Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Difficulty of Intercession (It can be rejected)

sculpture: a dead man's hand

Funny how God's second recorded intersession was a failure.

That may seem like a heretical statement, but it is true. It makes me feel much more comfortable with the ministry of intersession. It means that I have a responsibility to act in love, toward the best interests of others, to point others toward a relationship with God, but without regard for the success of the outcome. Success or failure of intercession ultimately lies in the faith and action of the person you are interceding for.

In the first intersession Adam was lonely. He realized that in all of God's creation there was none like him. So God broke into his world in a supernatural way. He Created Eve. I would have to say that God has done a good work in this. Life in total isolation would be akin to a living hell. Always longing, but never able to see, share, serve. It would be a sad life. The first intersession was good. Adam received it. He acted favorably toward his wife that God had provided. There is a lesson there for spouses, but that will have to wait for another post someday maybe.

Then came sin...

We don't like to think of God as failing. One of the problems is that we hold on to a theology that God is perfect. Now let me make it clear God is perfect in essence and in and of Himself. However, he created a universe that has imperfection. That is He by the very act of creating something beyond Himself created the possibility of imperfection. Something that was not of Himself or that would not always reflect His own perfection, but rather in His image he created beings with will (just as He is) that could act according to their own will (just as He does) independently (just as He does). In creating this reality He built in to reality the possibility of this being acting contrary to His will, that was willed or self-willed by another (not God). When I say God failed it was not because of He had some imperfection, but that in a way His creation had rejected Him and rendered His intersession ineffectual.

So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
Genesis 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Cain was angry. What is more sin was cleaving to his soul. God attempted to intervene.

Intercede: Inter meaning "in between" and cede meaning "to go"

Intersession is the act of going between to things. Most traditionally it is a prayer. When we pray on behalf of another person we "go between" the person we are praying for and God the giver of all good things (James 1:17). We are asking on behalf of another that God demonstrate His grace and His mercy toward that person.

In the case of Cain, I believe that God desired to demonstrate his grace and mercy toward him. However sin had prevented God from accepting his sacrifice. This made Cain angry. You see Cain is a lot like most of us. We don't mind receiving God's grace and mercy, but we do not like to part with the pleasures that sin provides us. We are worldly. We enjoy the world. The ruler of this world holds our hearts with the desires of this world. God wanted to intervene. So he explained to Cain what he was to do.

Now I take a non-traditional approach to this passage (See Cain was Furious). In this I believe that God was giving Cain a second chance. The word "sin" in this passage can also be interpreted "sin-offering.:

Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.'
Genesis 4:7 (YLT)

So God was providing a path for restored fellowship with Himself on behalf a Cain. God himself provided the sin-offering that would restore Cain in his relationship to God. God acted to provide the go between (i.e. intersession).

However, Cain rejected the go between. He did not want to repent, but rather he allowed the desires of the flesh to rule the day. He in turn murdered his brother. God attempted to intercede, but Cain had rejected it leading to continued sin, even the sin of murder. God's intercession failed. Not for lack of desire or sufficiency on His part, but because Cain refused it. I think this is an important lesson for us. We can intercede for others, but they will not always receive it. It also makes me all the more appreciative of the ways that God intervenes in my own life. Some times I reject His "between going" to my own sorrow. But as I become more aware of God's interceding for me I am happy to submit my will to His will that He might be glorified and I might experience the fullness of His Grace and Mercy.

This is the first post on a series on the subject of the ministry of intersession.

God Bless You

~BJ

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