May 28, 2011
The Prayer Life of Moses
Forgive Their Sin
“But now, if You will, forgive their sin–and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”
If you do not recall a day in your life when you received eternal life as a free gift from Jesus, then this article will not make sense to you. Please click the eternal life button now and learn more about finding peace with God and being born again today.
As Moses prepared to come down from the mountain with the ten commandments written on stone by God, God warned Moses that the people had made a molten calf and worshipped it. These same people God had taken for His own people, and delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. Now, once again, they had forsaken Yahweh, and Moses must take action for them.
Moses Entreated the LORD. After the LORD told Moses about the idolatry of the people of Israel while Moses was on the mountain with the LORD, Moses entreated the LORD on behalf of Israel (Exodus 32:11). The LORD had just explained to Moses that the people below had made a molten calf, sacrificed to it, and claimed it had brought them up from Egypt. The anger of the Lord Jesus burned against His people for their sinful rejection of Him. Furthermore, Moses stood to gain personally because the LORD said He intended to destroy all of those people and build up a great nation through Moses (Exodus 32:7-10). We need to learn to pray like Moses here. The LORD intended to punish the people for their sin, and they deserved it. The grace and mercy of God held back the punishment the people of Israel deserved. Please keep in mind that God always knows the future, and nothing actually takes Him by surprise.
Change Your Mind. Moses had the courage to ask God to change His mind. We often think that God has a plan for the ages, and He does not change in any way. Because God never changes and knows the future, and controls the future, then in what sense did Moses entreat the LORD to change His mind (Exodus 32:12)? The text, as usual, makes it plain. God certainly knew that Moses would intercede for the sinful people, and make just such an appeal. From the human perspective of Moses, God responded to the prayerful entreaties of Moses so that God changed His mind (Exodus 32:14). The change in this case amounts to God withholding His righteous anger about removing the people of Israel from the face of the earth.
Pray the Promises of God. As Moses prayed for the people, and interceded for them, he prayed the promises of God to God. Listen to Moses praying: “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever” (Exodus 32:13-14). Moses quoted the very words of God back to God in prayer. Moses claimed the promises of God, and trusted God to fulfill His words. We would do well to follow the example of Moses, and pray the promises of God to God. He will always fulfill His promises. Yet, the storm of God’s anger had not passed.
If You Will, Forgive Their Sin. Moses never denied the people had sinned tremendously. So often, I see parents who deny the sin of their children, or spouses who cannot face the fact that their spouse sins. Pastors and elders sin, and entire congregations sin. The only remedy for sin has always been the forgiveness of God applied by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Only God can forgive sin. Therefore, when confronted by the tremendous sin of people we love, we must pray before God and intercede for our friends. So often, they are not even ashamed or repentant. We need to pray for them immediately. Moses prayed, and even went so far as to ask God to blot his name out of God’s book if God would not forgive them (Exodus 32:33). Moses in essence was willing to lay down his life for the lives of the people. True intercessory prayer, at times, means that you appeal to God as if your life depends upon it. In Moses, we see a great model of how to pray before the living God. God promised He would punish the people for their sins, but He did not kill all the people.
So we learn more about the prayer life of Moses.
● Prayer means that we recognize sin, and entreat God to forgive it. When our friends sin, prayer can help them.
● Prayer means that from our perspective, God can change His mind about bringing swift judgment upon people. God always knows all we will do before we do it, and so from His perspective, everything always goes according to His predetermined plans. But our prayers really matter, because our prayers help us to follow the plans God has laid out for us. We do not change God’s plans, but our prayers change our perspective of God’s plans.
● Prayer means that we learn to intercede for the people wrapped up in sin. Instead of hating them, we love them and pray for them. No matter how evil they may be, God intends for us to pray for them. Moses fully understood the need to pray for the people of Israel, and interceded for them as if he were interceding for his own life.
Application for Today
As I think about how terrible my friends can be, I recognize that I need to pray for them. Because all the punishment for my sins fell upon Jesus instead of me, I fear no condemnation from God. Yet, I do fear for my friends who fall into sin, because sin destroys relationships and clouds our fellowship with God. It also causes the Holy Spirit to grieve. So as I pray, I will give some time before God interceding for my friends caught up in grievous sin, knowing that soon I may need them to return the favor. But for now, I will be praying as an intercessor today, and entreating God to withhold the judgment some people deserve, and plead instead for the grace and mercy of God to abound to sinners, like me, today.