Moses in the Cloud - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

When we began our study of the book of Exodus, we told you that verse 13 of Exodus, chapter 15, is the outline of the book:

Exodus 15

13Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.

In the first fifteen chapters of the book, we learned how God prepared Moses, how He prepared Pharaoh, and how He prepared His people in order to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. From chapter 16 through chapter 24 we had the record of how God guided the children of Israel from the land of Egypt through the wilderness to the very borders of the promised land. In chapter 25, we are to be introduced to the holy habitation, the Tabernacle, which God ordained should be built in the wilderness.

In chapters 25 through 31, we have the blueprint of the Tabernacle as God presented it to Moses on the mountaintop. From chapters 35-40, we have the building of the Tabernacle itself. We will spend a great deal of time on the study of the Tabernacle because it is one of the best presentations of the entire spiritual message of the Word of God that we will find.

An Illustration of Idolatry

We will have to compare the Scriptures about the blueprint with the Scriptures about the actual building if we are to have a complete picture. Therefore, notice with me the interlude that begins with chapter 32 and continues through 34. When we have finished meditating on this interlude, we will begin the discussion of the Tabernacle itself. This brief interlude is one of the most tragic in all the history of the nation of Israel:

Exodus 32

1And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the LORD.
6And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

These first six verses of chapter 32 more than anything else illustrate the extreme fickleness of the human race. You will recognize that the nation of Israel went into abject idolatry less than six weeks after they had boldly declared, “Whatever God says, we will do.” Less than six weeks before they had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and said, when Moses told them all the plans that God had for them, “Amen! We will do them!”

Moses went up to Sinai and stayed there forty days and forty nights, having God write on tables of stone the Ten Commandments which we have already considered, and receiving the blueprint for the Tabernacle. But forty days and forty nights is a long time for people to wait to hear a message from God. Their impatience gave place to unbelief, and their unbelief gave place to rebellion.

Aaron's Weakness

They said to Aaron, “Look, Moses has been gone a long time. How do we know he isn't dead? We don't know what has happened to him. We want something more tangible; we want something more concrete; we want something we can see if we are to worship God.”

Aaron, weak character that he was, agreed with the people. Moses had left Aaron and Hur to be the leaders of the nation of Israel while he was gone, and he had instructed them that they were to stand stalwart and firm in leading the people toward God. But at the first opportunity they had to give in, Aaron gave in.

He said to these people, “Take the earrings out of the ears of your wives [men wore earrings in those days]. Take the earrings from the men, and from your sons, and bring them to me.” They did, willingly.

I have always been impressed with the fact that these people gave up their gold for an idol much more easily than we give up anything for the Lord today. Willingly they gave it up, and Aaron took the gold and melted it into a form, and provided for them a golden calf.

Significance of the Golden Calf

You may be wondering, why a calf? Why not a bird? Why not some other creature? This was a hangover from Egypt. The Egyptians' calf-god was one favored by the Israelites. Somehow they had become intrigued by such worship, so Aaron made them a golden calf. Notice carefully how the Holy Spirit recorded the incident in the Scripture, because it is very important.

Exodus 32

4And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

This is not as happy a translation as it might be. The people did not say this; Aaron said it. If you were to read this in the original text, you would find that Aaron said, “This is thy god (singular) which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” I want you to realize the depth to which they had fallen. This was what Moses was later to call a great sin. It was a great sin, because they were guilty of breaking the first two commandments and the tenth.

A Violation of God's Commandment

Think about it. They had said, “Everything God says we will do.” Less than six weeks are gone, and they are guilty of making a calf and saying it is God; they have made for themselves a graven image. In verse 5, when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it and made a proclamation, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” They violated the first commandment when they put another god in the place of God. The first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” means, “Thou shalt have no other god in place of Me.”, and this they did. Verse 6 indicates even greater tragedy:

Exodus 32

6And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

That verse should be interpreted in the light of verse 25:

Exodus 32

25And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
26Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD's side? …

You see, the statement in verse 6, “They rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings: and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play,” is a reference to naked, obscene dances accompanied by immoral practices around the golden calf; all this they did less then six weeks after they had promised God they would be true to Him forever. Truly here is an illustration of the truth, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Truly here is an illustration of what Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and no man can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Every one of us ought to be warned. Every one of us, whether or not we like to hear it, whether or not we are a bit insulted to hear it, every one of us is capable of the vilest thing imaginable. The fact that we have sworn our allegiance does not mean that we cannot do a vile thing. Thank God for the overruling grace of God. I did not say you have to do it; I said you could do it. But His grace is sufficient, and we are able, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.

God's Challenge to Intercession

Notice the next paragraph in chapter 32, which will suggest God's challenge to intercession. Intercession is one of the most marvelous ministries possible for the child of God. So many times Christians say, “I wish I had something to do for the Lord!” They don't really mean that; they mean they wish they had an opportunity to do some particular thing they have in mind. If they really meant, “I wish I had something to do for the Lord,” they would take advantage of what, I repeat, is the most marvelous ministry available to the Christian–the ministry of intercession. God challenges us to that ministry just as certainly as He challenged Moses in this chapter. Notice Exodus, chapter 32, verse 7:

Exodus 32

7And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
8They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods [ this is thy god ], O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
9And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Let's stop for a moment and notice the challenge to intercession which God presented to Moses. He described what was going on down at the foot of the mountain. Will you pause and let that sink in? Moses was so in communion with the Lord on the top of the mountain that he did not know what was going on at the foot of the mountain, and God had to tell him. It is possible for us to be so intrigued with our fellowship with the Lord and with our communion with Him that we can be completely out of touch with the need at the foot of the mountain, as Moses was. God told him what was going on down there, and God challenged him to the ministry of intercession by presenting to him two alternatives.

Moses Reaction to God's Challenge

I never read this story without my estimation of Moses being increased in a tremendous way. The two alternatives which God offered Moses were interesting, and one of them was indeed intriguing. Notice what God said in verse 10:

Exodus 32

10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them,…

Sometimes we read that hurriedly and do not realize everything that is implied in it. God is saying, “Moses, if you let Me alone, I will kill them. If you let Me alone, I will destroy them. But you don't have to let Me alone. You can worry Me about it; you can pray; you can intercede; you can persuade Me to do something different from what I intend. It is up to you. But if you let Me alone, I will go right ahead and destroy them.” That was the alternative.

The second is suggested in the last part of verse 10 when God said, “and I will make of thee a great nation.” He is saying, “Moses, pray for them; and I will spare them or forget them, and I will make of thee a great nation.” God meant exactly what He said. Do you know what He meant? He meant that instead of the Jews tracing their lineage back to Abraham, they would trace it back to Moses; that is what He meant.

Think about this realistically. How would you have responded to such an alternative as that? Here was an opportunity to be a big man. Here was an opportunity to be a key man in the entire nation. Here was an opportunity for fame such as individuals rarely have had. How would you have responded? Would you have listened to the challenge: “Pray!”, or would you have listened to the challenge: “Forget, and make yourself big!”?

If I am able to judge by most of our actions, I think we would have accepted the second alternative. Let's face it; most of us don't want to pay the price for intercession; most of us don't want to enter the ministry of intercession.

The thing that keeps us from entering the ministry of intercession is the interest we have in our own lives–the interest we have in our own ambitions, our own ideas, our own desires. True, we will never be presented with the possibility of becoming forbears of a great nation; this was a particular instance. But you can make application from that and recognize that all too often, when we have the opportunity either to pray or to further our own interest, we accept the latter–to further our own interest and neglect the ministry of intercession.

You will remember that the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians that he had a great burden in his heart for them (Philippians 2:19-20). There was much that he wanted to do for them, but he could not do it himself, and he had no one whom he could send to do it. Do you know the reason he gave for that? He said, “Everyone cares for his own interest; no one cares for the things of Christ” (Philippians 2:21). Be perfectly honest with your own soul and admit that that is true. Most of us are interested in ourselves.

Thank God, Moses was not. He turned down the opportunity to further his own interest, and he accepted the challenge to intercession. He accepted the challenge to this ministry, and his intercession was in three different stages. This should remind us that intercession is a continuous ministry. You have to keep on keeping on until the answer is forthcoming.

Moses' Boldness In Intercession

If you will look at chapter 32 and notice verse 16, you will find that first stage of this intercession. As I read it, I am reminded of what I may term “impudence” on the part of Moses. He was so bold; he was so demanding; perhaps that was why God could not resist him. Most of us are so apologetic when we pray, so fearful, so uncertain; we are afraid to make our demands on God. But notice verse 11:

Exodus 32

11And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
12Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

Did you notice the language that he used? In verse 11, he asked, “God, why are you going to destroy these people?” Then in verse 12, he prayed, “Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.”

It was a demand, and we are reminded of what Isaiah laid before us as a manner of praying. Through the pen of Isaiah, God said, “Command ye Me concerning My Son; command ye Me concerning the work of My hand” (Isaiah 45:11). There are many times when God challenges us to command Him. That is exactly what Moses did here, and he based his intercession on three things. It is important for us to notice them. The first thing is suggested in verse 11 when Moses reminded God that He had done too much for Israel to stop now: “Lord, look what you have done for them in the past. Why should you stop before the work is completed?”

I wonder if we should not pray that way for individuals for whom we are concerned, for whom we are burdened? Sometimes we have unsaved loved ones, and we intercede for them for a period of time, and we can see God working in their lives. Then they have a sudden splurge of evil. It is real discouraging, and we have a tendency to give up, and we do. We say, “Oh well, there is no hope. I've prayed for him for years; for a while I thought he was going to be all right, but look at him now.” Moses did not say, “Lord, there's no use.” He said, “Lord, I know they are in sorry shape right now, but you have done too much for them to give up; keep on keeping on.” As you meditate upon these things, they will become increasingly precious to you.

God's Glory At Stake

The second thing he said is in verse 12:

Exodus 32

12Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?…

“Lord, think about Your testimony! The Egyptians saw how You work, and if You destroy these people now, Lord, the Egyptians will say that You could not save them, that You just bought them out here to kill them. Lord, Your glory is at stake.”

I want to ask you something. When you are praying for your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, those for whom you are interested, when you are interceding for them, are you concerned about the testimony? Well, you ought to be! That is one of the levers–I say that reverently–that you can use to prize God into action. You can remind Him, “God, your glory is at stake; if you let this loved one of mine continue on his wayward way, Your glory is at stake.” Moses just pounded away on God's glory.

Then he came to the third thing. All these things about God are presented in language that we can understand, as we will see in a moment. In verse 13, he presented an argument that God could not resist: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self. Lord, remember Your word! You cannot go back on these people! You cannot let them be destroyed! You gave Your word! You not only gave Your word, Lord; but You swore by Yourself when You made the promise. There is no one any greater to swear by, and Lord, You cannot go back on Your word!”

God Moved By Intercession

Someone might say, “God knows all that; why did Moses tell Him all those things?” God likes to hear it. He likes to hear it! He likes to be reminded. If you study prayer in the Bible, you always find that prayer is informative, as though God did not know. The words of God are claimed and presented to the Lord and God is reminded of His promise, and claim is made thereby. Did it do any good? Look at verse 14:

Exodus 32

14And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

There is a sense in which God does not repent. There is a sense in which God does not change. But this is presented in language which we can understand. The idea is that Moses prevailed upon God. God said, “All right, all right; I was going to destroy them right now, but I won't. You asked Me not to; you prevailed.”

I wonder how many of you could give a testimony such as this–that you have held on to God in prayer until God has changed His mind? You talk about doing something; you talk about accomplishing something; you talk about a ministry that you can perform. Can there by any ministry greater than being able to move God to do or not to do? That is what Moses did. Really, all that Moses was asking for was a little time, because the problem was not settled at all. When he was making intercession, he was still on the mountaintop. He had not even seen what was going on. God just told him. When God told him, Moses dropped on his knees right away and said, “God, let's wait; don't get in a hurry about this thing. Don't destroy them.”

Moses' Righteous Anger

He got a promise from God that He would not destroy them, and in verse 15, he came down from the mountain. I have always been somewhat amused by this. You hear him pray on the mountain. Oh, how he loved his people, how he begged for their lives, how he pled with God; but when he got down from the mountain, you would have thought he hated every one of them. He was furious at what he saw. Notice verse 15:

Exodus 32

15And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

God had already given the Ten Commandments orally, but when Moses went up on the mountain this second time for forty days and forty nights God wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone and gave him the blueprint for the Tabernacle. Notice in verse 17, there are always some of us who don't think things are as bad as they are:

Exodus 32

17And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
18And he [ Moses ] said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing [ the noise of revelry ] do I hear.
19And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, [ Moses had not seen them up to this point; God had just told him about it; but when he came down from the mountain ] that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
20And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Someone says, “You see, he lost his temper.” No, he did not. You know, every time someone speaks forcefully or acts energetically in behalf of the Lord, there are some folk who think they have lost their temper. He did not. He broke the tables of stone because he wanted them to realize that they had broken God's laws. It was an object lesson that they never forgot. If you don't believe that, search the Scriptures for one reprimand from God. Not one word of rebuke did God gives Moses for this–not one word.

Moses did exactly what he ought to have done. He was righteously indignant at what he saw, and he ground up that golden calf and threw the dust of it on the water. Then he said, “Now drink! You want it; all right, then have it!” “Oh,” you say, “he should not have lost his temper like that.” Moses would have sinned if he had not gotten angry. The Bible teaches that there is a time to be angry; and if you are not, you are sinning in not being angry (Ephesians 4:26).

A Time for Righteous Anger

Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 4. Here we find a list of things which grieve the Holy Spirit of God because they are inconsistent with real Christian living:

Ephesians 4

26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Most of us read that verse of Scripture and say it means to get mad all right, but don't sin when you get mad; the way to keep from sinning is not to be still mad when the sun goes down. That is the way most people read that verse, but that is not what it means. It means, in the original text, “Be angry, and sin not.” That is, be angry and keep from sinning by not being angry, for there are certain things that should stir our righteous indignation. Let me change that and say that there are certain things that ought to stir our righteous indignation, that ought to stir us to indignation when we see the way people flaunt the will of God. But most of us are so complacent, most of us have so few convictions ourselves, that there is nothing for us to get angry about.

Moses had spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain, and he had heard the marvelous promise that these people had given six weeks before. Now he saw their utter unconcern for the things of God and when he saw it, he was angry. In verse 21, he dealt with Aaron:

Exodus 32

21And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

“Aaron, why did you do this? How in the world did they persuade you to do this?” That is the meaning of, “What did this people unto you?” “How did they manage to persuade you to lead them in this thing?” Notice the weak answer that Aaron gave:

Exodus 32

22And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

Do you see how he passed the buck? “You know these people always want to get into something; and they said unto me, 'Make us gods, which shall go before us, for as for this Moses, the man that bought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him'.” That is the only truthful thing he said. Notice verse 24:

Exodus 32

24And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: [ notice this; how ridiculous can you get? ] then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

That is exactly what he said. Notice that Moses did not even answer him. It was so ridiculous that there was not any point in talking about it. He just turned his back on Aaron.

Moses remembered something else; Moses remembered a day when God had said to him, “I want you to go into the land of Egypt and lead these people out.” Moses had said, “I can't go by myself.” God had got really angry with Moses; He had said, “You can; I'll go with you.” Moses had said, “I won't go unless you let someone go with me.” God had said to Moses, “It's not My directive will; it is not My first choice; but if you insist, I will let your brother Aaron go with you.” You will remember that when we were talking about it, I told you that timidity, which is often falsely interpreted as humility, may put the work of God into worse hands than your own.

Maybe you are too timid to do something for the Lord; you feel too weak and too inadequate. Well, you'd better do it if God has laid it on your heart because it you don't, it may go into weaker hands than yours and a bigger mess will be made of it. When he heard Aaron's ridiculous answer, Moses must have thought, “Oh, God, I wish I had never brought Aaron along; I wish I'd left him there where You wanted to leave him.” But it was too late, and Moses had to take over.

Disciplined for Rebellion

What we read in verse 26 of Exodus, chapter 32, disturbs a lot of people. Keep in mind that this is the man who a few hours before, on the top of the mountain, pled with God that He should have mercy on these people. Now he is acting as a representative of God, and he has to act in discipline:

Exodus 32

26Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
28And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
29For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Here was Moses; he came down from the mountain and saw everything that was happening. He broke the tables of stone; he ground up the golden calf; he rebuked Aaron; he declared how distasteful it was to God, and the people were still going on with their obscene activity–three thousand of them! Moses said as he stood at the gate of the camp, “Who is on the LORD's side? Who will stand for God?” The Levites ran to his side, and he said, “All right, go through this camp and slay with a sword every single one who is still openly rebelling against God.” You see, God is a God of mercy; but God is a God of justice, too. Yes, He can be moved by a man who gets hold of His heart in prayer, but He cannot ignore sin and rebellion.

The Levites went through the camp and slew three thousand of the people that day. You say, “What a horrible thing!” No, it pleased God. This is why the Levites were given the priesthood in the nation of Israel. This is why God selected them to serve at His altar, to burn His incense. Read chapter 33 of the book of Malachi; you will find that God chose the Levites to serve Him because they were faithful in this particular incident.

Moses' Second Ministry of Intercession

The scene changes, and in the last part of chapter 32, we find Moses interceding again. This is the second stage of his ministry of intercession. Is it possible for a man to be pleading with God one minute to spare the lives of people and then rebuking them as sternly as he did in another moment? Yes, it is possible. Moses saw the whole picture as God saw it.

His second ministry of intercession occurred on top of the mountain again. We are not told in Exodus, chapter 32, where it occurred; but if you will turn to chapter 9 of the book of Deuteronomy, you will find some additional information about this second stage of intercession in which Moses engaged. Moses was rehearsing in the ears of the nation of Israel some of the things related to his leadership among them. Notice verse 7:

Deuteronomy 9

7Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
8[ Notice this verse particularly ] Also in Horeb [ Sinai ] ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.
9When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:
10And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.
11And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
12And the LORD said unto me, [ listen closely ] Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
13Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
14Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
15So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
16And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
17And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.

Notice verse 18, for this describes the second stage of this ministry of intercession:

Deuteronomy 9

18And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first [ as I did up there on the mountain before I came down ], forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Think clearly with me. When God first told Moses on the mountaintop what had occurred, Moses spent a brief time in intercession; then he went down from the mountain and cleaned things up, as we have seen. Then he went back up into the mountain and prayed for another forty days and forty nights without bread and water. How interested are you in those in whom you profess to be interested? How concerned are you about those about whom you profess to be concerned? Concerned enough to separate yourself for forty days and forty nights without bread and water, and pray? Don't tell me you would do it; I am merely asking, “How interested are you?”

Deuteronomy 9

19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.

If we did not have this chapter we would not know this, because you remember that when Moses dealt with Aaron, Aaron gave a ridiculous answer, and Moses just walked off. But now we find that when he went back up to the mountain to pray:

Deuteronomy 9

20And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.

“When I went back up the mountain for this ministry of intercession, I prayed for Aaron,” said Moses; “I interceded for my brother because he was in bad shape.”

Go back to Exodus, chapter 32, verse 30:

Exodus 32

30And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
31And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
32Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin…

You see, in the first period of intercession he was just asking for time because God intended to kill them on the spur of the moment. “God, wait! Withhold Your hand!” Now Moses dealt with them. He went back up to the mountain to see whether God would forgive them and restore them to fellowship. He said, “Lord, forgive them; Lord, if you can't forgive them any other way, then blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written.” Isn't that a tremendous thing to say? “Lord, if there is no other way to forgive them than to take my life, if there is no other way to clear this thing up but for me to pay the penalty, then, Lord, I am willing to pay it.”

The Seriousness of His Intercession

He was not talking about God's blotting his name out of the Lamb's Book of Life, because that can never be done. He was talking about blotting his name out of the living. He does not call it the “Book of Life,” or the “Lamb's Book of Life”; he simply calls it “the book which Thou hast written.” When you have time, read Psalm 69. You will find described for you the book that he is talking about, a book which guarantees life until God is through with you–not eternal life, but life. He said, “Lord, if it takes my life, then take it; but Lord, have mercy on them.”

Again, let me ask you: How serious are you in your intercession? How badly do you want to see someone saved? How badly do you want to see someone delivered? How badly do you want to see God work in someone's life? How sincere are you? Do you mean business enough to say, “God, I want to see this thing happen even if you have to kill me to make it happen. If you have to take my life, take it; but, God, work!” Are you that serious? Moses was. Notice God's answer in verse 33:

Exodus 32

33And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

“You cannot pay for other people's sins, no matter how much you want to. You cannot do it. They have sinned, and I will have to deal with them; there is no other way.” Then God told Moses how he would deal with them. He said, in so many words, “I'll let them live, Moses; I won't kill them, but I am going to punish them:”

Exodus 32

34Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee [ the promised land ]: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35And the LORD plagued [ or chastened ] the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

“I will let them live, but I will punish them.” Here again is emphasized a principle which many of us are prone to forget–a principle related to the government of God. If you are His child, He will deal with your disobedience; He cannot ignore it. He may not cut you off, because there may be someone praying for you; but He will deal with you.

Have you ever stopped to think how fortunate you are that you have someone to pray for you? Have you ever stopped to consider what might have happened to you if someone had not said, “God, have mercy on him; in the midst of his disobedience and rebellion, God, have mercy on him.”? Some of us might be dead if someone had not prayed for us, if someone had not interceded for us.

Conclusion

If that is true of us, how great a ministry lies at our fingertips! There are people who are rebellious to God. They are not interested in what God wants; they are not interested in what God thinks. If they keep on like that, God will have to deal with them. But if you pray for them, God may repent of what He has to do. The ministry of intercession is a marvelous ministry.


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