I’m standing here, Lord, for them

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I have stood in courtrooms and witnessed effective advocates speak earnestly for those they represent. In our justice system, nothing replaces having an able lawyer on your side.

One young man I know, barely an adult, did some foolish things, not violent, involving only some relatively minor property damage. He was assigned a lawyer who met him for the first time a few moments before his hearing. After briefly reviewing the facts, his ‘counselor’ advised him to just plead guilty and take the consequences.  It was terrible advice because the offenses were technically felonies with a life-time criminal record! Because he offered a guilty plea, the judge had to give him jail time. The blessing in this case was a compassionate judge who saw the incompetence of the public defender and took it upon himself to offer to review the case in a year and expunge the young man’s record if he did not break the law again.

We have an able, wonderful Advocate before our Father! John reminds us of the amazing ministry of Jesus. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 2:1-2, NLT) When offend God because of our humanity, our sinful nature, our Great Priest advocates for us, His eternal sacrifice making us right with God. What love!

In my readings in Exodus, I came this morning to that passage where the people grew afraid when Moses was gone for 40 days. Without his steady hand of leadership, they reverted to old ways of idolatry, turning from the True God to a golden calf like the gods of Egypt. They offered sacrifices to the idol, then they began to party heartily and immorally!  The LORD, angered by their fickleness, told Moses He was going to abandon them to death in the wilderness. “I’ll make a great nation of your descendants,” He told Moses.  I am moved by the love that Moses reveals in the next part of that passage.

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God not to do it. “O Lord!” he exclaimed. “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and mighty acts? The Egyptians will say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so he could kill them and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you are planning against your people! Remember your covenant with your servants—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You swore by your own self, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. Yes, I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’ ” (Exodus 32:11-13, NLT)

He became an advocate for the people! It is not the only time in the Scripture where someone stood before the Lord to plead the case for mercy. Abraham did it on behalf of his nephew, Lot. Elijah prayed for Israel. Daniel prayed for his people. Paul prayed earnestly for the salvation of his people.

Do you pray for your family, your friends, your nation, the world?

God has revealed that we, mere humans, have an effect in heaven’s court.

Do I understand exactly why or how? No. Why would the all-wise, eternal God pay attention to me? But He says He does and invites me (and you) to pray this way. Let’s accept it, by faith, and pray as advocates for others. What a privilege it is and you can bless others by being an intercessor, too. Somehow, many Christians have become convinced that only the pastor or some class of ‘super Christians’ can exercise the privilege of intercession for others. That is not the case. We are all invited to come with confidence to the Presence of God, through Jesus Christ. We all can pray earnest, fervent, humble, faithful prayers on behalf of others.

The Holy Spirit who lives in us leads us in this kind of praying. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27, NLT)  Prayer on behalf of others is an act of love, a ministry to them.  You can pray for a wayward son or daughter without telling them and God, the Holy Spirit will move in their lives. You can pray for a friend a thousand miles away who is struggling and bless them in that way.

Those who pray prayers of advocacy can see changed hearts, changed ways, and thus avert the consequences of sin that would otherwise come upon them. That is what we see in a well-known passage in Ezekiel. The LORD said, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30, NLT)  That is where get that phrase ‘Stand in the gap.’  Our prayers bridge the gap between those who are in need of mercy and the grace of God! Amazing, isn’t it?

Our work of intercession is modeled after that of Jesus! Of course, we are not saviors. He alone can offer salvation to the world. But, knowing His grace, we can become advocates before God on behalf of others. It is hard work, often tearful, a weighty responsibility.

A word from the Word challenges you and me to take up the calling.  Let’s lay aside our preconceived ideas about what it means to intercede. All that is required is willingness to love, a desire to touch the heart of God, and simple, earnest prayer offered on behalf of others.  “All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, NLT)  Amen!

____________

O Come To The Altar

(an invitation sung by Elevation Worship)

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t he wonderful
Sing alleluia Christ is risen
Bow down before him
For he is Lord of all
Sing alleluia Christ is risen

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found

Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye © 2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

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