked man or a seducer, that doesn’t apply to me. You know what I believe? I believe some things are getting worse and worse and some things are getting better and better. I want to tell you I’m among the things that are getting better and better.
We’ll go back to Abraham now. Abraham said, “Lord, if there are fifty righteous in that city would you spare the city?” The Lord said yes. Abraham said what about forty-five? God said all right, forty-five. This is the Prince paraphrased version. So Abraham took a deep breath and said, “Lord, how about if there are only forty?” The Lord said all right, forty. Abraham took a deeper breath and said, “Lord, how about thirty?” The Lord said, “All right, I’ll spare it for thirty.” Abraham said, “Lord, how about if there are only twenty?” The Lord said, “I’ll spare it for twenty.” And Abraham said, “Lord, just once more and I’ll shut up. Suppose there were only ten righteous persons in that whole city? Would you spare it for the sake of ten?” The Lord said, “I’ll spare it for the sake of ten righteous persons.” That is a tremendous revelation. I’ve tried to ascertain approximately the population of Sodom in the days of Abraham. Without going into the reasoning, I have come to believe that Sodom was a major city and that its population could not have been less than 10,000 persons. And God said for the sake of ten righteous persons I’ll spare a city of 10,000 who are wicked. Now you don’t have to be a mathematician to arrive at the proportions. It’s one in a thousand. That’s a very interesting proportion. Without going into too much detail it recurs in Job 23:33, it says: “If there be with him an interpreter, one among a thousand that can show unto man his righteousness...” So the interpreter is one in a thousand. And then again in Ecclesiastes 7:28 Solomon says: “Searching amongst men I have found one in a thousand.” It seems to be the proportion that indicates a man of outstanding righteousness. God says if I can find ten outstandingly righteous persons in Sodom, I’ll spare 10,000 for their sake. One for a thousand.
I like to apply this to modern America. The population of America today is somewhere around 210,000,000. If you take that proportion, it would require 210,000 righteous persons to obtain mercy for America. Do you believe there are 210,000 persons in America that qualify? Are you one of them? It’s a very, very practical question. It’s not abstract, it’s not theology. It concerns life and death. I hear people that speak about God’s judgment falling upon America. And let me say America merits God’s judgment. There’s no doubt about that. But when I hear people talk in an almost offhand way about the judgment of God falling upon America, I wonder whether they know what they’re talking about. Because to me, it’s a horrible picture. I picture devastated cities, parents an children separated, hunger and disease stalking the land, little children with their bellies distended with hunger crying for parents who are dead. I’ve seen a little of these things, I’ve been in two wars, I’ve lived in countries where famine is a reality.
I believe that any man who had a message from God would deliver it with fear. Jeremiah predicted fearful disasters that came on his people. But he was known as the weeping prophet. And when the people of Jesus’ time were asked who they thought he might be, the one prophet that they thought he might be was Jeremiah. Because I believe Jeremiah was a young man and he was a man of deep compassion and concern for the sins of his people. And when people talk emptily about judgment without compassion and without concern, I really question whether they’ve got their message from God. I’m not belittling or minimizing the possibility of God’s judgment. In fact, it’s because I’m so concerned about it that I’m preaching about it.
I’d like to take another picture of an intercessor, and that’s Moses. In the book of Exodus 32 we see here a tremendous picture. Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to commune with God and receive from him the covenant. He’d been gone something like forty days. And Israel said, “Moses is gone. As for this man Moses which brought us out of Egypt, they said we don’t know what’s become of him. We need a God. Come on Aaron, make us a god.” So Aaron took all their golden earrings, melted them together and made a molten calf. And then Israel started to dance around it and worship it. Moses was up on the top of the mountain with the Lord. And the Lord interrupted their conversation and said, “Moses, you ought to know what’s going on down at the foot of the mountain.” And there follows a conversation which is so intimate that it is in a sense amusing. Every time I read it it causes me to smile. Neither God nor Moses would accept responsibility for Israel. Each of them pushed the responsibility back on the other. I’ll read it here in the King James. I may just change a few words. Exodus 32:7:
“The Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down, for thy people which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way, they have made them a molten calf and have worshiped it. [verse 9:] The Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people and behold, it is a stiffnecked people. Now therefore, let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them and that I may consume them. And I will make of thee a great nation.”
I want you to notice that God saw that he couldn’t do it unless Moses would let him alone. And he said, “Moses, get out of my way and let me deal with these people.” And he said, “What’s more, I’ll redeem my promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I promised to make of them a great nation out of their descendants but I’ll do it out of you.” Wouldn’t that appeal to your ego? Blot out the people. After all, they’ve been nothing but a burden on me since I’ve got them out of Egypt and start again with me God, and I’ll be the great ancestor of this people. Moses didn’t react that way. Verse 11:
“Moses besought the Lord his God and said, Lord, why does thy wrath wax hot against thy people which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt?”
Lord, they’re not mine, they’re yours! I can’t handle them, you’re the one to deal with them. And then he says in verse 12 and I want you to notice his supreme concern for God’s glory:
“Why should the Egyptians speak and say, for mischief did he bring them out to slay them in the mountain and to consume them from the face of the earth. Turn from thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil against thy people.”
And then he reminded God of is promises and his covenant.
“Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel thy servants to whom thou swearest by thine own self and sayest unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and all this land that I’ve spoken of will I give unto your seed and they shall inherit it forever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he sought to do unto his people.”
Moses was concerned for God’s reputation. He said, “God, if you bring these people out and then they perish in the mountain, the Egyptians will say you have an evil intention against them when you brought them out.”
And if you look in another place, Moses made similar intercession. Without going into the background, in Numbers 14 Moses talked to God in the similar way. Again, Israel were into trouble and Moses was making intercession. We won’t go into the background of this, it’s a similar but a different incident. Numbers 14:11.
“The Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me for all the signs which I’ve showed among them?”
The problem was their refusal to enter the Promised Land. They believed the ten spies with the negative report rather than the two spies with the positive report. And God was so angry with their unbelief he said, “Let me deal with them and I will smite them with the pestilence and disinherit them and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.” God said, “You see, Moses, I can still keep my promise and you’ll be the one who will be the ancestor of this great nation.” And Moses said unto the Lord in verse 13:
“Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it for thou broughtest out thy people in thy might from among the Egyptians and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land; for they have heard that thou, Lord, are among this people and that thou, Lord, have seen face to face; and thy cloud standeth over them. And that thou goest before them by daytime and in a pillar of fire by night. Now, if thou shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.”
Moses said, “God, you’ve got to be careful because your reputation will suffer. People will conclude that you could get them out of Egypt but you couldn’t get them into the Promised Land. So in order to dispose of your problem you just killed them on the mountain. God, we can’t have that.” And then he said, “Now Lord I beseech thee...” We don’t need to go further with that but you see Moses was totally unconcerned about his personal reputation or status. He was only concerned about God’s glory and reputation in the earth.
Now going back to Exodus 32 for a moment, just look at the closing part of that chapter and this is a confirmation of Moses’ intercession. Moses went down to the bottom of the mountain, dealt with the people, and then came up again. In Exodus 32, beginning at verse 30:
“And it came to pass on the morrow that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned great sin and now I will go up unto the Lord, peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sins. And Moses returned unto the Lord and said, Oh this people have sinned a great sin and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if thou will forgive their sin and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”
That’s intercession. God, they deserve your stroke, forgive them. But if not Lord, let their judgment come upon me. The intercessor is the one who stands in between God and the object of his just wrath.
And this is summed up in Psalm 106 which is a divine commentary on this incident. This describes the incident when Israel made the golden calf. Psalm 106:19:
“They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgot God their savior which had done great things in Egypt. Wondrous works in the land of Ham and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore he, [that is God] said that he would destroy them had not Moses, his chosen, stood before him in the breach to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.”
That’s the position of the intercessor. He’s the one who stands before God in the breach made by the sin of God’s people and says, “Lord, I’m stopping the gap. Your blow can’t fall upon them unless it first falls upon me.”
And then in Numbers again we’ll find one other picture of intercession which is very beautiful and very vivid. It’s in Numbers 16. It’s Moses and Aaron together who are the intercessors this time. There had been sin and rebellion by Korah, Dathan and Abiram and God had sovereignly dealt with the rebels. He caused the earth to open and swallow them alive. And this had caused a tremendous fear among Israel. But the next day the rest of the people turned against Moses and Aaron and said, “You’ve killed the people of the Lord.” Which is one of the most ridiculous things you could think of. As if either Moses or Aaron could cause the earth to open and swallow them up. But you see, they had an evil, critical, rebellious heart. When I think of all the criticism that Moses endured I marvel at the patience of that man. He certainly was the meekest man on earth as the scriptures say. So we’ll read now the aftermath of this. Numbers 16, beginning at verse 14:
“But on the morrow, all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord. And it came to pass when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared.”
God intervened visibly. His personal presence came down upon the scene.
“And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation, 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 fell upon their faces.”
Again, that’s the position of the intercessor. Prostrate on his face before God knowing the judgment is just about to fall. God, stay your hand. And I marvel at their grace because the people had turned against them without any good reason. And for those who criticized them they offered intercession.
“And Moses said unto Aaron, take a censer and put fire thereon 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 has begun.”
God’s judgment was already coming upon the people in the form of a plague that killed them almost instantly.
“And Aaron took as Moses commanded and went into the midst of the congregation, and behold, the plague was begun among the people. And he put on incense and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living and the plague was stayed.”
It stopped where he stood. Now it’s my supposition that that plague was highly infectious. It was transmitted from one to another. It had already begun as a divine judgment on God’s people and Moses knew it, presumably by the word of knowledge. He said, “Aaron, quickly grab your censer, put on fires, put incense on the top of the coals and run—not walk, but run to where the plague is smiting the people.” And Aaron ran with his censer in his hand to the place where the last man had just died, took his stand beside that dying or dead man between him and the one who would die next.
Now if I’m right and it was an infectious disease, Aaron deliberately exposed himself to that contagion. He risked his own life. Standing there he swung the censer, and as he swung it the beautiful white fragrant smoke rose up in a white line and divided between the dead and the living. And where that white smoke went up from the censer, the plague stopped. That’s intercession. It’s coming between the dead and those who are due to die. At the risk of your own life, standing there and offering up fervent prayer and supplication like that white smoke from the censer. And where that rises up acceptable to God, the plague stays.
Finally I want to look at another picture in Ezekiel 22. But this is a different scene for one reason. Not that the sins of God’s people were worse except in this respect. That amongst all those religious people, and we know from the context that there were prophets and priests, God could not find one intercessor. And because he could not find one intercessor he could no longer withhold his wrath and his judgment. I want you to look at this picture that begins in Ezekiel 22:23:
“The word of the Lord came unto me saying, Son of man, say unto her [that’s the land of Israel] thou art the land that is not cleansed nor rained upon in the day of indignation.”
I always remember one of my African students, his name was Wilson Mambalayo. He was a man who understands intercession. He is one of the most outstanding intercessors that I’ve ever met. And I remember his pointing out to me one day, he said, Brother Prince, the only thing that can cleanse a wicked land is the rain of God’s Holy Spirit. And if the rain doesn’t fall, the land will not be cleansed. Thou art the land that is not cleansed nor rained upon in the day of indignation. And then there comes a long chronicle of the failures of every section of the people. And there’s not one single group that’s excluded. Interestingly enough in English every group that is specified begins with a letter P which makes it perhaps a little easier to remember. If you look in verse 25:
“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof...”
We don’t need to read further. Verse 26:
Her priests have violated the law. [verse 27:] Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey. [Then verse 28 we go back to the prophets:] The prophets have daubed them with untempered mortar. [And finally in verse 29:] The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery.”
The list is prophets, priests, princes and people. And I think it’s significant where the problem begins. It begins with the prophet. When the prophets are no longer faithful to the oracle of God, then corruption sets in.
I’m deeply impressed when I think about this about the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. Essentially they were living in a nation that was backslidden with its rulers. And the real protection of God’s people Israel at that time was manifested in critical moments as chariots and horsemen of fire. And if you read the account you’ll find that when the chariots and the horsemen of fire appeared, they did not center around the kings or the secular rulers. But they were always around the prophets Elijah or Elisha. And you know, I don’t know whether this sounds arrogant but the highest that I can think of is this for myself. I’d like to be the kind of person that attracts the chariots and horsemen of fire. And the real protection of God’s people then was not in their rulers or in their armies nor in their generals. Their protection was in one man who lived such a life that God’s chariots and horsemen of fire centered around him. But when the prophets fail, then that’s the beginning of total corruption. There’s no longer a clear up-to-date relevant message from God.
Next, the failure is amongst the priests, those that lead religious practice. The prophets, then the priests, then the princes, the secular rulers and finally the whole people. Corruption starts from the spiritual and works downward. This is true in America. When there’s no prophet, when there’s no voice from God, then religion becomes formal and unreal and insincere. The priests fail. And when the prophets and the priests fail, it’s reflected in the failure of the secular ruler. When you look at Watergate and all that’s involved, bear in mind that reflects the failure of the prophets and the priests. We see it in the princes but it doesn’t start there.
And then it affects the whole people. And here was a nation that was totally corrupt before God and now look at what God says about them in Ezekiel 22, concluding verses 30–31:
“And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. Their own way have I recompensed upon their heads saith the Lord God.”
Verse 30, God says “I sought for a man” one man that would be an intercessor. The picture is very vivid. To stand in the gap and make up the hedge. And the implication is clear. God says “If I could have found one man I could have spared the whole nation. But because I couldn’t find one therefore I have poured out upon them my indignation, consumed them in the fire of my wrath.” One man who would take the place of an intercessor could have saved an entire nation from final judgment.
Isn’t that true today? Isn’t that the situation of the United States? Surely this nation is overripe for divine judgment. The Bible reveals one clear principle of God that judgment is according to the light that has been granted to us. Jesus said woe unto thee Chorazin, woe unto the Bethsaida, for if the mighty works that have been done in thee had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have stood unto this day. Woe unto Capernaum for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have remained unto this day.
Judgment is according to light. The greater the light available, the severer the judgment for rejecting that light. And I would say objectively, in all the history of the human race that there has never been a generation on the face of the earth that has had greater spiritual light made available to it than this generation in the United States today. If judgment falls on us it will be according to the light that we’ve received. When you consider the way God’s spirit has been poured out on people who know nothing about it, don’t even ask for it, when you consider the media by which the truth is being spread, television, radio, tapes, books, I don’t believe there ever has been a generation anywhere in the history of the human race that has had light more readily available to it than this. If we fail, God help us. I don’t know any way to measure the severity of the judgment that will come upon us.
God said, “I sought for a man. I’m not looking for a committee. I’m not looking for a church board. I’m not looking for a visitation program.” They all have their place. But he said “I’m looking for a man.” I like the word man. There’s something powerful about the English word man. It always blesses me when Pontius Pilate had to bring Jesus out and say behold the man. That’s what he was, he was the man. He was what every man ought to have been, and only he was.
How about it? Are you willing, would you consider the responsibility of offering yourself to God as an intercessor? As I close my message I just want to bring to you four qualifications that I see in every scriptural intercessor which I think are self evident when you consider the cases we’ve looked at. First of all, an intercessor must have an absolute conviction of God’s righteousness. Like Abraham. God, could you bring judgment upon the righteous that is due unto the wicked? But he must be absolutely convinced also that God will judge the wicked. There’s no kind of milk and water religion about God is too kind to judge anybody. Anybody who talks or thinks like that cannot qualify to be an intercessor. An intercessor has to have a crystal clear vision of the absolute justice and inevitability of God’s justice.
Secondly, he has to have a deep concern for God’s glory. Like Moses who twice turned down the offer to be the ancestor of the greatest people on earth. He said, “God, it wouldn’t be for your glory. What would the Egyptians say? What would the people of the land say, they’d say you couldn’t do it God. You took on something that was too difficult for you when you said you’d get that nation out of Egypt and into Canaan. God, your glory would suffer.”
Thirdly, I believe such a person must have an intimate acquaintance with God. A person that can stand before God and talk to God with the utmost frankness. And yet, I believe, reverence.
And finally, to be an intercessor takes holy boldness. You’ve got to risk your life, you’ve got to be like Aaron and say, Well, I’ll run the risk of the plague but I’m going to stand here.
Four years ago I became an American citizen. I became one by choice. Believe me friends, I weighed that decision very carefully. I believe when I became a citizen of the United States I identified myself with the nation for good or for evil. And I could see the tremendous possibility of divine judgment falling on this nation. I was not blind to it. But God has spoken to me audibly in l953 when I was still a pastor in England. This is what he said. “There shall be a great revival in the United States and Great Britain.” And I’m willing to run the risk because I believe that great revival is coming. If God can find intercessors. I believe we can stay the judgment of God and call down the mercy and grace and blessings of God if we learn to intercede.
I’d like everybody just to be bowed quietly in prayer for a moment. I want you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I don’t want anybody to do anything by a carnal impulse or other impulse of emotion. But I want to ask one question: Are there those of you here this morning who would say, God, if you can make an intercessor out of me, I’m willing to pay the price. Sit there a moment and just meditate on that, quietly consider it. And then if you feel that this is a divine prompting to you from the Holy Spirit, if you want to indicate your acceptance just quietly stand to your feet wherever you are. Remember what I said, God, if you can make an intercessor out of me, I’m willing to pay the price. I’m not looking for great numbers. I don’t want an emotional response. Don’t do it. There are other ministries, there are other callings. Not everybody in this sense is necessarily called to be an intercessor. But we certainly need some. Praise God. Just a moment longer. Let me tell you there is no higher calling. When you’re an intercessor, you’ve reached the throne. Man may not see you because you’ll be out of sight beyond the second veil. But your life will count for God for time and for eternity. I would stop but people are still standing, more and more. I don’t want to cut anything off because this is too precious. Please count the cost. Remember it’s between you and God. You may not be an intercessor now but if you offer yourself, God will deal with you. And it may be a hard dealing. Some of the lessons that I’ve shared with you this morning I’ve learned in a hard way. I’ve been through some bitter things. But as I look back I thank God even for the bitter places. All right. I’m going to pray now for you that are standing. Father, in the precious name of Jesus I thank thee for every one of your children that have stood before you saying God, if you can make an intercessor out of me, I’m willing to pay the price. Bless each one Lord. I commit each one specifically to you and pray that with your hand laid upon them you’ll lead them in the paths of discipline and instruction that will make them what they’ve offered to be. For your glory, in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said Amen. God bless you.