Beholding the Goodness and Severity of God

Michael Beck

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An intercessor must know the full character of God. He must hold in balance all God has revealed of Himself.

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Because God “delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18,) and has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11;) He looks for intercessors, who will “stand in the gap” before Him. He has trouble finding them because few know His heart.

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)

Moses was qualified to be an intercessor because above all else, he wanted to know God.

Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. (Exodus 33:13, 17-19)

An intercessor is the most powerful person on earth. Their prayers can make the difference between life and death.

Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. (Psalm 106:23)

God let Moses know the depth of His anger toward the people’s idolatry. Moses was afraid of God’s anger being unleashed on them. An intercessor pleads with God to show mercy to those who are deserving of His wrath.

And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. (Exodus 32:31,32)

In a day of provocation, an intercessor asks God to “remember mercy.”

O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

Although God responds to intercessors who appeal to and remind Him of His mercy and long-suffering; He also reminds them that
there is a limit to His patience, and He will judge the stubbornly unrepentant.

Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it (Numbers 14:19-23)

Jeremiah had no desire to see God’s judgment come upon his people.
He stood in the gap to turn away God’s wrath from them and provide them further opportunity to repent.

… Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them. (Jeremiah 18:20)

Intercessors share God’s broken heart over the rejection of His people.
Even when the people were not where he or God wanted them to be, Samuel knew it would be a sin to stop praying for them.

Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way (1 Samuel 12:23)

Although God is merciful and long-suffering and gives men “space to repent,” there comes a time when intercession will not prevail.

Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. (Jeremiah 15:1)

Intercessors can have a hard time “switching gears” and “letting go.” But there is a time when God is “moving on.”

And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. (1 Samuel 16:1)

If we will walk with God he has plans of great good for us. He wants us to go with Him, but if we won’t, He will move on without us. There is a “point of no return,” in which God says “enough is enough.” The “window of opportunity” closes.

Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting. (Jeremiah 15:6)

God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will harden. (Romans 9:18) He alone decides when the day of mercy has ended, and the day of judgment has begun.

And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (Revelation 2:21)

He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

Through seeing the response of surprisingly open Gentiles and stubbornly closed Jews to the gospel, Paul understood both the “goodness and severity of God.”

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

Paul also understood that believing Gentiles should not let the present hardness of the Jewish nation sour their hearts toward them. He reminded them that if God was able to save a Gentile who was so far off, He was able to save a Jew who was near.

And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:23,24)

A heart of mercy and faith keeps us praying for people in a day when God can still be found.

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (Romans 11:30,31)

Paul was an intercessor because his heart was united with God’s heart to save and not destroy any.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (Romans 10:1)

Paul exhorted every believer to be an intercessor, who prayed without “wrath” or “doubting.”

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

We cannot and will not be effectual intercessors for others if we don’t believe in the power of God to change them. We must look beyond where another has been or is to where God can bring them.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.