Sunday, November 25, 2012

When Your Family Tree is Sick: Part II

These are the people I am most thankful for.  My husband. My parents. My children.

Given the chance, I would willingly exchange my own life for theirs, and in many small ways, I do that already each time I devote minutes, hours, days, and years to express my love to them. A true love is sacrifice.  Yet, that love can only go so far, do so much.

Last week, we began a two-part glimpse into a Christian's role in others' salvation.

In Part I, we looked at those in our family tree who are hopelessly lost and how we are unable to save them with either our own righteous, loving obedience to God or our prayers on their behalf. Although we who are Christians want to save the entire world and especially our loved ones, each person is ultimately accountable for his or her own soul.

As God said through the prophet Ezekiel, "'if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch our My hand against it...even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,' declares the Lord GOD" (Ez. 14:13-14)*.

Part II of the question asks what the Christian's response should be if he can't pray someone into heaven.  Does he just give up and stop praying for them entirely?

In the previous verse and in verse twenty of the same chapter from Ezekiel, God mentions three pillars of faith who give insight into this part of the question.  Noah, Daniel, and Job interceded for those around them.

Noah is recorded as "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God" (Gen. 6:9).  Later, Peter refers to him as "a preacher of righteousness" (Gen. 6:9, 2 Pet. 2:5). While I don't find a specific example of Noah praying for the people before the flood, the word "preacher" in the previous verse means "God's ambassador, and the herald or proclaimer of the divine word"**  

Throughout The Old Testament, a pattern appears of God's ambassadors interceding for the unrighteous after they receive a divine warning of impending wrath.  Moses repeatedly interceded for Israel while Abraham interceded for the cities of Sodom and GomorrahSurely after God's warning and throughout the 90+ years it took him to build the ark, Noah not only shared with everyone what was going to happen but also prayed to God for their deliverance.

Sadly, as history records, not one repented; not one was delivered.

Unlike Noah, in the cases of Daniel and Job, it is more obvious that they interceded for their people.

In the story of Job, Scripture specifically records him praying for family and friends.  

For his children, he continually prayed: "Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, 'Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually" (Job. 1:5).

Job also "prayed for his friends" (Job 42:10).  But neither his children's deliverance nor his friends' deliverance came through his intercession.  

Instead, his friends' deliverance came from their own actions of offering a burnt offering in repentance before the Lord. As the Lord said to them, "My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly" (Job. 42: 8).  They obeyed and were spared by their own actions.

Daniel, as well, prayed for his people.  

In a quite lengthy prayer, Daniel "prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, 'Alas, O Lord we. . .have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.  Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land" (Dan. 9:4-6).  

He requested God to relent in His wrath on Israel: "let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us" 

Yet, even Daniel could not save the city of Jerusalem because of the people's sin.

 What, then, should a Christian's response be?  

The answer is clear--the Word of God demonstrates that the righteous must still stand in the gap, must still intercede for those who do not know Christ. 

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul encouraged us to do likewise: "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men" (1 Tim 2:1).

May we be able to say with conviction that "my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation" (Rom 10:1).

*I wanted to note that some commentators believe that the Daniel mentioned here is not the same man who wrote the book of Daniel.  Although I humbly disagree, the idea that the righteous intercede for others is a sound tenet found throughout scripture.  I can't help but believe if this text does refer to another Daniel, he, too, would have interceded for his people.

**Blue Letter Bible Online.  

No comments:

Post a Comment