God's Response to Redemptive Intercession
When Abraham was confronted with the possibility of Sodom's destruction, he did not immediately jump on the "Destroy Sodom" bandwagon; instead, he went before the Lord and prayed for mercy for the city. Abraham's prayer is an amazing study on the effect a mercy-motivated intercessor has on the heart of God. Indeed, my object here is to gaze into the heart of God as it is revealed in the discourse between the Lord and Abraham.
When we look at Abraham's prayer, we discover an amazing power granted us in intercession. And what is that? God is looking for a mercy reason that would justify Him delaying or canceling wrath. We must not belittle this principle, for in it is great hope for our land as well. The mercy reason for delay is found in the compassionate prayer of an intercessor.
Let us consider the Lord's initial response to Sodom's sin. First, He revealed to Abraham, His servant, what He was about to do. Why? Because God desired Abraham to intercede. When the Lord informed His servant of what was wrong in the world, it was not so that Abraham could simply criticize it, but so that Abraham would intercede for mercy. Remember, God delights in mercy (Micah 7:18) and takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). The Lord always seeks for opportunities of mercy. Therefore, let's take note of how Abraham approached the Almighty:
"Abraham came near and said, 'Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?'" (Genesis 18:23-25).
Notice, Abraham did not pray from a place of anger. There was no finger-pointing vindictiveness in Abraham's soul. Somehow we have come to believe that non-compromising Christians must also be angry. Abraham never compromised with Sodom's depraved culture, yet he was above fleshly reaction. In fact, throughout his prayer, Abraham never mentioned what was wrong in Sodom. He appealed, instead, to the mercy and integrity of the Lord.
This is vitally important for us, because Jesus said, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham" (John 8:39). One of Abraham's most noteworthy deeds involved his intercessory prayer for Sodom, the most perverse city in the world!
Abraham first acknowledged the Lord's integrity, then he spoke to the Lord's mercy.
"Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty?" (Genesis 18:24).
The Lord knew that it would be unjust to slay the righteous with the wicked; Abraham's prayer did not enlighten the Lord of some unknown fact. But the nature of life on earth is this: God works with man to establish the future and, in the process of determining reality, He always prepares a merciful alternative.
In other words, urgent, redemptive prayer shoots straight through the mercy door and enters God's heart. This door is never shut, especially since we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, ministering at the mercy seat in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1). It is open each and every time we pray.
Listen to how the Lord answered Abraham's prayer for mercy: "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account" (Genesis 18:26).
How the truth of God's mercy flies in the face of those so eager to judge their nation! Incredibly, the Lord said He would spare the whole of Sodom if He found fifty righteous people there. Now keep this in mind: the Hebrew word for "spare" means more than "not destroy"; it also means "to forgive or pardon." This is a tremendous revelation about the living God. He will minimize, delay, or even cancel a day of reckoning as long as Christ-inspired prayer is being offered for sinners!
Time and again throughout the Scriptures the Lord proclaims an ever present truth about His nature: He is "slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness" (Exodus 34:6). Do we believe this? Here it is, demonstrated right before our eyes in the Scriptures. He tells us plainly that a few righteous people scattered in a city can preserve that area from divine wrath.
Abraham knew the love of God. He was an intimate friend of God's. Abraham, in truth, had a clear view into the heart of God based on his own experiences. This interceding patriarch had seen the Almighty bless, prosper, and forgive him, so he pressed God's mercy toward its limits.
"What if there are forty?"
The Lord would spare it for forty.
Abraham bargained, "Thirty?"
He would spare it for thirty.
He finally secured the Lord's promise not to destroy the city if He could find just ten righteous people there. On God's scales, wrath is on one side and mercy on the other. Put the entire city of Sodom with all its sin and perversion on one side. The scales tip toward wrath as the weightiness of advanced wickedness runs rampant through an entire city. Let's assume that there were two hundred thousand evil people in Sodom. It is weighed heavily on the side of evil. Yet on the other side, place just ten righteous individuals. As the ten are placed on the scale, the spiritual weight of the righteous, with just ten, tips the scales toward mercy!
In God's heart, the substance of the righteous far outweighs the wickedness of the evil! Herein we discover what we are seeking in the heart of God through prayer: the Lord would spare (forgive) sinful Sodom, with its gangs of violent homosexuals, because of the influence of ten godly people who dwelt within it!
How About Your Community?
Now, let's think of your city: Are there ten good people among you? Consider your region. Do you think there might be one hundred praying people living within its borders, people who are pleading with God for mercy? What about nationwide? Do you suppose there might be ten thousand people interceding for your country? God said He would spare Sodom for ten righteous people. Do you think God would spare your nation for ten thousand righteous?
I lived in a metropolitan area in the United States that has about two hundred thousand people. I can list by name scores of righteous individuals, including pastors, intercessors, youth workers, black folks, white folks, Hispanic folks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Christian business people, moms, dads, godly teenagers, praying grandmothers, secretaries, policemen, and on and on who live there – far more than the ten righteous needed to save a place like Sodom. There are many here who care about this city.
Think about your church and the greater church community in your city. Aren't there at least ten honorable people who sincerely care about your community, who desire that God would bring revival? Remember, the Lord said He would spare Sodom for the sake of the ten.
My plea in this message is that you would see yourself as one who is standing in the gap for your city. See if there are others in your community who will pray with you. The power of prayer can release a tsunami of mercy that can topple strongholds and set captives free in your region.
Finally, let us not give up our communities to the influences of Hell. God is able to raise up a standard against wickedness. In fact, He says He looks for a man who will stand in the gap, that He might not strike the earth in His wrath. Will you be that one? You see, the true measure of spirituality is not how angry we become toward sinners, but how Christlike; our mission is not to see men destroyed, but redeemed.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for devaluing the power of prayer. Forgive me for underestimating how passionately You desire to reveal Your mercy. Lord, give me grace to be one who never ceases to cry out to You for mercy. Lord, let me not base my obedience on what my eyes see or my ears hear, but upon the revelation of Your mercy; let me build my life on Thee. Amen!
Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, The Power of One Christlike Life.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane
Francis Frangipane is the founder of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has traveled throughout the world ministering to thousands of pastors and intercessors from many backgrounds. Francis' heartfelt prayer is to see established in every city Christlike pastors and intercessors, united before God, revealing the love of Christ to their communities. Since 1985, he has written fourteen books, plus a number of study booklets. Over the past decades, Francis has served on a number of other ministry boards. However, in recent years he has gradually resigned from these various boards. As of June 2009, he has also retired from his position as senior pastor of River of Life Ministries. In this more simplified life, Frangipane is devoting himself to prayer and the ministry of God's Word.
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