“And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” -Exodus 32:14
This is one of the most theologically baffling and personally awe inspiring and encouraging verses in all of the Bible. So just to make sure we’ve got the context behind Exodus 32:14, at the beginning of this chapter, God’s people have formed a golden calf and are bowing down and worshiping it, and indulging in all kinds of idolatry and immorality, while God is meeting with Moses on the mountain, giving his law to him and to his people.
God is an incredibly merciful towards us in His sovereignty and perfection.
And God says to Moses back in verse 7, “Go down for your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They’ve turned aside from the way I commanded them. They’ve made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it.” And God says, “I’ve seen this people, behold, it’s 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.”
So God is saying, “his people deserve my judgment and I’m going to pour out my wrath upon them for their sin.” Verse 11 says, “But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, ‘Oh Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people?'” And he calls on God and the verses that follow to be gracious and to save his people, not to pour out his wrath on them, to spare them. And in response to Moses intercession, verse 14 says, “The Lord relented from the disaster that had spoken of bringing on his people.” Oh, do you realize what just happened? Moses prayed and God responded to Moses prayer. Moses prayer affected what God did.
Now, that’s why I mentioned theologically baffling, all kinds of questions start coming up here. Did God change his mind? And we know the Bible makes clear, the Lord is not a man, not like us, he doesn’t change his mind, his will, his purpose is fixed. And there’s a ton we get talk about in this passage, I preached on it. If you go to radical.net, you can look up Exodus chapter 32, and hear a couple different sermons that I’ve preached on this, but I don’t have time to dive into all that now.
But I do want to point out, God is sovereign, his purpose is unchanging, his promises are unchanging, and his plan is unfolding here in response to Moses’ prayer. And God’s ordained it all. God’s sovereign over it all, God sovereign over even Moses being in this position where he is interceding, but that’s the beauty. That’s the beauty of this passage that I want to lead us into prayer. God has ordained our prayers, your prayers, my prayers, to be a means by which his plans and purposes are accomplished in the world.
And what that means is, when we pray it matters. When we pray, God acts. When we implore God on behalf of others, God hears and he answers our prayers. Some people might say, “Well, if God is sovereign, then why even pray? If God’s going to do what he’s going to do, then it doesn’t even matter if I pray. That’s not at all what the Bible teaches. Our prayers matter. When we pray, God works. God responds to the prayers of his people. And our prayers are the means by which God and his sovereignty accomplishes his purposes in the world. This is an awesome thought that should drive us to intercession day in and day out, to pray like it matters.
I want to encourage you. And even as we’re about to pray, to believe that prayer matters. Just like Moses implored, the Lord his God and God answered. When you and I implore the Lord our God, he answers. So let’s pray with faith. Oh God, we praise you for the privilege of intercession. God, it feels really bold to come before you the sovereign Lord of the universe and to ask you to do things, to present requests to you. And to believe that when we pray and because we pray, that you act in response our prayers. This is an awesome thought. I don’t even know how to comprehend this, but God, I want to step fully into this. And specifically in light of this picture in Exodus 32, I want to lead us to pray right now, God, that you would relent your wrath and show your mercy.
God, we’ve got people in our lives that we’re praying for. Who right now are under your judgment, who have not turned and trusted in Jesus, who we’ve shared the gospel with. God, we pray that today would be the day. That soon would be the moment when they turn and trust in you. God we ask that in faith, please draw people to yourself, relent your wrath, show your mercy. I’m thinking about specific people in my life that I’ve shared the gospel with, and been praying for, for a long time, and others that are coming to our minds. God, we pray right now, we intercede, we implore you, show your mercy.
God, as we pray for unreached people groups, yes, for the Bhoksa people in India, thousands upon thousands of them and not one of them is a follower of Jesus. God, we know your promise. We know that you sent Jesus to purchase people for God, to redeem people for you, from every nation, tribe, and tongue, including the Bhoksa in India. So God, we pray, claim that which you have redeemed, which you sent your son to die for them. God we pray that the Bhoksa people would be saved, we implore you, make your salvation known among the Bhoksa. And God we ask that our prayers right now might be the means by which you send a laborer to them, and you cause the gospel to go to them, and you open their eyes, God. Hear our prayers even right now we pray the Bhoksa people would be reached with the gospel.
God we can go on for hours right now. And I pray that you would teach us to do this. Teach us to intercede like this with faith, with the faith of Moses imploring you, believing, that when we pray you hear. And when we pray, you answer, according to your sovereign purposes and plans. Oh God, we praise you for the privilege of intercession and we step fully into it. And we pray that you would teach us to pray with faith just like we see in Exodus 32. Pray with faith, to pray with faith that when we implore you, you hear us and you act. That our prayers have an effect, by your sovereign will, and your sovereign grace. We praise you for this privilege in Jesus’ name. Amen.