In this session of Secret Church 19, Pastor David Platt covers the first five books of the Bible, which are known as the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch lays the foundation for Scripture’s teaching about the nature of God, man, sin, and salvation. These foundational truths are critical for understanding what Scripture teaches about prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of God.
The Pentateuch is also important for helping us understand the storyline of Scripture, beginning with God’s original design in creation, man’s fall into sin, and God’s plan of redemption. In this first session, we’ll see how prayer and fasting figure into God’s dealings with the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and then with Moses and Israel.
- Essential Foundations
- Two Realities at the Heart of Communion with God
- The Privilege of Intercession
The first five books in the Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy, are called the Pentateuch. Let’s go!
1. Genesis 1-4: Essential Foundations
In Genesis 1-4 we are given the essential foundations for prayer.
The Nature of God
Here we learn about the nature of God—the God we pray to. In Genesis 1, He is the supreme Creator, the sovereign King above all. In Genesis 2, we learn that He is the righteous Judge of all and He is the merciful Savior of all who trust in Him.
God, we praise You. You are the supreme Creator, sovereign King, righteous Judge, and merciful Savior. We praise You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Nature of Men and Women
That leads to what these chapters teach us about the nature of men and women. According to Genesis 1:26-27, we are created in the image of God, unlike anything else in all creation. We’re a unique reflection of God, we utterly rely upon God and we are ultimately responsible to God. That leads to Genesis 1:28, where we see that we are created for the purpose of God—and that purpose is to enjoy a relationship with Him.
If you put this together, you will realize that we have been uniquely created to know God. We’ve been created to pursue God in a way that plants and animals, mountains and seas, stars and planets don’t. Plants and stars don’t talk with God, walk with God or relate to God like you and I can. We have been created uniquely to enjoy the blessing of a relationship with God. We’ve been created to rule over the rest of creation as God’s image bearers and to reflect and multiply God’s glory to the ends of the earth.
The Nature of Sin
The problem, however, is the nature of sin and how sin has marred our relationship with God. In Genesis 3 we learn that we are spiritual beings in a natural, material world and we are in a spiritual battle. Satan is real. From the third chapter in the Bible, we learn that Satan can speak and he is smart. He’s a malicious liar and an evil murderer.
We also see that our hearts are full of iniquity, full of sin. Romans 5:12 makes it clear that this story in the beginning of the Bible is not just about Adam and Eve; it’s about you and me. We all question God’s Word, we doubt God’s love and we choose our ways over God’s ways. And it’s not just our sins here and there; it’s our nature to sin. We turn aside from our relationship with God to ourselves, which means we all need a faithful Intercessor.
This is what God promises to provide for us in Genesis 3:15. He promises that One will come Who is fully like us, the offspring of Eve. One Who is fully like God, sinless. One Who will redeem us from our rebellion against God by conquering sin, Satan and death. He is also One Who will restore us to a relationship with God.
The Nature of Salvation
The picture we see from the beginning of the Bible, starting with Genesis 3:8, is that God seeks the guilty. Man and woman are hiding from God in their sin, yet God comes to them. This is so different from the religions of the world where we are told to do all kinds of things in order to get to God—pray this many times a day, travel to that place, bow in this direction, give that offering.
You might say, “Wait a minute. Isn’t the topic tonight the pursuit of God? Doesn’t the Bible teach that we need to pursue God in different ways?” Yes, it does. But we must see this from the beginning of the Bible. This is so critical, so please don’t miss it. Don’t fall asleep yet. My six-year-old, whenever something is really important in his mind, he’ll say, “Dad. This is humassive.” So I’m channeling my six-year-old right now and I’m saying to you, “This is humassive. Don’t miss this.”
A relationship with God begins, not with our pursuit of Him, but with His pursuit of us. Your relationship with God begins, not with your pursuit of God, but with His pursuit of you. I love the way Spurgeon puts this. Reflecting on how he came to faith in Jesus, he said:
When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths [of the doctrine of election] in my own soul—when they were as John Bunyan said, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron. I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.
One weeknight, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon. The thought struck me, “How did you come to be a Christian?” I sought the Lord. “But how did you come to seek the Lord?” The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him.
I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, “How came I to pray?” I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. “How came I to read the Scriptures?” I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all; that He was the Author of my faith, So the doctrine of grace opened up to me and from that doctrine, I have not departed to this day. I desire to make this my constant confession, ”I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
Your pursuit of God begins with His pursuit of you—and it continues that way. A relationship with God continues because of God’s personal, faithful and perpetual pursuit of you. The God Who pursued you out of love in the past has not stopped pursuing you out of love for you today. I think of so many times when I have wandered from God and praise God He has not stopped chasing after me.
I’m guessing there are some people who are part of this tonight—who are in this room or via simulcast—who, if you’re honest, are far from God. For a while now you’ve not lacked any real desire for God but are living with little or no evidence of a pursuit of God in your life personally right now. Even as God has brought you to this night, to this moment, He is saying to you, “I am pursuing you. I love you and I desire a relationship with you.” The supreme Creator and sovereign King of the universe is saying this to you right now. That will knock you out of your seat, if you really think about it. Let it knock you out of your seat and onto your knees to pursue Him. Why? Because God is pursuing you.
God seeks the guilty and God covers the shameful. This is exactly what we see in Genesis 3:21. Above that, we learn that purity of heart is essential to be in the presence of God. That’s why a covering for sin is necessary—specifically, a sacrifice for sin is necessary to experience communion with God. Genesis 3:21 is the first evidence we see of death in the Bible, but it wasn’t the death of Adam and Eve. It was the death of an animal whose skin was used to cover over Adam and Eve’s shame.
The verses that follow show us how God protects the fearful. God removes Adam and Eve from the garden so that they might not live forever in the state of separation from Him. We learn here that God’s grace alone keeps us from experiencing His eternal wrath.
George Leile was a slave who became the first missionary to go out from America that we know of. He said, “I saw my condemnation in my own heart and I found no way wherein I could escape the damnation of hell, only through the merits of my dying Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
God grace alone keeps us from experiencing His eternal wrath and God’s grace alone allows us to enjoy His eternal love. The next quote is from Leile’s chief assistant: “We were living in slavery to sin and Satan, and the Lord hath redeemed our souls to a state of happiness, to praise His glorious and ever-blessed name; and we hope to enjoy everlasting peace by the promise of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.”
Let me pause for a minute. I know we’re starting to get into it, but before we go any further, I just want to ask every person within the sound of my voice, “Are you trusting in Jesus right now as the Savior from your sin and the Lord of your life?” If your heart does not leap with a resounding “Yes” when I ask that, I want to invite you and urge you to put your trust in Him right now. You cannot have a relationship with God or come to God in prayer on your own. You can’t do it.
You have sinned against God. You are separated from God and deserve judgment for your sin. The only way any one of us can come before God is by trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin. That’s how a relationship with God begins. It’s not by doing anything to pursue Him. It’s not by praying a certain number of times, doing a certain number of good things to try to outweigh the bad, or anything like that.
The way you come to God is first and foremost by believing that He has pursued you, by believing that He has sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross for your sin so you can be forgiven of your sin and be restored to a relationship with Him. I want to invite you right now in your heart to say yes to Jesus, if that has not been a reality. Say yes to Jesus as your Savior and the Lord of your life. It would be a mistake to move on tonight without pausing at the start and giving you an opportunity to pray.
So let’s put our pens down for a minute and do that. Bow your heads with me on this one, so you can focus between you and God. Every single person, in this room or wherever you’re sitting, are you trusting right now in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life? If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes, then I want to invite you to pray right now.
Just say to God, “I am a sinner and I need You to save me. I praise You for pursuing me. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sin and rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. Tonight I place my faith in Jesus as my Savior. Tonight I place my faith in Jesus as the Lord of my life. I want to be restored to a relationship with You. I want to know You. I want to enjoy You. I want to love You. God, I want to pursue You with all my heart, based on Your pursuit of me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
This is where it all starts. And by the way, this is why we pray “in Jesus’ name.” It’s because Jesus is the One Who makes it possible for us to pray. Apart from Jesus, we are not allowed to be in the presence of a holy God. So I pray that many people, even just now, trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord. I run into people at different places who say they came to Christ at Secret Church. Some of them are people who thought they were Christians coming into a night like this, but who realized they did not have a relationship with Christ. Their eyes were opened and I pray that eyes are being opened tonight. I want to encourage you, if that’s you, to share that with somebody during the break. Don’t keep that to yourself.
The Pentateuch Reminds us we Need Prayer and Fasting
That leads us back to these initial chapters of Genesis, specifically chapter four where we see the need for prayer. At the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are separated from God in their sin, then we begin to see their need for restoration to Him amidst sin and temptation. “The Lord said to Cain, ‘…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:7). We see here how the appeal of sin and selfishness is strong before us, every one of us. It leads Cain to murder his brother Abel.
The antidote to sin and selfishness is seeking God above us. That’s how Genesis 4 ends, in verse 26: “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” Genesis 4 ends with people calling on the name of the Lord, that is, they were praying.
God, teach us to call upon Your name.
2. Genesis 12, 15, 17: Two Realities at the Heart of Communion with God
That leads to God’s covenant relationship with Abraham in Genesis 12, 15 and 17—two realities at the heart of communion with God. In Genesis 12, God graciously speaks to Abram, an idolater, in the wilderness. Through God’s pursuit of Abram, we learn that God provides direction for us and make promises to us. Genesis 12, 15, and 17 all involve promises that God graciously makes to Abram, exemplified in Genesis 17:1-8.
The whole picture is that as God graciously speaks, we gladly submit to His Word, to His promises, and His direction. We take radical risks, like we see Abraham doing in Genesis 22 when God tells him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. That’s a test and Abraham shows that he trusts God. God proves faithful by providing a sacrifice instead of Isaac. The pursuit of God involves taking risks and trusting in His reward. We take a radical risk and we trust in a radical reward.
What I love about Genesis 15 and why I put it here is because of verse one. God is promising Abram descendants and land and blessing. But notice what God says at the start: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. ‘Fear not, Abram. I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’” Do you hear that? “I’m your shield,” God says to Abram. The language is literally, “I am your very great reward.” Our trust in God is not just in His plans for us, but primary it’s in His satisfaction of us. This is so key to understanding prayer rightly. Our goal in prayer is not ultimately to get things from God. Our goal in prayer is ultimately to know, love and enjoy God.
C.S. Lewis said it really well:
Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. The great purpose of prayer is to come humbly, expectantly and—because of Jesus—boldly into the conscious presence of God, to relate to Him, talk with Him and ultimately enjoy Him as our great Treasure.
So when we think about prayer, we need to realize that getting things is not our greatest goal. Knowing God is our greatest goal: relating to God, enjoying God as our great treasure. This is what prayer is all about. Prayer will not be very satisfying if you just want things. Maybe another way to put that is prayer will not be very satisfying if you don’t want God. Prayer is the pursuit of God, not just His gifts. Prayer is the pursuit of God over and above His gifts. If we just want gifts and don’t want God, we will completely skew prayer from the start.
So God, help us to seek You. We want to be satisfied in You, to see You as our treasure, as our great reward. We want to pursue You far over and above Your gifts. We need You, God, to teach us to pursue You and find our reward in You. We are a materialistic people who are always looking for things. We pray we would see that You are far greater than everything this world could ever offer us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
3. Genesis 18: The Privilege of Intercession
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t ask for things for ourselves and for others. Look at Genesis 18 which teaches about the privilege of intercession. In this passage, God has told Abraham He is about to destroy Sodom. Abraham responds by pleading on behalf of the people in Sodom. Let’s read Genesis 18:22-33:
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Think about what we learn about prayer here —how in prayer we approach God on behalf of those in need. We have the privilege of standing in the gap, talking to God on behalf of others. As we do, we appeal to God on the basis of His character, based on His justice and mercy. And based on His character, we present our requests to God with boldness.
Notice how God doesn’t say in this passage, “Abraham, who do you think you are, asking Me for mercy on these people?” No, God keeps listening to him and responding to him as Abraham makes bold requests, but with humility. This is a key in prayer: bold humility. We present our requests to God with boldness, but at the same time, we trust the response of God with humility. What a powerful picture of prayer!
God, teach us to intercede for others in need based upon Your character with bold humility.
4. Genesis 20: A Prayer for Healing
Abraham prays for God to heal Abimelech and God answers. The Bible clearly teaches that God is absolutely able to heal. God could have done this apart from prayer, but Abraham’s intercession leads to God’s intervention. We’re not going to stop here and spend a ton of time on all that the Bible teaches about healing. The point is to see these passages for what they’re plainly teaching us. We’ll keep moving until we get a holistic picture of what the Bible says, for example, about praying for healing.
This is sufficient for us to pray, “God, You have power to heal anyone of anything. We pray that You would teach us to pray with faith in Your power, believing that our intercession leads to Your intervention in potentially miraculous ways. Help us to pray with faith like that, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
5. Genesis 24: A Prayer For Help
Genesis 24 is a prayer for help, as Abraham’s servant prepares to go find a wife for Isaac. As we read this passage, we learn that we pray to God for help in specific ways. The servant prays specifically for God to show him who should be Isaac’s wife and God answers.
This is not, by the way, a prescription for the single guys here to figure out who she is. The whole picture is that God makes clear who Isaac should marry and Abraham’s servant bows down in worship.
We praise God for help in specific ways. I love this. He bowed down and praised God as soon as it happened. It is always good when we pray to God for help in specific ways, then we praise God when He answers in specific ways. When I was reading this passage a couple months ago, I was just compelled in my time alone to stop and praise God for specific ways He’s answered prayers in my life, how He’s led my life.
God, we praise You, not just for hearing our cries for help, but You answer our cries for help. Amen.
6. Genesis 32: Wrestling with God
This leads us to Genesis 32, a powerful picture of wrestling with God through prayer. Read this story with me, picking up in verse 24:
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
There’s so much here. Just think about all this passage teaches us.
First, we experience personal interaction with God. You and I, in prayer, experience personal interaction with God. This is breathtaking.
Second, we plead persistently for blessing from God. Jacob says, “I’m not letting go unless You bless me.” What’s that about? Can you speak like that to God? Apparently so. This is prayer, pleading for God’s blessing, His help, and His provision. “I’m not going to let go.” I love this quote from Samuel Chadwick:
Great grief prays with great earnestness. Prayer is not a collection of balanced phrases; it is the pouring out of the soul. What is love if it not be fiery? What are prayers if the heart be not ablaze? They are the battles of the soul. In them men wrestle with principalities and powers…The prayer that prevails is not the work of lips and fingertips. It is the cry of a broken heart and the travail of a stricken soul.
Is that how you pray? I’m guessing that many if not most of us read that and think, “I don’t pray like that.” Let tonight change that. Let tonight lead you to pray like that, with earnestness, with your heart set ablaze.
Third, we confess our sinfulness honestly before God. That’s part of the point here. When did the blessing come? When Jacob acknowledged his name, which if you’ll remember, means cheater or conniver. It’s what he had been doing all his life long. Once he confesses that God answers his prayer.
That leads to this great quote from John Stott that I think will help us understand this passage:
In prayer, we do not ‘prevail on’ God, but rather prevail on ourselves to submit to God. True, the language of ‘prevailing on God’ is often used in regard to prayer, but it is an accommodation to human weakness. Even when Jacob ‘prevailed on God’ what really happened is that God prevailed over him, bringing him to the point of surrender when he was able to receive the blessing which God had all the time been longing to give Him.
That’s the beauty here. As a result of prayer, we walk away having been changed by God. Prayer literally, physically, changed Jacob. And prayer literally—not always physically—changes us as we take hold of the blessing of God that He wants to give us. This is the beauty—don’t miss this. He wants to bless us! He wants to bless His people. He invites us to experience His blessing through prayer, which means, in the words of Phillips Brooks, “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”
Are you seeing this? Prayer is personal interaction with God, persistent pleading with God, honest confession that leads to total change. Prayer is so much more than just saying a few words before you eat a meal. It’s passionately prevailing with the God of the universe. We could just stop here tonight, camp out, and be done. But we’re not, because we’re only on number six and only one book into the Bible. Isn’t that amazing?
God, please teach us to prevail with You in prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
7. Exodus 3, 6: Who is the God We Pursue
I included these texts where Moses conversed with God—in a burning bush in Exodus 3 and then again in Exodus 6—not just because this involved conversation with God, but because this is one of the most significant revelations of God in the entire Bible. It’s where God reveals Himself as the “I AM.” A.W. Tozer writes this:
It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote the Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God. Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good––about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying too heavy of a price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.
If we’re going to grasp the wonder of prayer, we need to feel the wonder of the One we’re praying to. If you have a conversation with a chicken, you don’t think that’s very wonderful; you think that’s very weird. If you have a conversation with another person, depending on who it is, you might think it’s wonderful. If you have a conversation with God, you should walk away saying, “That is wonderful.” If you realize Who God is, if you realize He is holy.
Let’s read Exodus 3:1-6:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a fame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
When you and I pray, we are praying to a God Who is perfectly unique, completely separate and absolutely pure. There is no one like Him anywhere in all the universe. He is holy and He is merciful. The whole point here in Exodus 3 is that while God is holy, He is not distant from us. God sees our affliction, hears our cries, knows our suffering and God remembers His covenant promises to us. Exodus 3 references the promises God made to His people in Genesis 15.
God is ever-present and all-powerful. In prayer, you are talking to the Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God is also self-existent. Exodus 3:14 is where God reveals His name to Moses. Moses asks, “Who will I tell them sent me to you?” God says, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” That name, Yahweh—from the Hebrew verb “to be”—appears over 6,000 times in the Old Testament. Every time you see the word LORD in all caps in your Bible, that’s Yahweh, the I AM, the God Who has no origin. You and I have an origin; God has no origin.
God is self-existent and He is self-sufficient. You have needs, I have needs, but God has no needs. God doesn’t need us or anyone or anything else. Psalm 50:7-15 makes that clear. Tozer says:
Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away.
For God to be the I AM means He is eternal. He was, He is and He always will be. Like a bush that burns perpetually, His glory never dims and His beauty never fades. This is awesome. This is why prayer to God never gets boring. Think about it. If God’s beauty, His love and His glory are infinite and eternal, then that means for all of eternity, we will discover more and more and more beauty and love and glory in God.
Stephen Charnock wrote a massive thick masterpiece on the eternity of God. I’ve summed it up here in one of my favorite paragraphs in any book anywhere.
When we enjoy God, we enjoy Him in His eternity without any flux…after many ages, the joys will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites. When the glory of the Lord shall rise upon you, it shall be so far from ever setting, that after millions of years are expired, as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the sun, in the light of whose countenance you shall live, shall be as bright as at the first appearance; He will be so far from ceasing to flow that He will flow as strong, as full, as at the first communication of Himself in glory to the creature. God is always vigorous and flourishing; a pure act of life, sparkling new and fresh rays of life and light to the creature, flourishing with a perpetual spring, and contenting the most capacious desire; forming your interest, pleasure, and satisfaction; with an infinite variety, without any change or succession; He will have variety to increase delights, and eternity to perpetuate them; this will be the fruit of the enjoyment of an infinite and eternal God.
God never gets old, boring or uninteresting. His glory has no bounds. When you pray tomorrow morning, there will be more glory to be seen, then the next morning, more glory and ten trillion years from now, more glory. It just gets better every single day.
He is immutable which means His perfections never change. We’ll talk more about that later.
He is faithful. In Exodus 6:2-8, God refers to Himself as the Lord and He makes promise after promise after promise. He promises liberation, redemption, adoption and possession.
The I AM is sovereign. He’s in control. In Exodus 3:19-20, He guarantees His people will be delivered out of slavery in Egypt. That guarantee is grounded in God’s sovereignty.
He is just. So when we pray, as the Israelites did in their slavery, we may be tempted to doubt or question God’s justice and why He doesn’t answer us in this way at this time. But we must be careful not to evaluate God’s justice in the short term. We must be confident that God will assert His justice ultimately and completely in His perfect time—for He is God. Realizing Who God is changes everything about prayer.
Listen to these words from A.W. Pink and let them soak in: “Most Christians expect little from God, ask little, and therefore receive little and are content with little.”
O God, please give us a high view of You that leads to asking for great things from You. Please deliver us from our small views of Who You are that lead to such little faith in prayer. God, help us see You as the great I AM and ask of You, expecting You to show Your greatness in glorious ways in our lives, in our families, in our churches and in the world around us. Help us to ask for great and to receive great from Your hand. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
8. Exodus 16-17: We are Created to Crave
Keep going to Exodus 16 and 17. We are created to crave. These are stories of God’s people after they left Egypt, craving water and food. We’re reminded in these stories that God created us with physical cravings—which He didn’t have to do. God didn’t have to create us in such a way that we have to drink water for sustenance or eat food. But God created us with these physical cravings for a reason. Our physical cravings are designed to be satisfied by our Creator. God created our physical cravings to cause us to look to Him for their fulfillment, that we might see God as the Giver of all good gifts.
Look at Exodus 16:15 when they were asking, “What’s this food on the ground?” “And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.’” God is the One Who gives us food to eat. He is the Provider for our daily needs. This is why in the next verses in Exodus 16, God tells them to gather enough for that day’s need, but not to keep leftovers. Instead, they were to trust God to provide day by day by day. God is the Provider for our daily needs, and He is our Sustainer throughout all generations. This would go down in the history of God’s people as a lesson that God provides for His people.
Pentateuch Says that Praying and Fasting Spiritual Teach us about Spiritual Sustenance
See the relationship here between the physical and the spiritual. God uses our physical cravings to teach us about spiritual sustenance. God uses physical cravings to teach us that we are ultimately sustained, not by food and water, but by God. God uses these episodes in the life of His people to show them and us that our spiritual need for God is far more fundamental than our physical need for food and water. Look at Deuteronomy 8:3:
[God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
The clear teaching of Exodus 16 and 17 is that we ultimately have life, not because of natural selection, but because of supernatural provision. This, as we’ll see, has huge implications for prayer, because we need God more than we need food and water. That will have huge implications for fasting, when we let our physical craving for food drive us to a deeper craving for God.
O God, You are our Provider, our Sustainer. You are the One Who alone can satisfy all our needs and all our wants. We worship You; we depend on You and we need You. We need You more than we need breakfast or lunch or dinner—or anything else in this world. And we praise You for Your faithfulness to provide for us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
9. Exodus 32: Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?
This leads to one of the most baffling passages in all the Old Testament on prayer—Exodus 32—where we’re confronted with the question: does prayer change God’s mind? For that matter, does prayer really change anything? I mean, if God is sovereign, if God is in control of all things and all of God’s promises will come to pass, then why pray? Does prayer really change anything—including God’s mind?
We’ll pick up this passage in verse seven, but here’s the set-up. God is meeting with Moses on Mt. Sinai, giving His law to His people, including the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, God’s people, the Israelites, were down at the bottom of the mountain indulging in idolatry and immorality, worshipping a golden calf. That’s happening at the bottom of the mountain and God says this to Moses at the top of the mountain:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
What is that about? God relented? God didn’t do what He was going to do? That word “relented” is translated in some Bibles as “God changed His mind.” It’s the same word that’s used in other places in Scripture to describe how people change their mind. The problem is it’s also used in some places in Scripture, like Numbers 23, to describe how God does not change His mind. So what’s happening here? Does God change His mind or not?
Four Truths Moses Knows
We’re going to answer that question by looking at four truths Moses knows that we need to know.
The Perfections of God are Unchanging
First, the perfections of God are unchanging. When I use the word “perfections” I’m referring to the perfect attributes of God, which never change. God is perfectly holy. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). He is perfectly loving. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). He is perfectly just (Deuteronomy 32:4). We can go on and on. God is perfectly omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. God is perfectly self-existent, self-sufficient. In all these attributes, God says in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change.” He does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God (Psalm 90:2).
The perfections of God are unchanging and Moses knows this. If you look at his prayer from the start in Exodus 32:11, he says, “O LORD…” He uses Yahweh, the covenant name for God. As his prayer unfolds, Moses is acknowledging so many of God’s attributes. He acknowledges God’s wrath while appealing to God’s love. He acknowledges God’s might while appealing to God’s mercy. He acknowledges God’s glory while pleading for God’s goodness.
The Purposes of God are Unchanging
So we need to know what Moses knows: God’s perfections are unchanging and the purposes of God are unchanging. Again, Moses appeals to God’s unchanging purposes. He said, “You brought your people out of Egypt for Your praise among the Egyptians. Your purpose is not to kill them, but to save them for Your name’s sake among the nations—and that purpose has not changed.”
Moses is relaying here what we know from the rest of God’s Word. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” Isaiah 46:10-11 states, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” The purposes of God are unchanging.
The Promises of God are Unchanging
Third, the promises of God are unchanging. So how about verse 13 for boldness in Moses? He says “Remember” to God—to the omniscient God Who knows everything. Moses has the appalling audacity to say to God, “Maybe You need to remember something. Remember Abraham, Isaac, Jacob?” Moses points to the patriarchs and says to God, “You promised that You would give their family the land to which You’re leading them. You cannot go back on Your Word.”
Moses knows Numbers 23:19, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Psalm 89:34 says, “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.” Just pause for a minute here and think about this. This passage sparks a lot of questions about what changes in God. Moses actually bases his entire prayer on that which never changes in God. Then that brings us to Exodus 32:14, where the Bible tells us, “The Lord relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on his people.” So what does that mean? Because if all those things are unchanging in God, it certainly seems like something changed here.
The Plans of God are Unfolding
That leads to the fourth truth we need to know. While God’s perfections, purposes and promises are unchanging, the plans of God are unfolding. I want to be clear. This does not mean God’s plan is changing, as if God was surprised by Moses’ prayer and decided to change His plans. God’s plan is just as settled here as it is anywhere in history, but we have this story for a reason. This story shows us how God’s plan unfolds.
Follow this. The story shows us how God judges people in their sin. The people of Israel had sinned against God—seriously sinned. God said, “They have turned away, they’re stiff-necked and they’re worthy of destruction and death.” That’s true. Remember, this is the unchanging character of God. He is holy and will judge people in their sin. Sin is an infinite offense in His sight. Sin warrants His wrath. In verses nine and ten in Exodus 32 we see how God judges people in their sin.
But then, God provides a mediator for those sinners. That’s the whole picture that Exodus has given us to this point. Moses is the covenant mediator, the one who goes back and forth between God and His people, the one who stands before the people on God’s behalf and before God on the people’s behalf. God is the One Who set it up that way.
So when you get to Exodus 32 and look back at verse seven, you’ll see that God says to Moses, “Go down to your people.” Think about it. If God was going to destroy the Israelites on the spot, then why does He send Moses, the mediator, down to them? God was planning to spare His people through Moses’ mediation. The reality of Exodus 32 is crystal clear. God will demonstrate His judgment against the people, unless—unless—unless somebody steps in and mediates on their behalf.
All of this squares with the unchanging perfections of God. God is holy and just; He will punish sin. At the same time, God is loving and merciful; He will be true to His promises to His people. How does God do it? How is God true to His unchanging perfections and unchanging promises, while fulfilling His unchanging purposes? God does it through an unfolding plan. He appoints a mediator to stand in the gap for sinners, to pray for them. Follow this. As Moses prays, he’s not changing God’s plan. As he prays, Moses is fulfilling God’s plan.
That may sound a little confusing but just think about other stories where we see this in the Bible. Think about Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to proclaim, “Forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). Nineveh is going to be destroyed because of their sin in 40 days. That’s what God said. At the same time, what did God do? God sent a prophet to tell them that. Why would God do that? It’s the same picture we’re seeing here.
God was judging the Ninevites in their sin and at the same time, He was sending a preacher to warn them. So after spending a few days in the belly of a fish, Jonah does in fact warn them. Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” It’s the same picture we see in Exodus 32. God judges sin and He provides a mediator, leading to salvation.
But if you think about it, we don’t ultimately look to Jonah to figure this one out. We look to Jesus. This is the gospel. In our sin, you and I stand under the judgment of a holy God. The just and right payment for our sin is death that we deserve. But praise be to God, in His unfolding plan, He has provided a Mediator. God said to His Son, “Go down, Jesus. Go down, because My people have become corrupt. They’ve turned away from Me in idolatry and immorality, so unless somebody stands in the gap for them, they will all experience My judgment.”
Jesus comes down, He stands in the gap as a Substitute for sinners and by the plan of God, because of Jesus’ death on the cross for you and me, God relents His wrath from us—hallelujah!. In the words of 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Four Lessons We Learn
So what does all this teach us about prayer? There are four lessons we need to learn.
The Pentateuch Says About Prayer and Fasting are Powerful
First, God has designed prayer to be a powerful means by which we participate in His plans in the world. God didn’t have to design it this way. God has no needs; He can accomplish His purposes without us. But don’t miss this. In prayer, God is inviting you and me to participate with Him in His plans that He’s accomplishing in the world.
This is amazing, if you get what Exodus 32 is teaching. God brings about remarkable change in the world in response to the prayers of His people. When we pray, God acts. Our prayers affect the way God acts in the world. Look at Exodus 8:13: “And the Lord did according to the word of Moses.” God did according to man’s word. What a testimony to prayer. Prayer is an invitation to join with God in effectively shaping the course of history.
I’m not making this up. This is all over the Bible. People pray and, as we’re going to see, fire falls from heaven. People pray and the lame walk, the hungry eat, the dead come to life. We see this in the church in Acts. Every major move in that book comes in response to the prayers of God’s people. Through prayer, God has called you and me, not to watch history, but to shape history for the glory of His great name. That will change the way you pray! This is not just, “Thank You for some food.” Yes, it’s that, but it’s so much more.
So God, help us see this. Help us believe this. Help us join with You in shaping history for the glory of Your name. We pray for people right now who are under Your wrath. Please relent and save them, we pray. We pray for people groups right now who have not been reached with the gospel. They’re under Your wrath. You love them. You paid the price, Jesus, for their sin. Show Your salvation among them. We pray for the spread of Your salvation in this city where I’m standing, in our capital, in cities and communities all across the world where we’re gathered. God, we pray, show Your salvation, and use our prayers as a means by which Your wrath is relented and Your mercy is poured out on people around us and peoples around the world. God, teach us to pray like Moses, believing this is possible. In Jesus’ name. Amen. God, may it be so!
10. Exodus 33: The Reason for Prayer
It just gets better in Exodus 33 with the reason for prayer. In the first three verses, God says, “Okay. You can go into the Promised Land, Moses, but I’m not going to go with you. You’re going to go alone.” Which prompts Moses to pray. We see here at least four reasons to pray.
First, we pray because we have an assignment we cannot fulfill. Moses says, “You’re telling me to lead these people to the Promised Land? I can’t do that without You.” The reality is none of us can be the man, woman, single, husband, wife, parent, neighbor, coworker or witness God has called us to be on our own. Heather and I lay awake at night, it seems like most nights, praying, “God, we have no idea how to parent. We need Your help.” This is the way it’s designed to be. Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s a massive moment when you and I realize we can’t do anything apart from God’s help. That’s what drives us to pray.
It’s like Phillips Brooks says:
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.
Don’t you want to live that way? That rich life is unlocked through prayer, because God is giving you assignments all day long, every day, that you can’t fulfill. We pray because we have a privilege we cannot forsake. I love this story in Exodus 33:7-11. Get this picture.
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Do you get that picture? Imagine the whole congregation of Israel, thousands and thousands of people, camping out. They hear that Moses is going to meet with God, so everybody comes out and stands in front of their tent. Thousands of people, all ages, standing in silent awe as they watch a man go into a tent over here, then as he walks in, a cloud comes and settles on the tent. Everybody is standing in silent awe, because there is a man who is meeting with God.
This is one of those places we just can’t leave in the Old Testament, because this is where we realize we haven’t gathered together tonight to watch somebody go into a tent. Anybody can go into the tent and it gets even better than that. You don’t have to go into a tent—you are the tent! Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is awesome. What Old Testament saints could only long for, you and I have the privilege of experiencing before we even get out of bed in the morning. I’m just laying there. I’m the tent and I’m dwelling with You, God, right now.
We pray because we have a privilege we can’t forsake and we pray because we have a family we cannot forget. Moses prays, not just for God’s presence to go with him, but with them—with the entire people of God. It’s not just about us. It’s about our need for God’s help as His people together.
Finally, we pray because we have a God we cannot fathom. I love Exodus 33:18. After praying for God to relent His wrath and go with His people into the Promised Land, at that point you’d think Moses would be content. “Call it a day. It’s been a good day in the tent.” Not Moses. Moses stays in the tent and listen to what he says to God: “Please show me your glory.”
Are you kidding me? When I think about it, this is the guy who got to speak with God in a burning bush. He saw God split a sea right in half before his eyes. He struck a rock and water came out. He prayed and bread fell down from heaven. When everybody else wanted to stay away from the mountain, this is the man who got to go up on the mountain and meet with God. If anybody had seen the glory of God, it was Moses. But here he asks, “Please show me your glory”?
Here’s the deal. He wanted more. Apparently, when you taste the glory of God, you have an insatiable desire for more and more and more. This is why we pray. So if we’re not praying, what are we saying? We’re saying with our lives, “We’re content with a little knowledge of His glory.” May that not become true of us. We pray because we want to see, we want to know and we want to enjoy more and more and more of God’s glory in our lives, in this church and in the world around us. This is how Jesus will teach us to pray, right? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
God, we want to see Your glory in greater and greater ways in our lives, in our families, in our churches, in our countries, and in the world. We want to see Your glory. Please show us Your glory, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
11. Exodus 34: The Effect of Fasting
Exodus 34:28 talks about a miraculous fast for Moses from food and water. Miraculous is the keyword. This fast was 40 days, which is not normal or physically possible without divine intervention. It was a divine feast on God’s Word and prayer, communion with God. The effect was evident in Moses’ shining face.
Here’s the picture we need to see—a picture we’ll see all over Scripture. The more we pursue God in all of His glory, the more we will reflect God’s glory in every facet of our lives. We can’t help but become like what we behold. It’s kind of like kids—the more my kids are around me, the more they act like me. They take on some of my mannerisms. What comes out of their mouths reflects what comes out of my mouth—for better or for worse. They react like I do. They become like what they behold.
The Pentateuch Says that Prayer and Fasting Helps us to Fix our Eyes on Jesus
So the more you fix your eyes, heart, mind, attention, and affections on Jesus, the more you will become like Him. It’s exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. The more we behold Jesus, the more we become like Jesus. The more we behold the glory of God, the more we will reflect the character of God.
So God, please help us behold You, know You, and love You more and more and more. And in this, cause our lives and our churches to be more and more a reflection of Your character, love, holiness, compassion, care, justice, and mercy. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
12. Exodus 40: The Purpose of Salvation
One more passage in Exodus. This is the big-picture point we need to see in the book of Exodus. God saves His people from captivity so they might seek His face in worship. If you look at all the verses I’ve listed, they all describe the “why” of the exodus. Why did God deliver His people from slavery? It was so they might serve and worship Him at Mt. Sinai. “Pharaoh, let my people go so they might hold a feast to me, so they might worship in the wilderness.” (Exodus 3:12). We see this over and over and over again.
If you think about worship at creation in the first part of Genesis, Eden was the dwelling place of God where Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s presence and all of creation reflected God’s glory. But then sin entered the world and messed up the whole picture. So how would God dwell among His people now? That’s what we see in the last half of Exodus.
Think about worship at Mt. Sinai. The dwelling place of God becomes the tabernacle. The last half of Exodus, starting in Exodus 25, contains instructions for building the tabernacle, which literally means “dwelling place”—the place where God will dwell among His people. It’s interesting as you look back at Genesis 1, you’ll see seven distinct creative acts—all of them prefaced by the words, “And God said…” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). Then when you get to Exodus 25 and the instructions for the tabernacle, you’ll never guess how many times we see the phrase, “The Lord said to Moses…” Count them—there are seven (Exodus 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 31:12).
It’s interesting back in Genesis 2, after God said the last thing He did, He rested on the Sabbath. So now look at what happens in Exodus 31:13, right after the seventh time we see “the Lord said.” It says, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my sabbaths.’” This is not accidental; this is intentional. This is God saying in essence, “I’m forming a new creation. I’m dwelling among My people again.” Obviously it’s different from Eden, because man is separated from the inner place, the Most Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwells in the tabernacle.
We see in Exodus 25:17-22 that the presence of God is guarded by cherubim on either side. Remember at the end of Genesis 3 what guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden where the presence of God dwelled? Cherubim. So the whole picture there in original creation, symbolized in this picture of the tabernacle, is a little piece of heaven on earth, a visible picture of God dwelling among His people, made possible by sacrifice. Aaron would enter into God’s presence and offer sacrifices. Exodus ends in chapter 40 and this is where we see Israel following God’s glory in this tent.
God saves His people from captivity so they might seek His face in worship and follow Him wherever He leads for the spread of His glory. This is big. Christian, why have you been saved from your sin? God saves you from your sin so that you might seek Him in worship and follow Him wherever He leads for the spread of His glory among the nations. That’s what Exodus is teaching us.
God, help us see that this is why we’ve been saved—to pursue You, praise You, serve You and follow You wherever and however You lead us for the spread of Your glory in the world. Please cause the purpose of Your salvation to be fulfilled in us. Teach us to seek Your face and follow Your leadership for Your glory.
13. Leviticus: How Can People in their Sinfulness Commune with God in His Holiness?
That leads us to Leviticus that makes it clear God is holy. We cannot be casual with God; we must be contrite before God. Sin is deadly. We’re given that reminder when Nadab and Abihu were struck down (Leviticus 10:. Sin is deadly and we see this all over Leviticus. The propensity to sin is strong and the punishment for sin is severe. In Leviticus 24:10-16, people were put to death for blaspheming God’s name.
Sin is no small thing in the sight of a holy God which means sacrifice is necessary. The payment for sin and death must be doled out. This is why we have an emphasis on sacrifice in Leviticus on an ongoing basis. God’s provision in the Old Testament was an annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.
The elements involved were a priest entering an earthly sanctuary and the blood of a spotless animal as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. In that picture, God saw the sins of Israel, then He was satisfied by the sacrifice of a substitute. But it was a sacrifice that would need to be repeated year after year after year. The effect of that sacrifice was to be a reminder of all our sin, year after year after year.
This all sets the stage for the New Testament, where we find an abiding sacrifice in the death of Christ. The elements now are a Priest entering a heavenly sanctuary, but the offering now is not a spotless animal, but the blood of a sinless Man. Through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross for us, God sees the sin in our lives and is satisfied by the sacrifice of His Son. That’s a sacrifice that will last forever.
The effect is not a reminder of our sins; it is the removal of all our sin through what Jesus did on the cross for us. Because of His once-for-all sacrifice, our guilt is gone and our conscience is clear. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us then draw near to God.” Let’s pray. Let’s pursue God. Jesus made the way open for you and me to pursue God.
Sinful people can only commune with a holy God through sufficient sacrifice, which means Jesus is our only hope of access to God. Jesus is our constant and eternal Advocate before God. Check this out in Hebrews 7:23-25:
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Did you hear that? It’s not just about you praying. Jesus lives to intercede for you. Jesus is your great High Priest at every moment. In every circumstance, every struggle you walk through, every trial or temptation you face, Jesus lives to intercede for you. Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “If I could hear Jesus praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Jesus, we praise You for this. We praise You for being our Intercessor. We’re praying everything in Your name and we pray this in Your name, with honor and reverence and gratitude for Your name. You’ve made it possible to have access to the Father and You are our eternal Advocate before the Father. All glory be to the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
14. Numbers 9: God Our Guide
It just keeps getting better. In Numbers 9, God is our Guide. Just like He promised in Exodus 40, Numbers 9 tells us that God is continually present with His people and God gives constant guidance to His people.
15. Numbers 11,12, 14, 21: The Power of Intercession
Let’s look at these stories of intercession—praying on behalf of others. In Numbers 11, Moses pleads for God’s righteous anger to relent again, then God answers by suspending judgment. In Numbers 12, Moses pleads for God’s healing amidst Miriam’s hurt and God answers according to His holiness. In Numbers 14, Moses pleads for God’s mercy according to God’s Word and God answers according to Moses’ word. That’s the phrase in Numbers 14:20, “I have pardoned, according to your word.” And then in Numbers 21, Moses pleads for God’s grace on behalf of sinners and God answers by providing salvation.
God, help us to faithfully intercede for others.
16. Deuteronomy: Love for God, The Way to Life
Then closing out the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy shows us that love for God is the way to life. Here in Deuteronomy, we see the supreme command of all Scripture is to love the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” In Matthew 22:35-38, Jesus says this is the first and greatest commandment.
Throughout Deuteronomy, we see exhortations from God to His people to enjoy the gifts while they exalt the Giver. But God constantly says, “Don’t forget the Giver”—which they do. In the same way, we forget as well. God gives us money as a good gift and we forget Him. We focus on money and we commit the idolatry of materialism. God gives us sex as a good gift and when we forget Him, His ways, and His laws, instead focusing on sex according to our ideas. We commit idolatry and sexual immorality.
One by one by one, we supposedly enjoy the gifts, but not according to God’s design and in a way that totally ignores the Giver. The supreme command of Scripture is to love God over and above everything this world offers, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might.
The clear charge is to hear the Law of God. In Deuteronomy 4 and throughout the book, over and over again we read, “Hear the Law. Hear the Law.” And in the end, the ultimate choice is clear: Death or life. Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” That’s the choice every one of us has. Do we want to live in the pursuit of God or do we want to die not pursuing God?
Summary of what the Pentateuch Says that Prayer and Fasting
So what we find here at the end of the Pentateuch is the prophet Moses was ultimately unable to bring life as he died, because he was a sinner. He couldn’t lead them into the Promised Land. Yet Moses points us to the greater prophet Jesus, Who is uniquely able to conquer death and give us life. Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up another prophet like you.” Jesus is the great High Priest and perfect Prophet. He’s not just any priest or any prophet. God Himself in the flesh will make the way for sinners to know and enjoy and pursue Him. That’s a summary of what the Pentateuch teaches about prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of God.
God, help us choose life in the pursuit of You. We deserve separation from You, but You have made restoration to You possible and we praise You for that tonight. We pray that You would help us take full advantage of that. Help us, O God, to choose life, listen to Your Law, and love u with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
May that be the commentary on my life and may it be the commentary on our lives all around the world, gathered together right now, that we love You with everything we are and everything we have. May this love be evident in our pursuit of You. Teach us what that means in the rest of our time together tonight, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Session 2 Discussion Questions
Study Guide pp. 7-46
1. The opening chapters of the Bible are foundational for understanding the nature of God, man, sin, and salvation. What’s the relationship between these truths and Scripture’s teaching on prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of God? (See #1, Genesis 1-4)
2. Why is it so important to grasp the truth that it is God who first pursues us (rather than the other way around)? (See #1, Genesis 1-4)
3. How does it skew prayer to seek God’s gifts rather than God Himself? (See #2, Genesis 12,15,17)
4. How do God’s attributes, such as immutability (unchangeableness), sovereignty, and self-sufficiency, give us confidence in prayer? (See #7, Exodus 3,6)
5. Does the fact that God’s purpose are unchanging mean that our prayers don’t matter? Explain your answer. (See #9, Exodus 32)
6. As Christians, we give thanks that God has saved us. But why did He save us? (See #12, Exodus 40)
7. What do the sacrifices in Leviticus have to teach us about how single people can approach a holy God? (See #13, Leviticus)
8. What are some needs in your own family, church, and community that you can intercede for? What about urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world? (See #15, Numbers 11, 12, 14, 21)
9. Why must love of God be the supreme motivation in our praying and fasting? What are some common unbiblical motivations for praying and fasting? (See #16, Deuteronomy)
10. If we’re honest, we often do not feel the need to pray. What does this reveal about the way we view ourselves? What does it reveal about our view of God?