Monday, October 23, 2017

Intercession and sin

[I]ntercession, alongside speaking on behalf of the Lord are the primary responsibilities of the prophet. Jeremiah knew well that intercession is one of the marks of an authentic prophet and that refraining from intercession is thought to be a mark of a false prophet (cf. Jer 27:18). Samuel could even say that not to intercede for the disobedient people would be sinful for the prophet (1 Sam 12:23). In Jeremiah’s case, however, Yhwh prohibits the prophet four times from interceding on behalf of Israel (Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, 15:1). Moses was also told not to pray on behalf of sinful Israel after the golden calf incident, and yet he disobeyed God and succeeded in pacifying Yhwh’s righteous wrath and achieved divine pardon and the restoration of the covenant relationship for the sinful people (Exod 32:10–13, Deut 9:14). Amos as well, in spite of God’s intended judgment, pressed ahead in his intercessory efforts (Amos 7:1–6). This raises an issue of discernment. When is it permissible to disobey Yhwh’s command to refrain from prayer and persist in knocking on heaven’s door, and when does the prophet need to desist from prayer? Is there a biblical principle that indicates how far the prophet can push Yhwh to show mercy?

Interestingly, all but one of the four references to God’s restraint on intercession appear within chaps. 11–20. These chapters contain several laments of the prophet that give expression to the suffering that was evoked through Jeremiah’s calling as a prophet. One could almost argue that the fourfold command not to intercede is matched by the fourfold lament of the prophet (Jer 11:18–12:6, 15:10–20, 18:18–23, 20:7–18). Strictly speaking, Jer 15:1 is not an explicit divine ban on intercession. Nevertheless, it is instructive to observe the interweaving of the references to God’s restraint on intercession and the prophet’s laments. It looks as though God’s prohibition to intercede violates the very core of Jeremiah’s prophetic self-understanding and thereby gives rise to great pain and confusion.—Standing in the Breach, page 338

<idle musing>
There's so much I could say here. I was recently talking to someone who told me that he was convinced that God was going to judge the US. I asked him if he thought revival was possible. He said no, that God always had to judge a nation when it went too far—and in his opinion, the US had. I asked him about the role of intercession. He downplayed it, saying there was no hope. I pushed back, but to no avail.

So, here's my challenge, to those of you who are convinced that Trump is the greatest thing and to those of you who think he's the worst thing that has ever happened to the US: Intercede! Shake the heavens for revival. Realize that all human rulers are transient and what really matters is the human heart.

I recently read a book review that concluded that by 2060 climate change will have destroyed humanity. The final sentence was something to the effect that "may the next species that rules the earth be better than we were at being stewards." Wow! I'm not that pessimistic! But, are we interceding with God for mercy? Or are we throwing up our hands in despair? Or are you convinced that the rising temperatures and strange weather are God's judgment?

Either way, Intercede!
</idle musing>

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