When God’s People Pray

Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. (Exodus 32:12b)

God’s mind was made up. He had tolerated these stiff-necked, wicked people long enough. His legendary patience had worn thin. To Moses, God unveiled His plan to annihilate His chosen people and start from scratch with him, Moses.

It all started with 400 years’ worth of cries for mercy. From plagues of blood and frogs, lice to locusts, darkness to death, the people were finally freed to go. When their backs were up against the sea, God moved the sea.

But when the unleavened bread was eaten up and the sacrificed lambs were fully digested, they feared God couldn’t provide. As if the God who just walked them through the middle of the sea would forget something as crucial as food! They longed to have full stomachs. So God rained down miraculous food from heaven! And that was nice too . . . for awhile. Before long, however, they were complaining about the lack of variety to their diet!

It gets worse. When the cat’s away, the mice shall play as the saying goes. While Moses was on the mountain conversing with God on their behalf, they were making different plans. They thought Moses was okay and the God who led them out of slavery was nice, but they wanted more. They needed something else. Something . . . tangible. Dutifully they went to their priest, Aaron, demanding a solution to their longing. Aaron made them a young cow of gold and proclaimed it was God.

These are the people God chose out of all the people on the face of the earth. It turns out God doesn’t take too kindly to such slanderous mockery and He became, well, utterly upset. Judgment and punishment were to come swiftly and decisively. These scoundrels have shown once and for all they deserve nothing more than death, so death they shall receive. God’s plan “B” was to wipe them out and start over.

The only thing standing between God and devastation: Moses and a bold prayer. Stepping forward to face the righteous wrath of the Lord, Moses dared speak a word against this new plan. “Please,” Moses begged, “please spare them. Please remember your promises. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember your mercy. Remember not their great sins. They are stiff-necked, no doubt. They have earned your wrath, I don’t deny it. But please have mercy. Please do not leave us. Remember how you told me you knew me by name. Remember when you said I found favor in your sight. Do not forsake us.”

It was a bold move. Moses threw caution to the wind and appealed to the God he knew and trusted. And God heard Moses’s prayer. God listened to the prayer of Moses and relented of His wrath.

God always listens to the prayers of His people! For whom can you cry out this day? Who needs intercessory prayers for their days ahead? Boldly come before your Lord and know He listens. That He hears and acts. Come before the Lord in the name of Jesus!

Good and Gracious Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, I boldly come before you today on behalf of ___________ asking for your grace, favor, and mercy. Lead and guide him/her through these days and grant your blessings. Amen.

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Vengeance or Forgiveness

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

When considering the evils done against us, we get our dander up and quickly see red. When considering the evil we’ve done against others, we want leniency and mercy. Why is that? For our answer today, let’s consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 18. The context of the entire issue is the disciples’ awkward question of who is the greatest. Rather than reject the presupposition of their inquiry, He walks them down a life-changing road. I pray you walk that road with Jesus today.

First, Jesus grabbed hold of a young boy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. When He had everyone’s full attention, He declared this boy and children like Him are the greatest. Not because the boy was anything special – he likely wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t listen to his parents better than other children, and he wasn’t incredibly wise like young Solomon. He was simply a lad. One who was under authority. One who was dependent upon the care, mercy, and love shown him by his parents. Jesus’ answer about greatness was to point to the ones who are weak and dependent.

Expanding upon the foundation of greatness being complete dependence like a child’s, Jesus then directs our attention to the frailty of the weak. Should anyone injure or threaten to harm one of these who are greatest, they would be deserving of a horrible fate. The weak and insignificant are like those who cannot keep themselves from sin. They could cut off every appendage they have, they would not begin to address the corruption of their hearts. These lost sheep are utterly dependent on mercy. These are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!

The next stop on our road is to understand who these weak ones are. They are you and me. We who can do absolutely nothing to stand on our own before the Lord. We who offer nothing to the Lord, yet ask and receive His mercy. Understand fully that your plight is the situation of all people. That person who injured you – the one you would like to see pay for his crimes against you – that very person is a lost sheep like you. He’s weak and has given into the temptations all around him. He’s completely and utterly dependent on the mercy and grace of the Lord. Just like you.

So have compassion! That’s where this road leads us! To a new outlook and understanding of all that occurs around us in this world. No one is “out to get you” per se. Rather, we are all lost sheep wandering around doing the best we can and hurting each other along the way. In this world – a world covered by the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus – forgiveness rules. Forgiveness, not retribution, is what solves the problems and salves the wounds. Love as you have been loved! Forgive as you have been forgiven!

There is a never ending supply of grace and mercy for you, fellow lost sheep!

Jesus, thank you for gathering your lost sheep, of whom I am chief. Send me out with love and compassion to share you love with others who, like me, need to constantly hear your gracious Word of mercy. Amen.