Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The work of intercession

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joel 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Let the priests who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, 'Spare your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?"'" Joel 2:17

The scene in Judah that Joel paints is hellish. Locusts advance like an army:
"With a noise like chariots
      Over mountaintops they leap,
      Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble,
      Like a strong people set in battle array" Joel 2:5.

The people are terrified:
"Before them the people writhe in pain;
      All faces are drained of color" - Joel 2:6.

The only appropriate response is repentance (Joel 2:12-13) and intercession.

When Joel said to the priests, "weep between the porch and the altar," he was referring to the space between the porch of the temple and the altar of burnt offering. This was right in front of the door of the Holy Place where God's presence lived. The priests were to mediate and intercede with God for the people there.

Intercession is the noun we get from the verb intercede, which means:
1. To plead or petition in behalf of another or others.
2. To come between parties in a dispute; mediate.

We can see that interceding is exactly what the priests were doing when they entered the temple, physically stationing themselves between God and the people, and there pleading for them.

Intercession has several parts to it.
    ▪    It involves identification, as we recognize another's hurt and distress.
    ▪    It often involves agony. I have heard intercessors describe how, during times of deep intercession, they are overcome with pain and the sense that they are actually participating in the situation for which they are praying; weeping is not uncommon.
    ▪    Intercession is also praying with authority, as the intercessor claims God's promises for the person or situation for which they are praying.

Look at these intercessors in action:
  • Moses interceded for Israel: Exodus 32:11, Deuteronomy 9:25-29
  • Moses prayed for his sister Miriam: Numbers 12:13
  • Samuel prayed for Israel: 1 Samuel 7:5-6
  • David interceded for the people who were suffering and dying for a sin he had committed - 1 Chronicles 21:16-17.
  • Hezekiah prayed for those ill Passover celebrants who had failed to follow the prescribed way to prepare for the feast - 2 Chronicles 30:18-20.
  • Jesus prayed for Peter before his denial fiasco (or it might have been much worse): Luke 22:31-32.
  • Paul prayed for the Ephesians: Ephesians 1:15-21.
  • Jesus is interceding for us right now:
“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword… Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” - Romans 8:34-37. (emphasis added).

E. M. Bounds, who wrote much about prayer says: “How enthroned, magnificent, and royal the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ at his Father’s right hand in heaven! The benefits of his intercession flow to us through our intercessions. Our intercession ought to catch by contagion, and by necessity the inspiration and largeness of Christ’s great work at his Father’s right hand. His business and his life are to pray. Our business and our lives ought to be to pray, and to pray without ceasing” - E. M. Bounds, The Complete Work of E. M. Bounds, Kindle Location 2529 (emphasis added).

For whom are you and I burdened to intercede? Who will we love and work for with intercession in our families, our churches, our cities, our countries, indeed in the world, today?

PRAYER: Dear God, impress on me again how urgent intercession is. Help me to be one of those "priests...who weep between the porch and the altar" for my world. Amen.

MORE: Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, traditionally a day of fasting and the first day of Lent in Western Christianity.

Here is the collect prayer that begins the day's liturgy:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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