And the LORD was so angry with Aaron
that he was ready to destroy him.
And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.
Moses and Aaron were brothers. But while Moses was spending forty days without bread or water while communing with God on the mountain, Aaron was complicit in the people of God worshiping the golden calf. So angry with the people and Aaron, God dispatched Moses back down the mountain and threatened to destroy them all. So angry with the people and Aaron, Moses shattered the tablets of stone on which the finger of God had written his law.
For the next forty days, Moses lay prostrate before the Lord. He prayed for the people. And he prayed for Aaron. Moses’ intercessory praying would surely fit the text of James’ teaching on prayer, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).” Aaron’s life was spared because his brother had prayed for him.
Have you relatives, blood or spiritual, who are worshiping their own golden calves? Have you friends or neighbors who have forgotten the Lord? Will you pray for them earnestly and fervently? Will you prostrate yourself and value interceding for them as greater than the hungering and thirsting of your own body? If so, perhaps God would be merciful to our loved ones as he was with Aaron.
A few observations about this praying of Moses in Deuteronomy 9 and also recorded in Exodus 32.
1. This is not a casual prayer.
“Lord, have mercy!” That is the simple prayer to say for those in sin. Although simple in words, we would err if we uttered these words in vain or with emptiness of our soul. So bold before the Lord was Moses that part of his prayer was, “If you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written (Exodus 32:32).”
Paul also prayed in this manner. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers (Romans 9:2-3).” And again in the next chapter, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved (Romans 10:1).”
The point of these texts is not whether they were theologically correct. They were not. The point is to see the intensity of these men’s prayers for their brothers.
2. This prayer cannot offer up excuses.
Moses did not attempt to convince the Lord that Aaron should escape wrath because of his unfortunate circumstances of life. Moses knew that God knew that Aaron had shattered the very law which God had just inscribed with his finger. He was a law breaker. He was a sinner deserving of God’s wrath.
Never try to persuade God that your brother (or whomever you are standing as intercessor) deserves the mercy of God. Nobody deserves mercy. The very definition of mercy is that something is given to one who does not deserve it.
[Tweet “Nobody deserves mercy.”]
Aaron was not a victim. He was a guilty rebel against God. And so is your brother.
3. This prayer does not cancel all consequences.
Mercy from God does remove the judgment of his wrath. But God does still allow some consequences which will work with the mercy to grow unto holiness for the life to come.
Moses’ destroyed the golden calf. He ground it into a powdery substance. He poured it into the water. He made the sinners drink the metal-laced water.
Saved sinners know that they have been forgiven, but they also know they have had to drink the dregs of their sin.
Will you pray for your loved ones to find mercy even if it means they must experience the dreadful consequences of their sin?
4. This prayer banks on the promises of God.
Note this part of Moses’ prayer, “Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin (Deuteronomy 9:27).”
Moses knew that the Lord had promised this people in a new land to the patriarchs. He was banking on God honoring his word. We may not have that same direct promise for our brother or our kids, etc. Nevertheless build your intercession on the texts of Scripture that prompt you to pray for your loved ones.
When I read a few chapters earlier this passage, “That you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son (Deuteronomy 6:2)”, I pray specifically for my children and my grandchildren. I ask the Lord to teach them to fear him. I pray for myself that I would fear him.
In so doing, I am coming to the Lord with his word regarding my descendants.
5. This prayer ultimately regards the glory of God’s name.
Moses’ reminded God that if God destroyed Aaron and the people, the Egyptians would say that the Lord was unable to fulfill his purposes. His name would be mocked.
Pray for your brother because you love him. More importantly, pray for your brother because his receiving mercy would bring honor to the name of the Lord.
We must acknowledge that at times, God withholds his mercy for the sake of his name. He will have mercy on whom he has mercy. God spoke that truth to Moses after Moses’ intercession (Exodus 33:19). In the passage we quoted earlier from Paul about the prayers for his brothers, he quotes this same verse in Exodus (Romans 9:15).
So we leave the results in the hands of God and subject to his wisdom, but we pray earnestly in the meantime the best we know how. We pray as Jesus taught us with lines like this, “Hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9)” and “Your will be done (Matthew 6:10).”