“Bible prayers: Moses prays for Israel”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
All he really wanted to be was a farmer. He even went so far as to say, “Nothing pleases me more than to see my farms in good order, and everything trim, handsome, and thriving about them.” And he said, “I’d rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”
Who is he? George Washington, of course!
While so many today think of him as a surveyor, a soldier, and the first president of our United States--the “Father of our country”--he thought of himself, first and foremost, as a farmer! After all, he was born on a plantation and reared in the country. He didn’t even visit a “big city” until sometime in his teens. And through much of his career as a statesman and a military general, he looked forward to the day when he could retire to the peace and freedom of Mount Vernon, to take up, once again, the task of farming.
In 1788, at the age of 56, he wrote a letter to a friend, Arthur Young, the foremost scientific farmer of his day. He said, “I think with you that the life of a husbandman is the most delectable. It is honorable and amusing and, with judicious management, it is profitable. To see plants rise from the earth and flourish by the superior skill and bounty of the laborer, fills a contemplative mind with ideas which are more easy to be conceived than expressed.”
But thankfully, for our sake and for our nation’s sake, we’re glad he chose to lay down his plow and shovel for a time to become not only a liberator, but a nation builder, the first president ever of our United States.
So it was for a man named Moses. But even better than Washington, and even better than the Continental Congress all put together, he, single-handedly, stood before Egypt’s pharaoh, the most powerful king of his age, to say, “Let my people go!”
And here in the words of Exodus chapter 33, we hear him pray. I’ll begin at verse 12: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people,” but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, “I know You by name, and You have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, if I have found favor in Your sight, please show me now Your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in Your sight. Consider too that this nation is Your people’” (Exodus 33:12-13).
It’s been said that one of the greatest ways to learn how to pray is to listen to great pray-ers. And in the pages of Scripture, we find some of the greatest pray-ers of all! Think of Abraham and Sarah who prayed for a son, or Zechariah and Elizabeth who prayed for a son, or Simeon and Anna who prayed to meet the Lord Jesus.
And think of how the great pray-ers prayed! Elijah prayed for rain, and it rained. Nehemiah prayed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And when Solomon prayed for wisdom, God made him wiser than anyone who ever lived.
And they prayed almost everywhere! Jonah prayed while sitting inside of a fish’s stomach. Daniel prayed in a lion’s den. And Peter prayed in prison.
And they prayed anytime! Job prayed in the morning, Peter prayed at noon, and Paul and Silas prayed at midnight.
Even more, of all the amazing things we could say about prayer, (and there are many!), the most amazing is how God not only invites us to pray, but how He loves to hear us.
He said in the book of Psalms: “Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8). And Jesus said in the book of Matthew: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
And here in the book of Exodus, Moses prayed for the people of Israel.
Let's step back for a moment to see what’s going on.
As you probably already know, his story began some eighty years before, in Egypt, on the banks of the Nile. For just as soon as he was born, his mother, Jochebed, knowing full well that Pharaoh would kill him, wrapped him in a blanket, laid him in a basket, and scooted him down the river into Pharaoh’s daughter’s waiting arms.
And from that moment on, his life would never be the same. And though he was raised in the royal household as a son of the king, he knew he didn’t belong. Then when word got out that he had killed an Egyptian, he ran for his life, out to the middle of nowhere, to the desert, to a mountain called Sinai. And there, for the next forty years, he would live life as a shepherd.
But God had something else in mind. That’s why He called him from that burning bush and sent him to say, “Let my people go.”
First, there were the ten plagues and the miracle of the Red Sea. Then came the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as the people made their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
And as Moses stood in the presence of the Lord for forty days and forty nights, in thunder and lightning and smoke, what did the people do? I’ll let the Bible tell the story.
Exodus chapter 32: “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me’” (Exodus 32:1-2).
Then what? Out of all that gold melted down, Aaron made a calf and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4). And the people rose up to celebrate.
Imagine for a moment that a father is out to eat with one of his sons. But as they leave the restaurant, then drive up to the house, they see cars parked all along the street, and the whole house is rocking, thumping, and pounding. Music is blaring and lights are flashing, because, obviously, there’s a party going on inside.
And the dad? He’s mad, as in steaming mad!
Suddenly, he takes his son aside and says, “I know exactly what’s going on in there. And what all those people are doing isn’t simply illegal; it’s what I would never want, nor ever welcome in my home! All sorts of laws and rules are being broken, and I’m absolutely fed up with it. Son, you stay here, because I’m going in there to stop it, and to take away their inheritance. I’m not paying for their college or their computers, their iPads, their phones, or their cars. I’m kicking all of them out. And I never want to see any of your siblings again.”
Then he says, “And all the things that used to be theirs, will now be yours. I’ll be right back.”
Now what would you do if you were that son? More than just a threat, you might also see it as an invitation. It’s as if He’s asking you to say something, to intervene and to intercede.
And so you say, “Dad, wait just a minute. I don’t need all of that. I don’t even want all of that. Instead, could you, would you, please have mercy on them?”
And that’s just what Moses does in the words of His prayer. And so he said in chapter 33: “If I have found favor in Your sight, please show me now Your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in Your sight. Consider too that this nation is Your people” (Exodus 33:13).
As Moses once prayed for his people and his nation, so we should pray for our nation and for our people.
And if we were to pray like Moses prayed, maybe this is what we’d say: “O God, will You not spare our United States of America? You Yourself raised us up out of a howling wilderness. For all these years, You’ve graced us with Your presence, Your power, and Your protection. You’ve enabled us to become one of the most blessed and most powerful nations on earth. And when our founding fathers desired to establish a nation whose God is the Lord, they declared us to be, in official documents, and even on our coins and dollar bills, ‘one nation, under God.’
“And since the peoples of this world know something of our Christian heritage and our early commitment to You, what will they say if You destroy us? Will they not ask, ‘What kind of a God is this who pours so much of Himself into a people, only to destroy them after a mere two hundred and fifty years?’
“Now, after You have invested so much of Yourself in this, Your land, we pray that You’ll do it again for the glory of Your name.”
And what did the Lord do when Moses prayed? What did He say? Verse 14: “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14).
You know, if you think about it, Moses and Jesus have quite a lot in common! When Moses was born, he was laid in a straw-thatched basket, then floated down a river to be picked up by Egyptian royalty. When Jesus was born, He was laid in a straw-filled manger, and was visited by Eastern royalty.
When Moses was born, Pharaoh ordered the murder of every Hebrew boy under the age of two. When Jesus was born, King Herod ordered the murder of every Bethlehem boy under the age of two.
Though Moses was once royalty in Egypt, he left his position of power and privilege to serve and to save an enslaved people. And though Jesus was royalty in heaven, He left His position of power and privilege to serve and to save an enslaved world.
Moses turned water into blood. Jesus turned water into wine.
Moses parted the Red Sea. Jesus calmed the Sea of Galilee.
Moses chose twelve spies and sent them into the Promised Land. Jesus chose twelve disciples and sent them to proclaim the truer and better Promised Land.
Moses asked God to feed thousands so they wouldn’t die in the desert. Jesus fed thousands so they wouldn’t starve in the wilderness.
Moses is the author of the Law. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.
And while Moses lifted up a snake on a pole so that all who looked on it would live, Jesus was lifted up on a cross, so that all who look on Him will live.
One more thing. It’s been said that prayer is an unlimited demand from an inexhaustible supply. The unlimited demand is the lost state of this world--its ignorance, its superstition, its sinfulness, and its needs of body, mind, and soul.
But far more than the world’s unlimited demand is God’s inexhaustible supply--grace to meet each and every need.
And the one simple thing which brings those two together is prayer--the persevering prayers of God’s people.
And so we pray. And when we pray, God hears and answers our prayer.
We thank You, Father, for the power and the privilege of prayer. Help us to come before You, just as Moses did, as we seek Your will for our time, for Jesus’ sake. Amen