Did Moses Change God's Mind Through Intercession?

Moses intercessionThen the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word.” (Num.14:20)
After the 12 spies returned from Canaan with their reports, things began to turn negative in the Israelite camp. Ten of the twelve spoke words of fear and discouragement that made the people want to go back. Only Joshua and Caleb stood in faith in the power of God. But, the Israelites gave in to the counsel of the ten and began to wail and weep and suggest to return to Egypt. This angered God who told Moses that He would now destroy all of them and make of Moses a great nation. But, Moses pleaded God and reasoned that if God killed them all in one day, the Egyptians would mock at them and their great redemption from Egypt would ultimately appear meaningless. He prayed that God would pardon them. Then, God replied to Moses that He would pardon them according to his word but certainly all the adults who rebelled would not see the Promised Land.

Like passages where it’s mentioned that God repented of what He wanted to do, this story seems to portray Moses as able to change the mind of God through strong reasoning. However, in both the cases, the fact is that God is unchangeable; but, people are responsible for either appealing to the principle of divine mercy or be consumed by divine wrath.

Repentance. In the history of Jonah, for instance, God decides not to destroy the Ninevites when they repent. Repentance, while there is time for it, appeals to the attribute of divine mercy. Divine mercy is like a cloud of redeeming rain that pours out and cools the fire of divine justice. It is not that God changes His mind regarding justice, but that genuine repentance makes it possible for God to act in mercy. As sin invites the wrath of God, repentance appeals to the mercy of God.

Intercession. Prayer and Intercession have a deep and signicant role that must not be undervalued. Abraham was an interceder who pleaded for Abimelech and also for Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac pleaded for his wife and God opened her womb. Here, Moses pleads for the Israelites that God would pardon them. Of course, God pardons them in the sense that they would not be immediately consumed, but since they had no genuine repentance and room for it, God would later destroy them. 

This episode unravels to us the power of intercession as reasoning with God, as the act of appealing to the mercy of God on behalf of someone else. A single prayer of an intercessor who is intimate with God can change the course of world history.

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The Call of Moses: The Second Excuse – Authority – Divine Plan (Part 2)

“Then they will heed your voice….” (Exo 3:18)

Moses’ second question also includes the concern about the “How” of doing this mission.

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,`The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me,`What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exo 3:13)

He is already calculating the possible problems aforehand, which is not bad. Moses’ question button turns on God’s light on His plan of redemption. God tells him what he has to tell the elders and what they should do, how they should meet the Pharaoh, how he would refuse to let the people of Israel go, and then how God would bring them out.

Usually, the man or woman called to divine mission knows what the mission really is all about. However, not all of us have an idea of the divine plan. Sometimes, God shows us the entire plan at a glimpse. Sometimes, He leads us step by step. But, nevertheless, it is His desire to show to us His plan rather for us to design our own. God was certainly not going to leave Moses on his own to execute the divine commission. God was going to go with him, not like a co-traveler, but as the Leader and the Pilot.

What is God’s immediate plan for the present mission? This is an important question to ask and seek God for. At this moment, God has not yet shown to Moses the plan of the Tabernacle or the plans related to entering the Promised Land. He is only giving to him a glimpse of His immediate plan of bringing out the Israelites out of Egypt. God may not always give us the entire plan for mission; He guides us step by step. But, He never leaves us without instructions.

By now, Moses’ concerns regarding the mission should have come to end. But, they don’t as we can see in the next chapter. He still has fears and doubts, which God will go on to remove through certain signs that prove the supremacy of God’s power over all things that we consider to be our staff, support, and security (his rod and his hand). But, at this moment, God makes sure to comfort Moses with the assurance of His divine plan. Moses doesn’t need to worry “how” this mission will be accomplished, because the Master knows “how” to use His vessel and “how” to accomplish His purposes. He is the Authority in charge. He HAS the plan.

We see the following ingredients of the Divine Plan:
1. Team Reaching and Team Building. Go and Gather the Elders Together (Exo.3:16). 
There are three sub-steps to this:
A. Identify the Family (Jesus identified that the first to be reached were the Jews, His own in genealogical terms).
B. Recognize and Reach the Leadership Structure. Moses had to go to the elders. (Jesus preached mainly in the synagogues. The disciples also began with synagogues. Similarly, Jesus understood the importance of raising elders; so, He chose disciples at the very beginning of ministry, even before He did His first miracle; Paul always usually started with preaching at synagogues and connected with local elders and believers).
C. Gather together. Build a team.

2. Communication and Discipleship. Say to Them (Exo.3:16). 
Moses had to communicate to the elders what God had communicated to him.
Jesus taught His disciples to teach others what He taught them. Paul’s commission to Timothy was the same regarding the words of Christ: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2Ti 2:2). Jesus could pray in His priestly prayer: “I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (Joh 17:8). Communication is vital to the work of the Father.

3. Respecting the Local Principality and Government. Communicate to Pharaoh. (Exo.3:18). 
This cannot be ignored. God didn’t bypass the local authority and system. It was important for God that Pharaoh let the people go. But, God doesn’t compromise with Pharaoh. God communicates and strikes Pharaoh for disobedience. Pharaoh has to recognize that there is a government above his government. However, the church is not allowed to disrespect or challenge this authority.

Mission is not against contextual authority legitimized by God (Rom.13:1-8). Mission is not even anti-cultural. However, where any context is openly in disobedience to divine authority, the presence of mission poses a challenge to it and God’s deliverance of people brings them out of the power of such oppressive structures. For instance, Christians in India who have really experienced divine deliverance are also delivered out of the evil caste-system that is the contextual oppressive element of Hindu cultural authority. However, Christians who wish to remain in the caste-system and follow it are self-deceived. At the same time, the Gospel never disrespects authority structures given by God, and such that have legitimate authority in a political or cultural context. Therefore, even Christ was not crucified without going through Jewish, Judaen, and Roman tribunals. The same holds also for principalities and powers in the heavenly places. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jud 1:9 NKJ)

4. Understanding the World’s Response. Pharaoh would not want to let the people go  (Exod.3:19).
The world wants to remain godless and keep the people of God as its slaves. Therefore, Jesus said we cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus also reminded His disciples that the world will be against them as it is against Him (Joh 15:18-25). There cannot be friendship between the world and God. The world-system cannot be “transformed”; it refuses to be changed. God wants to save His people out of it. God doesn’t save the world-system. Babylon will burn in fire (Rev.18)

5. I will stretch out My Hand (Exod.3:20). God will do wonders.
Jesus also promised His disciples that signs would follow (Mark 16:17,20). He promised to them the Holy Spirit and power from above. There cannot be mission without the power acts of God Himself by His Spirit. (Acts 2:22; 5:12; Rom.15:19; Heb.2:4).

6. I will give this people favor (Exod.3: 21). Connections of Favor.
However, there will also be people who will be friends of God’s people. God will give favor for His purposes. We have the examples of Nehemiah, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul and many others who were given favor with kings, princes, and leaders so that the work of the Lord could be done.

7. God will plunder the world to supply His children (Exod. 3:22). Provisions.
It doesn’t mean that the Egyptians who gave would be plundered. In fact, they were giving out of favor. However, it symbolizes a plunder of the Egyptian economy as a whole, since gold and silver were being taken away out of the economy. This shows the supremacy of divine sovereignty over even world economy. The Anti-Christ will try to hijack this economy by introducing the seal (666) in connection with false worship. However, it will only end in self-destruction. God’s work will never lack provision. Even the enemy cannot withhold anything from God. He is sovereign.

Luke 22:35. And he said to them, When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, Nothing.
Acts 3:6. But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!
God’s working power is greater than human means.

The Call of Moses: The Second Excuse: Authority (Ex.3)

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,`The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me,`What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exo 3:13)

“So, who are You?” Moses asks the Lord. In response, God gives to Moses a three-fold revelation of Himself.

1. He IS that He IS. The FINAL Authority of Mission. He replies, “I AM WHO I AM.”…”Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exo 3:14). This reveals the ESSENTIAL IDENTITY of God. He cannot be identified with any definition because His existence is not dependent on anything outside Himself. My existence is dependent on many factors. So, if someone asks me who I am, I would reply saying, “I am the son of so and so, I live in such and such place, and I do such and such job or work for so and so….” This would still be only one aspect of the many things that makes me who I am. There are many defining factors. In fact, the very basic statement, “I am a human being” is a highly contingent or dependent statement; its meaning is dependent on a number of things like “mortal being,” “rational being,” “social being,” “biped being,” etc. However, God cannot be defined because He is that He is.

The gods of the world had contingent identities: god of river, god of pestilence, god of harvest, god of war, god of love, god of death, and so on. But, the ALMIGHTY ONE is the NECESSARY being. He is not existence; but, there is no existence without Him. He IS that He IS.

He is the self-existing, self-sufficient, self-contained, self-content one.

2. He is YHWH God of their fathers, The RIGHTFUL Authority of the Mission. “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. This reveals the RELATIONAL IDENTITY of God to Israel. YHWH is the God of Covenants. It is the Name which He revealed when He swore by Himself to Abraham, an oath that is impossible to be broken (Gen.22:15-17; 26:3; Heb.6:13-17).

Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only [son — ] “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which [is] on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. (Gen.22:15-17)
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”… For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation [is] for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it [is] impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before [us.] (Heb.6:13-18)

God reveals two things about His Name YHWH:

  • This is His name forever. (Exo 3:15)
  • This is His memorial to all generations. (Exo 3:15)

Scholars have believed that the name YHWH may mean “The Existing One”, which relates to His declaration that He is I AM [EHYH] THAT I AM [EHYH]. In that case, we have a linguistic relation [HEBREW] as well. However, God precedes humans and all human languages. Therefore, it is dangerous to sacralize any human language as being divine. For instance, the Name JESUS is Y’SHUA in Hebrew, but the New Testament calls Him as IESOUS. Now, there are some who feel that there is something to the Hebrew language [in the same way as Muslims regard Arabic as heavenly and Hindus regard Sanskrit as heavenly]. However, the Bible discourages such thinking by asserting God as the God not just of the Jews but also of the Gentiles. The New Testament gift of tongues actually transcends all human language barriers. The Age of the Holy Spirit is the Age of Gospel to All Nations. And, this is part of the Abrahamic Covenant: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Gal 3:8-9)

At this point, prior to the Exodus, this declaration of God affirms God’s relation with the children of Israel by His covenant with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of their fathers. This was His relational identity with them.

We must contrast this with the New Testament declarations of God’s relational identity with the church. He is not the God of our fathers; but, He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This speaks about relationship with us by the New Covenant. Also, God is referred to as “our Father”, i.e. through Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2Co 1:2-3 NKJ)
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever (2Co 11:31)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:2)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3)
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Col 1:3)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phm 1:3)

Certainly, Jesus Christ is the One of whom God did say, “My name is in Him. (Exo 23:21)

and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1Co 10:4)

Moses was being sent by YHWH with a mission of deliverance; but, the True Deliverer, the Heir, was to come. And, in His Name is Everlasting Life. (Hebrews 3:1-19)

The Bible declares why God send Moses to save Israel out of Egypt.

…because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power (Deu 4:37)

The Bible also declares why God sent His Son to save us from our sins.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (Joh 3:16 NKJ)

God had the Reason to Send Moses on this Mission: He Loved the Fathers.
God has the Reason why He sent Jesus Christ and will send Him again: His Love Us.

How much more shall we not love and await His Second Coming!?

3. HE has the Mission Plan. HE is the PERFECT Architect of the Mission.
God reveals to Moses His plan how to declare His Name (Exod.3:16-22). The commission was two-fold:

  • Declare to the Elders what the God of their fathers had Declared (Exod.3:16-17)
  • Declare to Pharaoh what the God of the Hebrews had Demanded (Exod.3:18).

The Servant of God doesn’t need to be worried how to carry out God’s commission. The One Who IS (In Himself) beyond all time and space, The One Who Is Our God (In Relation Through His Blood Covenant) Knows all things, Controls all things, and has Predestined His people to be saved.

This doesn’t mean that all who are delivered out of Egypt will enter the Promised Land; but, only those who persevere in faith.

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jud 1:5 NKJ)
whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb 3:6)
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end (Heb 3:14)
if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard (Col 1:23)

God is the FINAL AUTHORITY of Mission.
God is the RIGHTFUL AUTHORITY of Mission.
God is the PERFECT ARCHITECT of Mission.

The Call of Moses: The First Excuse (Exodus 3)

Exodus 3 and 4 record God’s call of Moses to deliver the people of Israel and lead them into the Promised Land.

Background

Hebrews 11:23 tells us that the parents of Moses were strong believers.

Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us that when the time came for Moses to choose, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. (Heb 11:24-26)

In other words, Moses was a person who made a honest choice to follow Christ and His path of suffering. It is wrong to imagine that if Moses would have been patient and not killed the Egyptian he would have become the next Pharaoh. The Bible says that He actually made the choice to refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. It seems that Egyptian politics was deeply tied with their polytheistic religion that in a way also deified, to some extent, the Pharaoh. It is possible that there came a point in Moses’ life where identification with the palace meant identification with the Egyptian religion; therefore, he had to make a choice between Christ and Belial. His chose faith in Christ.

The Call

Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt. Moses was 80 when God called him.

It is interesting that in one of Moses’ songs, he says that “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years” (Psa 90:10 NKJ). But, God called Moses when he was 80, i.e. the age when according to his own song, he was supposed to anticipate the end of life and entry into the grave. But, God’s ways are above man’s ways. Moses’ life was not wasted while in preparation for God’s work.

When God called Moses, he was still tending the sheep of his father-in-law. From human perspective, he was a very non-prospective person who was not able, in his lifetime, to move from tending someone else’ flock to having his own flock. How can he, at age 80, still be tending the flock of his father-in-law! What dependency! Also, it doesn’t seem at any case that his condition was going to improve. He still worked for someone and had no business of his own. Imagine that when we can look around and find young men and women in their twenties who have businesses or “ministries” of their own. But, nobody in the world imagined that God was preparing Moses to lead over 600,000 men, besides women and children out of Egypt into the Promised Land. God had designed him to lead an entire nation and pastor the biggest church in history. Also, did anyone know that Moses would lay the legal and doctrinal foundation of the nation of Israel. In process of time, whenever people would refer to the Law, they would refer to it as Moses. The Bible tells us that Moses was faithful in all his house (Heb.3:2).

Man judges by appearance, but God knows His plan for every child that comes into the world. Isn’t it most beautiful to read that when Moses was born, his parents acted by faith to protect him because they saw that he was a beautiful child? (Heb.11:23). Only the eyes of faith can see the beauty that is truly beautiful in God’s eyes.

The Drawing

God knew how to draw Moses’ attention to Himself. He came to him in the burning bush, a bush that burnt but wasn’t consumed by the fire (Exod 3:2). This attracted Moses. What is the burning bush in your life that God has used to draw your attention to Himself?

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Exo 3:4-5 NKJ)

The first thing Moses encounters when He meets God is the holiness of God. The holiness of God becomes an important theme throughout the Bible, in a very special way, from this time forth. God is holy. His law is holy. His people are holy. His gives laws of holiness, instructions to build a holy tabernacle, instructions for a holy priesthood. Holiness is a theme that echoes through the prophets. Isaiah 6 talks about a vision of God’s holiness that shatters the self-image of the prophet. It is impossible to be a servant of God, to serve God without first having a transforming encounter with the holiness of God. God is holy in His character, in His acts, in His word. A man who loses sight of God’s holiness will fall from grace.

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11 NKJ)

The First Excuse: Identity

God says to Moses:
“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exo 3:7-10 NKJ)

Moses responds with the question, “Who am I…” (Exo 3:11)

It is important for us to understand that God doesn’t send His servant on His mission because the servant has great passion for souls; He sends because God has the passion for souls and the lost sheep belong to Him. Jonah had no desire to go to Nineveh. But, God sent him because God wanted Nineveh to be saved. We were all under the cloud of destruction, but God sent His only Son because He loved us. Moses doesn’t seem to show any desire for this mission. He seems to have no passion at all. But, God calls him and sends him. It is because He has heard the cry of the people for deliverance. The eyes of mission must be focused on the Great Sender, the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

Moses does ask a genuine question, “Who am I…” He is a nobody in the worldly sense. He is no savior-metal. He is an old man. He may be at the point of death. And then, he is disconnected from the people of Israel for decades. He’s just a small shepherd looking after his father-in-law’s flock. Who was he?

It is interesting to see that God never tells Moses who he is. What we are and who we are doesn’t determine God’s calling. His calling determines who we are. It is wrong to count our background, abilities, talents, prowess, intelligence, or whatever in the matter of divine calling. He doesn’t call us because of who we are. His calling gives us the identity.

God’s answer is simple: “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exo 3:12)

God doesn’t tell Moses, “Have you forgotten all your training in Egypt? You are Moses, the one taken out of water. You are that Moses who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. (Act 7:22) Not just that, you have the experience of this wilderness. There is none like you. You cannot see what you have in you. But, I can see the greatness that is in you. I can see the deliverer that is in you. Know yourself!”

Familiar with this? This is the gospel of false self-confidence. We see social media bombarded with these statements all the time: “Greatness that is in you” “Have confidence in yourself” “Believe in yourself”. G.K. Chesterton once said that those who have strong self-confidence are usually found in a mental asylum. God is not interested in building the false self-confidence of Moses. God’s call of Moses is not based on the training of Moses, the skills of Moses, the education of Moses, the connections of Moses. He is not called to rely on them. They all are fallible. God’s call of Moses is based on God Himself, “I will certainly be with you….”

Isn’t this beautiful? This is the only valid NT identity. God with us! Emmanuel.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Act 10:38, bold emphasis mine)

“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mat 28:20)

The first excuse of Moses was “Who am I?”
God’s answer is “I will certainly be with you.”

Mission is not about me and my skills and abilities. Mission is about God’s presence in the world in redemptive action.