This is love
Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them? You made them a little less than the heavenly beings. You crowned mankind with honor and majesty. you appoint them to rule over your creation; you have placed everything under their authority, including all the sheep and cattle, as well as the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea and everything that moves through the currents of the seas.Psalms 84-8 NET
“I read the news today, oh boy.”John Lennon and Paul McCartney
I often think of that Beatles lyric when I read the morning news. This morning, I found headlines about murders, disease, war, racial strife, and weather-related disasters. And that was just the beginning. Oh, boy! If you pay any attention, you know that the world is a mess. If you know any history, you know that it has been a mess throughout its recorded existence. Yet we see that God made mankind in His image and then gave them authority and responsibility for His creation. It seems that we have made a real mess of it. As we study the power of prayer, the original intent for mankind is the key to understanding.
God intended that we, the bearers of His image, would serve with Him as co-regents of this new creation. Because we’re created in His image, we have a free will. The wrong exercise of that will brought about some catastrophic changes. Those changes culminated first in a flood that eradicated most of humanity, then led to a dividing of the nations as they again refused to follow God. Through all this, mankind deteriorated in nature. Violence and self-centeredness ruled. In Genesis 11, at Babel, the desire to be gods and reach the heavens themselves brought about the separation and dispersion of the nations. Through it all, the authority and commission of God remained. For Him to override our free will would mean that we would cease to be His image-bearers.
In Genesis 12, God started over by choosing a man and entering into covenant with him. His name was Abram (Later changed to Abraham). The plan was to use him and his progeny to be the family of God in the earth, and through them to redeem all nations. This came as an initiative from God by grace. Abram responded positively. Through his generations, God worked to bring a Redeemer into the world who would make the covenant available to all who would worship Jehovah. He did this in Jesus Christ. All who place their faith in Him are part of the new people of God, the offspring of Abraham, parties to the covenant. Paul told the Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.Galatians 3:28-29 ESV
And to the Romans, he said:
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us allRomans 4:16 NKJV
As part of the covenant family we can learn a great deal by looking at an episode in Genesis 18. While on His way to evaluate and determine judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, God visits His covenant man Abraham. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was living in Sodom with his family. As the Lord and His two angelic companions rise to leave for Sodom, He makes a remarkable statement:
And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”Genesis 18:17-19 NKJV
God honors His covenant in ways that are hard for us to grasp. In this case, possibly because part of Abraham’s “household” lives in Sodom, the Lord feels obligated to let Abraham in on the plan. In fact, He reiterates part of the language of the original covenant in His reason for conferring with Abraham. (Genesis 12:3)
He then explains the reason for His mission to Sodom and Gomorrah: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” God is intervening because someone has cried out to Him about the horrors that are being committed there. This is likely a reference to the sexual abuse and perversion that was rampant in the culture. (He expressly promises such protections to the weak and helpless in response to their cries in Exodus 22:20-24, 27.)
Then, beginning in Verse 22, Abraham begins a very respectful but determined negotiation with the God of creation. Beginning with “Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?” Abraham works his way down to an agreement on ten: “Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. (Genesis 18:32-33 NKJV)”
This whole episode is worth reading over and over. It is so contrary to our traditional, religious understanding of prayer that we tend to read over it and ignore the implications. Maybe more amazing is the fact that when God did pour out judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, He first sent His angels to extract Lot and his family. You see, there were less than 10 righteous, but Lot was part of the family of His covenant man Abraham, so grace was extended. (Genesis 19:1-29)
Now let’s review a few things we can see in this episode:
- God is moving in judgment in response to an outcry from humans. This is seen several times in scripture, using very similar language. (Gen 4:10 / Ex 3:6-9 / 1 Samuel 9:16 / James 5:4)
- He confers with Abraham because of the covenant and the presence of Lot in the city. God honors His relationship with Abraham, and the relationship of Abraham with Lot.
- He actually amends His plan based on Abraham’s request. Prayer based on covenant relationship impacts how God moves in the earth.
- Notice, God was willing to save the city, but only Lot and his kids got out “And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Gen 19:16 NKJV)” God extended mercy to Lot because of his relationship to Abraham.
- Abraham stayed in God’s face on behalf of his family. Though he and his immediate household were in no imminent danger, their needs were met, and Lot was where he was by his own choice (Genesis 13:10-11), Abraham interceded anyway. Intercession is neither self-centered nor judgmental.
Here’s the Point: We began this study to find ways to help the people of God receive the healing that Jesus bought for them. To do this, we will need to step outside our usual prayer mode. For most of us, if we choose to get honest, our prayers are often self-centered: me, mine, and others who are in my immediate circle or who impact any of the above adversely. It’s time we move beyond self-centered prayer and begin to exercise our authority in the lives of our spiritual family. We are connected. We are in covenant. We have responsibility and authority. Let’s add the passion we saw in our friend Epaphras from Colossians 4:12 and the determination shown by our father Abraham in Genesis 18, and commit to persist until we see our whole church family “stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Colossians 4:12 NIV)” That includes healing!
Next Steps: Listen to your prayers. How much of your praying is about you and yours? Are you repeatedly recounting your failures and calling it repentance? Are you praying about things you fear will happen if you don’t pray? Whose needs are at the root of your requests? If so, let’s try another approach. Take someone from your connected community of faith, your local assembly. Add their name to your payer time. Speak the Word over them. Take 5 minutes to pray in the Spirit on their behalf. (Ephesians 6:17-18) Whenever they come to your mind, thank God for His grace and mercy to them. Let’s start building the habit of intercession and faith. This is love.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.John 15:12-14 NKJV
Previous lessons from “Healing Help” along with video teachings are available at www.pastorvirgil.com.