I was preparing to teach a Bible study on prayer the other night and as I began to lay out the lesson plan I noticed a repeating pattern in the lives of the great men of faith in the Old Testament. They were men who cared deeply for the people around them and the people of the world. I would like to take a look at the lives of three men and the prayers that they prayed for their nation and the nations of the world.
Moses is the first person of faith that I would like to look at in the O.T. We see his prayer in the O.T. book of Exodus. Moses has been leading the people of Israel since delivering them from slavery in Egypt. Moses quickly found out that people are ungrateful and grumble and complain very easily. While following the Lord’s lead through the desert the people of Israel were disobedient to God over and over again. God had enough of their ungratefulness and was about to wipe them out. Moses began pleading with God on behalf of the people of Israel. Let’s see what happens as we read Moses’ prayer.
The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth ‘? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘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.'” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:9-14 )
Moses knew that the people did not deserve God’s mercy yet he prayed and begged the Lord to have mercy on them. He lists who God is and then describes how God has worked in the past as well as the promises that He (God) had made. Moses is not teaching God anything or convincing God of anything. God knew exactly what He was going to do. This was a test for Moses and he passed the test. He showed his devotion to God and love for people by this interaction. Do you know God personally the way that Moses knew Him? Do you love people who are unlovable, even when they do not deserve your love or appreciate it? Do you intercede for people the way that Moses did?
Abraham is the next faithful man in the O.T. who loved God and people. Abraham had received the promise of God that he would become a great nation and receive the land of Canaan (Sodom and Gomorrah were located there at the time). God came to Abraham and revealed to him that He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities. Abraham could have just said, “go ahead, they are immoral people and the land is to be mine anyway”, but Abraham did not do that. He began to plead with God on behalf of the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. “Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD departed, and Abraham returned to his place. (Genesis 18:22-33)
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah did not deserve God’s mercy yet Abraham pleaded with God on their behalf. Unfortunately, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were so corrupt and immoral that God could not find 10 righteous people. Abraham did his part and interceded on behalf of people who were not his relatives or countrymen. Do you love people who are unlovable, even when they do not deserve your love or appreciate it? Do you intercede for people the way that Abraham did? Do you love people who are not like you, who are of different nationalities, etc.? May God help us to place people as number 1 priority in our lives the way that the saints of the O.T. did.