A Most Awesome Transaction!
Intro: Been on my heart for some time to speak on prayer – doing the Minor Prophets and so have put it off – also reticent to speak on prayer because I am well aware that I am no authority – my own prayer life is not what it used to be – don't have the time and undistracted space to pray as I used to. Prayer comes from relationship with יהוה and I am aware that I am as not as close as I used to be. I can look back to a time of great intimacy and intensity in prayer, great fellowship in prayer in my days in the Elim church – a big church but a core of a dozen or so who prayed – early mornings, revival prayer meeting, all nights of prayer, prayer in tongues where you heard from God! The prayer meeting was truly the most exciting meeting the church had – pray together in the Spirit for maybe half an hour then some one would pray in English the exact prayer that you had been praying! The pastor would preach, it was an anticlimax because that was exactly what had been revealed in the prayer meeting. I'm not talking one off occasions – it was every time. We were hearing from God, we knew it and it was thrilling! My prayer life is not like that now – I am the one who needs to learn to pray, not the one who should preach about it. Nonetheless I believe God wants me to speak on prayer, so as we look into prayer I am very much looking to learn myself – let's have a look at prayer in God's Word and learn together, let's ask the LORD to teach us to pray, just as the disciples asked Him – [pray; read Num 14:1-20] "Numbers 14:19,20 Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your loving-kindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” So יהוה said, “I have pardoned them according to your word;"! Did you read that?! יהוה said: "I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they." Then Moses interceded and changed God's mind, turned Him around from His intention. Moses asked יהוה to pardon the people and יהוה Himself said, "I will pardon them according to your word!" What an amazing verse - just four words! ("כִּדְבָרֶךָ סָלַחְתִּי יְהוָה וַיּׄאמֶר "). Four words! יהוה spoke! But what words! יהוה heard the selfless desperate intercessory cry of His servant - and He responded! Hallelujah! יהוה did what Moses said! That is awesome! That is the power of prayer! Prayer is a most awesome transaction!
יהוה hears! This is a truly astounding verse! Note firstly that יהוה heard! A few weeks ago Danny led the meeting and the precious thought came through that "יהוה hears those that call upon Him". This is truly wonderful! He is the God of the entire universe – the Creator! He has all of the universe to look after – yet He hears when I pray! If I have a problem at work, I tell my boss and he listens – but the manager over him doesn't even know my name, her boss doesn't know who I am, nor does his boss, then there is yet another manager over the whole hospital – is he concerned with my problem – he has a hospital to run! Over him is the minister of health, then the prime minister – do they hear me? - they have more important matters to take care of. But God .... He hears when I pray, He listens!
יהוה doing what man says! - Secondly God actually did what Moses said! Does Helen do what I say?! I used to write letters to M.P.'s concerning how they should treat Israel – you get a nice reply (not written by them of course) but are they going to do as I say?! But יהוה did what Moses said! Moses had spoken to יהוה in earnest prayer (Num 14:13-19) - now יהוה responds to Moses’ prayer: "I have pardoned them according to your word"! Hallelujah! יהוהּ spoke! Praise His Name! And what words! He had done according to Moses’ words! Awesome indeed!!! יהוה heeded a man!!! Moses asked for forgiveness and exactly what he requested is what יהוה did: "I have forgiven". Almighty God did what a mere man asked of Him! What an awesome thing is prayer! "According to your word" - as Moses said, so יהוה did! The LORD of glory acted according to the words of Moses who was a mere breath! Prayer is a great mystery, a holy and fearful thing! Who can know the deep things accomplished by it?! It should inspire great reverence, for in response to it יהוה Himself is prompted to act! The sovereign Lord of the universe, Creator, Sustainer, Controller and Perfecter of all things changes His intent and acts in line with the words of man!! (cf. James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.). There is awesome power in prayer! Why don't we do it more? The prayer meeting should be the most exciting, most well attended meeting. Leonard Ravenhill from “Why Revival Tarries: "The Cinderella of the church of today is the prayer meeting. This handmaid of the Lord is unloved and unwooed because she is not dripping with the pearls of intellectualism, nor glamorous with the silks of philosophy; neither is she enchanting with the tiara of psychology She wears the homespuns of sincerity and humility and so is not afraid to kneel!” God doing what man says! Incredible! Why are we reluctant to pray and find it a chore? What more effective and powerful activity can man engage in? We have to ask our selves: is our "prayer" really prayer at all? Does it reach God? or is it our own thoughts cycling through our mind? Does it bring forth a response from God? Does it cause Him to act? (cf. John 15:7,8,16 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.). If you didn't believe it the first time He repeats it.
יהוה turned from His intention. Thirdly God changed His course of action on the basis of Moses' prayer. He was going to destroy this people and make a nation out of Moses – but Moses, by prayer, changed יהוה 's intention, turned God Himself from what He had decided to do! Are you beginning to see just how awesome prayer is?! Moses was the meekest man on earth – God promised to make a nation from him but he refused – there was no selfishness in his motive, not what he wanted, his sole concern was יהוה's reputation, His glory, the honour of His Name. He prayed according to יהוה's character that had been revealed to him, in accordance with His Word. God cannot resist such a prayer. Not that we must think of Him as deflected from an original purpose of judgement. Certainly He is never deflected from His eternal purpose. Rather we must think of prayer as means used by God to set forward His purpose. It is part of the work of God and is involved in the carrying out of His purpose. Effective prayer is inspired by God in the one who prays, and God uses it for the furtherance of His will. God is still sovereign.
יהוה forgave. Fourthly יהוה forgave – He said that He would forgive the people. They deserved to be wiped out – that is what He fully intended to do. Had the people repented? Had they confessed their sin? No, they did not even acknowledge it, they were still in full fledged rebellion. Why did יהוה forgive? Simply because Moses asked Him! There is power in prayer! It is a truly awesome transaction between man and God who has all power. This is an astounding verse, awesome words! יהוה pardoned this great iniquity! Praise His Name! יהוה spoke and said that He had done exactly as Moses had requested! Israel would not be wiped out, He would be true to His promise and they would inherit the land. Moses prayed, יהוה heard. Hallelujah! יהוה spared the people and announced eventual kingdom blessing. יהוה forgives! Praise His Name! (cf. Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.). יהוה answered Moses’ prayer, did as he requested and forgave the people, pardoned them. But although He forgave, He still punished their misdeeds (cf. Psalm 99:8 O יהוה our God, You answered them; You were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. ). Forgiveness does not mean that there is no punishment. Israel was forgiven, they weren’t destroyed, they would still possess the Promised Land and יהוה would not transfer His purposes to a people descended from Moses - but still Israel would be punished, there had to be discipline and correction. God does forgive but still sin has its consequence and affect. If יהוה did nothing, sin and unbelief would be trivialised, He would be seen as a God who had no concern about sin and this would not glorify His Name – and this is the supreme motive behind what יהוה does.
יהוה acts for His glory. Why did יהוה do as Moses prayed? Because He acts for His glory – that was the motive behind Moses' prayer – and if we want to pray effectually and powerfully it must be ours too. But יהוה's concern was His glory! How would He be seen to be God, to be glorious, if He allowed His people to get away with anything and completely disregard Him? He would be seen as sloppy, soft, having no standards, who could be walked over and disregarded with no consequence - they could do anything, יהוה would do nothing! Is this a glorious God?! Certainly not! What determines the way יהוה will act is His glory! - this is the concern that motivates Him - He acts for His glory! Israel would be punished, they would not enter the land (Num 14:23). There would be a consequence for their unbelief. יהוה is merciful but He is also just - judgement and mercy are mixed together. יהוה would do as Moses requested but the issue was the glory of יהוה! יהוה would ensure that the earth would be filled with His glory! Hallelujah! He would act in a way that would ensure that He Himself was glorified, that He would be seen to be glorious and be revered as God! He would act in such a way that the Egyptians and nations would not dishonour His Name (cf. Num 14:13-16) but also so that the Israelites would fear His Name also. יהוה must be glorified! Praise His Glorious Name! This is יהוה’s purpose in creation and His acts in history - the whole universe exists for the glory of יהוה! - to declare His glory! (cf. Psalm 19:1; 8:1; Rom 1:19,20). And this will be the consummation of history, of the ages! Hallelujah! The earth will be filled with the glory of יהוה! Hallelujah! Praise and glory to יהוה! (cf. Isaiah 6:3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is יהוה of armies, the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 40:5 Then the glory of יהוה will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of יהוה has spoken.”; Habakkuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of יהוה, as the waters cover the sea.). Jesus will appear in glory and everyone will see Him and bow the knee before His glory! Praise the LORD! (cf. Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Matt 24:27,30 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.) A day of great glory is coming! Jesus will be revealed in glory! Hallelujah! Praise His glorious Name! Despite the people’s sin, robbing Him of glory (cf. Rom 3:23) and bringing His Name disrepute, nevertheless יהוה would bring glory to His Name. Despite sin, still glory would come. Despite forgiveness, sin is not trivialised, it is not as if nothing had happened. God’s glory is at stake! (cf. Psalm 99:8). O.K. they have been forgiven but still יהוה's glory must be seen יהוה's glory is at stake. This terrible sin of the people must not be allowed to detract from God’s glory. For as CERTAIN as anything can be ("as surely as I live" - the Source of all life swears by His own LIFE) "ALL THE EARTH WILL BE FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF יהוה! Hallelujah! This is inviolable! יהוה said that the earth would be filled with His glory. That is יהוה’s concern, making His glory known, revealing it.
Keys to powerful prayer: Does God answer all prayer like this – evidently not, otherwise we would be praying more – I want to look briefly at some characteristics of this powerful prayer that caused God to act! Firstly we read in Numbers 12:3 that Moses was the meekest man on earth, and we see that here, he prayed from humility (fell on his face), not concerned with himself at all – how many of our prayers are selfish in motive? And it was a prayer from relationship – Moses knew יהוה, knew His character.
Praying in accord with יהוה's character. – Moses was close to God, intimate with Him and that gave him boldness before Him – he knew his God, knew יהוה! Knew His character and prayed in accordance with it. Man is to do according to יהוה's word, but here is יהוה doing according to a man’s word! How can this be?! It is because Moses was fully in tune with יהוה’s own will, word and nature. Moses knew יהוה! Knew His ways. Knew His character. And he prayed in full accord with the יהוה he knew. What he said was exactly in accord with יהוה’s nature and character so יהוה had no compunction in doing in accord with it. If you want to pray effectively, for יהוה to do as you ask, then get to know Him, know His will, His Word, His character and align your will with it. Then when you pray, your will will be His will and He will act in accordance with His will. Hallelujah!
Praying in accord with יהוה's word. Moses prayed according to יהוה's character that had been revealed to him, in accordance with His Word. יהוה revealed Himself to Moses in a most wondrous way (Exodus 34:6,7 Then יהוה passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “יהוה, יהוה God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”) - and that is exactly what Moses prayed (cf. Num 14:17,18) – he prayed according to God's Word, exactly what Scripture said. This is a key to powerful prayer – too often we pray our own ideas. Do you want to transform your prayer life, try praying Scripture – not just reading it out, but with your Bible open, absorb a prophetic passage (Isaiah, Jeremiah, one of the Minor Prophets) into your spirit and pray it into being, enter into the heart of the prophet and carry his burden in prayer before יהוה.
Praying for יהוה's glory. What matters is יהוה’s glory! That is His chief concern! He swore by Himself, by His life - He who is the Source of all life, who is LIFE! What did He swear: that the earth would be filled with His glory. This is what Moses prayed for (cf. Num 14:17). He was concerned for יהוה's reputation among the nations. יהוה's concern is His glory, Moses concern was יהוה's glory - is it my chief concern also? To have יהוה act according to your prayer, to have truly awesome power in prayer, pray for His glory.