Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Angel of the LORD Teaches Us a Lesson About Intercession

Zechariah’s vision in 519 B.C.: “Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?’” (1:12). The “angel of the LORD” is certainly interceding for God’s covenant people here, but it would be a mistake to assume that the role of mediator or intercessor is one of trying to convince God to do something against His will (or to change His mind). The “angel of the LORD” surely is not ignorant of the LORD’s revealed plan some 86 years earlier, since the Mediator quotes its specific timeline! In the LORD’s sermon through Jeremiah in 605 B.C., He promises “...these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (25:11). “Seventy years.” The Mediator is not trying to change God’s mind or convince Him to do what He has promised to do (as if God is resistant to fulfilling His promises). Rather, it is God Who is – as part of His plan – using the intercession of the Mediator to reveal His promissory faithfulness!
  • “Christ Jesus is He Who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • “...there mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Timothy 2:5).
  • Jesus “is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

How does our only Mediator intercede for us before God? Does He represent our interests before a God Who must be convinced to do what we desire? NO! The example of Zechariah 1:12 and Jeremiah 25:11 shows us that God’s plan is to use the intercession of the Mediator to enact His revealed will and plan, not to be convinced by the Mediator to change His mind about His plans!
  • “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:34).
  • “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (John 5:19).
  • For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
  • “So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He Who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him’” (John 8:28,29).
  • For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself Who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12:49,50).

Consider the third Person of the Trinity Who intercedes for us as the “Spirit of Christ” (John 3:34; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6) perfectly unified in the will of the Mediator Jesus: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He Who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27).

The Mediator between God and man doesn’t change God’s will to make God favor God’s people; it is God’s will that He reveals His favor toward His people through the intercession of the Mediator. The Son is not representing us before the Father against the Father’s intention or will for us! Never forget the most basic truth about love and its Source:
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16,17).
  • “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10).

The Mediator (the Son) intercedes for us as a perfect expression of the will of the Father!

There is a lesson here for us, as well, concerning how we pray. Our goal should not be to try to “change God’s mind” or convince Him to share our intentions or plans. Just as the Mediator between God and man intercedes as an expression of the Father’s will for His covenant people in Christ, so we should make it our goal to pray as an expression of His will. I am convinced that this is the most basic meaning of “praying in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s primary identity is that He is the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6), and is, in fact “the truth” (1 John 5:6). As the breathing-forth, inspiring Author of Scripture, it seems to me that to “worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24) is to worship in line with the revealed Word of God. As the breathing-forth, inspiring Author of Scripture, it seems to me that to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20) is to pray God’s Word back to Him. Just as the Mediator reveals God’s will perfectly in His intercession, may we learn to reveal God’s will (His Word) perfectly in our prayer life.
  • “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14).
  • “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
  • “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” (John 15:16).
  • In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:23,24).
  • “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:21,22).
  • “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14,15).

It would be easy to isolate these verses from the rest of the “red letter” in John 14-17, but Jesus makes it clear that He is the Lord Who issues commandments and makes obedience to those commandments the necessary proof of our love for Him (John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 2:3,4; Revelation 12:17; 14:12). Asking of the Father in the name of the Son means to ask in the name of the One Who “glorified [the Father] on the earth” by “having accomplished the work which” the Father gave the Son to do (John 17:4). Learn from the Mediator, for He is our Master and Lord, as well! The LORD commanded 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11), and willed that it be revealed and reminded to God’s people through the intercession of the Mediator, the messenger/angel of the LORD (Zechariah 1:12). In the same way, the only Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, intercedes for us the same way He does everything: in perfect volitional union with His Father. May we, in our Spirit-led meditation and study of the Word, then pray the Word of the Spirit back to the Father in the name of the Son!

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From the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith:

VIII. Christ the Mediator
  1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; to be Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the Judge of all the world. To the Lord Jesus He gave, from all eternity, a people to be His seed. These, in time, would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus.
  2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being true and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of the same substance and equal with Him;
- Who made the world, and Who upholds and governs all things which He has made,
- did, when the fullness of time had come, take upon Himself man's nature, with all its essential properties and common infirmities, with the exception of sin.
- He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, so that He was born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Abraham and David, in accordance with the Scriptures.
- Thus two whole, perfect and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion;
- So that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man, yet He is one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
  1. The Lord Jesus, His human nature thus united to the divine, once in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell in Him so that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety, a position and duty which He did not take upon Himself, but was called to perform by His Father. And the Father also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to exercise the same.
  2. This office and duty of Mediator and Surety the Lord Jesus undertook most willingly. To discharge it, He was made under the law, and perfectly fulfilled it, and He underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered. He was made sin and was made a curse for us; enduring the most grevous sorrows in His Soul with the most painful sufferings in His duty. He was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, but His body did not undergo any decomposition. On the third day He rose from the dead with the same body in which He had suffered, with which He also ascended into Heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.
  3. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, has procured reconciliation, and has purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven for all those whom the Father has given to Him.
  4. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit arising from His payment were communicated to the elect in all ages from the beginning of the world through those promises, types, and sacrifices in which He was revealed and signified as the seed which should bruise the serpent's head, and also the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, for He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
  5. Christ, in His work of Mediator, acts according to both natures, each nature doing that which is proper to itself. Yet, because of the unity of His person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.
  6. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He certainly and effectually applies and communicates this redemption, making intercession for them, uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them in the Word and by the Word the mystery of salvation. He persuades them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit, and overcome all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom. This is achieved in such a manner and by such ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation, and it is all by free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.
  7. This office of Mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, Who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church. Free Will of God, and this office may not be transferred from Him to any other, either in whole or in part.
  8. This number and order of offices is essential. Because of our ignorance we need His prophetic office. Because of our alienation from God and the imperfection of the best of our service, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us to God as acceptable. Because of our aversion to, and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and keeping from spiritual enemies, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us until we reach His heavenly kingdom.

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