Intercession is intervening. More specifically it is going to God on someone’s behalf. In the Old Testament, the priests did this. As New Testament believers, we are priests (1 Peter 2:9, Rev 5:10). We have access to God through Jesus Christ, but rather than enter the Holy Place in the tabernacle or Temple, we enter God’s presence through prayer. It a holy privilege and duty, not to be taken lightly. But it is no less strenuous and sometimes no less messy. Last week we looked at Nehemiah and his BURDEN for others. This week, let’s learn from Daniel and his IDENTIFICATION with those for whom he was interceding.
We know Daniel was a man of prayer. Habitual, heartfelt, prayer. Several are recorded in Scripture, but we are going to focus on his great prayer is in Daniel 9:4-19.
I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. Daniel 9:4-5 (ESV)
Look at what Daniel confessed. WE have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled and turned aside. Daniel had not done any of those things. I mean, he wasn’t perfect, but his life was exemplary. Was it false modesty? Was it delusion? Was it an overly active guilty conscience? No. None of those. He was identifying himself with his people who needed God’s forgiveness and help.
It takes humility and compassion to identify with those who have sinned and stand in need of prayer.
In the days of the Old Testament sacrifices, the one bringing the offering would first put his hands on the animal’s head in a symbolic gesture. It was a way of proclaiming, “The death of the animal is the death I should have received because of my sin.” That’s the humility part.
But it also takes a deep sense of compassion for those in sin, and sense of responsibility for their well-being. Daniel had just finished reading Jeremiah and he understood that the exile was the outworking of God’s judgment. Now the people would continue to suffer unless God showed them mercy. Because Daniel loved his people and identified with them, he interceded for God to act quickly to forgive them and restore them (vv. 16-19)
Identifying with sinners is Christlike.
Jesus Christ identified with us. Philippians 2:8 explains how He humbled Himself and became a man. Hebrews 2:9-10 shows us that His being made a little lower than the angels allowed Him to go through the death sentence for every person.
Identifying with sinners is not sinning with them.
It is intervening on their behalf before the Father. Again, Jesus did not sin. Ever. Daniel did not commit the sins that caused the captivity of Judah. But their love for others, their heartbreak at the suffering caused them to act. In an oversimplified analogy, think of it like a prince who has access to his father the king. The prince knows a group of people in his kingdom who are suffering because they rebelled against the king. But the prince goes and asks for the king to be merciful. While the king might not hear the rebels, he might be moved by the pleas of his son.
The people may never know you are interceding for them.
It is unlikely the people in Judah knew how Daniel prayed for them. We don’t know all the ways Jesus intercedes for us even today. That shouldn’t stop us. In humility, we don’t pray to win points with God or with those we pray for. We do it because we love people, we want God to bless them and we know that God cannot bless them in their rebellion against Him?
So, what situations cause your heart to break because you know God is not pleased? What injustices need to be made right for us to live as God’s people? These things, the things that move you are invitations to intercession. Take those opportunities, identify with those people, and meet God in humility and with compassion just like Daniel.