The Work of Intercession
“And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” Genesis 18:23-33 (KJV)
The word “Intercession” means, according to the MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY, “1: MEDIATION 2: Prayer or petition in favor of another.” The word is not used in these verses of our text, and according to some hermeneutical professionals we are not allowed to use it in the discussion of the text either. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it can get quite picky with some folks at times.
When Abraham heard of the condition of Sodom and in particular Lot, His nephew, he began to petition the Lord concerning the city. That was the place where Lot had chosen. Remember Lot had lifted up his own eyes and determined the place he wanted by its richness, and the way it appeared to be already blessed; but he did not determine by the conditions of the hearts of the people who lived there. There are many professing Christians of our day who see what they think is a “Mission field”, they may have their heart truly on seeing the conversion of the people, but they can, if not very careful find themselves in a situation similar to Lot’s. They had best be very strong in the Word of God and faith of Christ, and guard their own hearts concerning the teachings and beliefs of the group of people to whom they are witnessing. Too many times “Christians” have turned away from their faith in acceptance of the beliefs of others. No, they may not accept the belief of that group, but they begin thinking that they are okay with God, they believe something. In doing that they have turned from the faith of God.
Whatever Lot’s motive for going to Sodom, and the cities of the plain, he had soon lost sight of the situation. Lot would have been in a desperate situation were it not for the grace of God. Nowhere in our text does Abraham even mention Lot, or his family. It is for the people. The Intercessor begins pleading for the people, believing in the righteousness of God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” That is really where true intercessory prayer begins; ie., with God. It is He who is offended by wickedness. It is He who will deal with the wicked. It is God who must be approached, petitioned, and given requests from the heart. It should also be done for His name sake. In Abraham’s prayer/petition he addresses the righteousness of God. The Intercessor is not as concerned for the outcome of the wicked as he is the outcome of the appearance of God’s righteousness. Too much prayer is done in the name of the one praying – that meaning; give me what I want- and when we pray in His name we pray as He wants and directs.
Intercessory Prayer is best defined as To plead with God in behalf of others. Even to provide a wall between God’s judgment and the lost, the sick, the backsliden, etc. In Ezekiel 22:30 we read, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30 (KJV). Intercessory Prayer can be seen as the power of God at work in His child, and a release of that power in the one for whom intercession is given.
When Abraham prayed for Sodom he received more than what he asked for. It was by the sheer mercy and grace of God, that Lot, and his two daughters were delivered (See Genesis 19:15-29). It seems that in Abraham’s prayer at the beginning he may have thought in the time Lot had been in the valley, with the people, having developed a name for himself, that there might just be more than the family. Sadly, there were not, and Abraham gets all the way down to the number of ten, stops, and the LORD says, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” We know there were not ten righteous people living in Sodom. In our eyes we would not even have called Lot righteous, nor his daughters. It is by the mercy and grace of God that Lot and his daughters were saved. The city was not spared, but Lot was; after being forced to leave.
It could be asked, What is the purpose of intercession? To that we would find the answer throughout the pages of Scripture; to be; to exalt the justice and righteousness of God in the intercessor. This first of all shows us that the heart of Abraham was set firmly on God, and not on having his own way. The highest act of prayer is to depend upon the will of God being done, and that was at the heart of Abraham’s prayer. Another thing concerning the purpose of intercession is to plead God’s mercy in behalf of others (vv. 24-32) and in James 5:13-20 we see prayer being offered for things such as sickness, forgiveness, afflictions, calling for the elders to pray, and even praying for rain or no rain. One other purpose for intercession would be to know and receive the will of God concerning unholy practices. The Word of God tells us to avoid the unholy, but sometimes there may be some things that are not really clear; so we must seek for guidance. Most likely if you must pray to find out it is probably not good or right.
There are results we receive from intercessory prayer. The first one is the intercessor will accept God’s will for how it turns out. The heart of the intercessor will be at rest with God. The Lord’s “Place” and the intercessor’s “Place” is much the same “Place”. People are saved and God’s justice, righteousness, and holiness is fulfilled and done. The intercessor will have and put greater trust in the Lord.
There is really no great secret in being an Intercessor for others. The secret is revealed in the pages of God’s Word, and they are seen in these verses of our text. First, to know God, and to be known by God (v. 19); Abraham was known by God and he knew God, ie., he had a personal relationship with Him. To know God means we know His heart, His thoughts, His righteousness, His holiness, His justice, and we don’t want to do anything to offend these. To be known by God is the best. When He knows you He will never cast you out of His presence. He knows you as His own. Secondly, to know His secrets (v. 17), and in John 15:13-15 we read, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”; and in Amos 3:7 it is written, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”; and in Psalm 25:14 the Psalmist has written, ” The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”. A third matter of being an intercessor is you have a burden to share (v. 23), and you are caring for what the will of the Lord is concerning others, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV). Last of all; but this list is not exhaustive; is the intercessor is of humble spirit. Always humble before the Lord, never seeking their own, always jealous for the Lord’s will, and not that of the flesh (v. 27). The truly humble are lifting up the name of the Lord, and never notice their own humility. It is of a genuine heart and pure motive.
You will notice in the final verse of our text, “And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” This shows us the LORD was pleased with His time with Abraham, and Abraham was content to leave the outcome in the LORD’s hands. When we cannot sleep at night because of fear for the one we pray, it is because we have not gained peace in the matter. We have not trusted it to the LORD’s hands and will. It is quite possible that we fear our desire and will is not going to be done. That was not true of Abraham or God in this case. Nor, should it ever be in ours.
-Tim A. Blankenship