God Talking to God

By Francis Frangipane

We have been studying the influence that one mercy-motivated intercessor can have upon the heart of God. In this, we looked at Abraham and then expanded our study to Moses. The Lord heard the intercession of Moses as he stood between divine judgment and Israel's sin, and he stayed in the place of intercession until God's Word concerning Israel came to pass.

The cycle of Israel's sin and God's justice repeated itself time and again. In essence, it was always the same: Israel rebelled; God threatened destruction; Moses interceded; God forgave.

Yet, even as we are awed by the power and privilege of prayer, in the subconscious realms of our souls, for some, another thought forms. At first, it appears as a question; because it is left unattended, it mutates into a multi-tentacled doubt. As we watch the cycle of sin and intercession repeat, some wonder: Why does Moses' attitude toward Israel seem so much more merciful than God's?

The very idea seems blasphemous; we are instantly ashamed that we thought it. We bury it, but it stays alive within us. For it does appear that the Lord would have been harsh, destroying men, women and children, had Moses not entreated Him.

Of course, as good Christians, we dare not voice this doubt; we do not even whisper it to our most trusted friends. As a result, what ought to be a wonderful example of the value and power of prayer, instead, on a more basic level, causes us to mistrust God's goodness whenever our goodness fails.

Even if you are not personally struggling with this battle, someone you love probably is or will be. When people fall away from God, often it is because they doubt the goodness of God to forgive them. Thus, we need to clear this mystery concerning God's wrath and its relationship to man's prayer.

The Purpose of God
There is a revelation awaiting us about the nature of God-indeed, the nature of life itself-that will not only settle our doubts but will accelerate our pursuit of Christlike-ness. The key that unlocks the mystery of divine judgment, and its power to compel us toward mercy, begins in the first chapter of Genesis. There, we discover that God has encoded into humanity a grand and irreversible purpose: We have been created to reveal the image and likeness of God.

Though the world scene has continually changed, the Lord has never changed nor deviated from this plan. Let's read as God Himself declared His purpose in the sacred Scriptures. The Lord said,

"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
-Gen 1:26-27

Though we read that man was created in the divine image, let me suggest to you that, in Genesis, we are seeing a beginning, not a fulfillment. God's plan was only initiated in Eden. Although Adam and Eve possessed intelligence and freedom of will above that of the animals, the divine nature was far from full bloom.

You say, "Wait, the Bible said that God created man in His own image. It is past tense." Yes. However, the faith-voice of the Holy Spirit often speaks of things to come as though they were already here. The Lord said to Abraham, "A father of many nations have I made you" (past tense). Yet, when we look at Abraham and Sarah, we see they were actually childless when they received God's promise (see Rom 4:17). In fact, when Sarah died, they had produced but one child, not many nations. As time progressed, many nations have, indeed, emerged from Abraham. God's Word is a historic, completed fact in eternity, but in the realm of time it is a truth yet to be manifest.

For further proof that Adam and Eve were not walking in the completed likeness of God, consider: Shortly after they were created, they fell into sin. If mankind were functionally created in the image and likeness of God, how is it that they sin? Can God sin? Sin is the one thing God cannot do.

So man's creation in the garden of Eden is really the commencement to a journey that would actually span the ages of time; man's history with God represents unfolding stages in that journey.

As we study the Bible, we learn that the Lord was serious about sin, both in Eden and also in Noah's day. Then, through Abraham, we discover that God exalts faith above works; to believe God is a form of righteousness that exceeds ritual obedience. In Moses' era, through the Law, God provided structure to concepts of righteousness and means to atone for man's failings. Finally, in Jesus Christ, God sums up all that He requires of man. He satisfies the demands of wrath and Law, and celebrates the triumph of mercy and grace. We behold the image and likeness of God in human form, and more: We see the true pattern to which God seeks to conform us.

The introduction of Christ into the consciousness of mankind is chronicled by the New Testament writers. Romans 8:28-30 reveals that Christ is the first-born of many predestined brethren. Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 13 explain that Christ is living in us now; while 2 Corinthians 3:18 assures us that, from the moment Christ entered our spirits, we began a process of transformation, where the Spirit conforms us, from glory to glory, into His image.

Finally, the full metamorphoses, from fallen sinner to man recreated in God's nature, will be accomplished at the end of the last trump of this dispensation. Our mortality will put on immortality and our corruptible will put on incorruption, and shall be like Him (1 Cor 15:53; 1 John 3:2). At that moment, all heaven will celebrate in awe and praise, "the mystery of God is finished" (Rev 10:7).

Adam never was the prototype. From eternity God's purpose was that man would be conformed to Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that God chose us in Christ prior to Adam's fall. Indeed, He chose us "before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4).

Thus, Adam's sin did not surprise the Lord. There was no moment of panic in heaven nor new adjustments to be made from the original plan. The fall of Adam and Eve was an event that unfolded on schedule. In other words, in His omniscience, the Lord knew man would sin, He calculated its effect, and incorporated man's fall into His plan before Adam even sinned.

This, however, is not to say that we are free to blame God for our failures. The Lord did not tempt Adam and Eve, nor did He in any way cause them to sin. Adam was specifically warned to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The man knew there were consequences. God did not create man to experience sin, but to know genuine freedom. The Lord knew, however, that with freedom would come sin and that mankind's fall was inevitable.

As further evidence that man's sin was no surprise to God, consider well this thought: Christ is revealed in Scripture as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8 nkj; see also 1 Pet 1:18-20). Amazingly, before man sinned, his debt was paid. The fall allowed for a deepening of man's dependency upon God; it was an unavoidable component in divine purpose.

Man & God Together in Redemption
There is something else in the Genesis account to consider. The Scriptures nearly always speak of the Almighty in singular terms. We read that God (singular) created the physical world. But then, when we read of man, the Almighty speaks in plural terms, saying, "Let Us make man . . ."

Theologically speaking, we define the Lord's ability to separate Himself from Himself without diminishing the essential oneness of His nature as the Trinity. The most visible example, of course, is the relationship between the Father and Son. Each time Jesus prayed to the Father, it was, in truth, God on earth talking with God in heaven: God separated from Himself, yet remained one with Himself.

Christ, as God's Son, is said to have been "begotten" by the Father. He is the same substance as God, yet separated organically from the Godhead by human flesh and subjective human experience. Yet, never was Christ separated from His oneness with the Father. As Christians, we accept the mystery of the Trinity even if we cannot fully understand it. However, this discovery of God's "separated oneness" leads us back to our original question: Is Moses more merciful than God?

Let us ask another question: Who is the source and inspiration of Moses' prayer life? The answer to this question will settle the mystery concerning prayer, mercy and the judgment of God. Let's look at what happened to Moses to bring him into his relationship with the Almighty.

We can imagine that the highly cultured Egyptians were shocked that Moses, now a mature and popular prince in Egypt, had become increasingly more concerned for the Hebrew slaves. After all, Moses was enjoying the finest conditions that civilization and position in life provided. There was nothing to gain, no personal advantage to be found, by identifying with Egypt's slaves. The Egyptians deemed the Israelites hardly more valuable than cattle. The idea of somehow helping the Hebrews was preposterous. Help them? As a prince in Egypt, Moses owned them!

Yet, Moses could not defend himself against the deepening burdens of his own heart. Even against his will, empathy toward the Hebrews was growing within him. >From the moment he began to identify with the weaknesses, the injustices and the sufferings of his oppressed brethren, the Spirit of Christ began awakening him to his destiny. As we said earlier, this act of compassionate identification with those who are scorned, disgraced or discredited is called the reproach of Christ, which Moses considered to be "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt" (Heb 11:26).

Prior to this time, Moses was aloof and apathetic toward Israel's need. However, after Christ had worked in him, he had authority to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and he had compassion to intercede for them in their sin. Thus we see that Moses was himself the product of Christ's mercy toward Israel.

The Lord revealed Himself perfectly in the New Testament; however, He also made Himself evident frequently through people in the Old Testament. Indeed, whenever we read of intercessory prayer or redemptive action on the part of one for the need of many, it is actually Christ manifesting through that individual. Moses bore Christ's reproach.

The question of whether Moses is more merciful than God proves to be superfluous, for the spirit of intercession emerging through Moses is not Moses, but Christ praying through him on behalf of man. Man is not more merciful than God; God is using man to manifest His mercy! What we actually are seeing operating through human instrumentality is God in His mercy interceding before God in His justice. At the highest level, intercessory prayer is God talking to God through man.

Remember, we said earlier that God separates Himself from Himself, yet never loses His essential oneness with Himself in the Godhead. When the Lord appears ready to reveal His wrath, He will always, simultaneously, be searching for an individual through whom Christ can emerge in the mercy prayer.

Without doubt God must reveal His righteous judgment concerning sin, otherwise mercy has no meaning or value. In the Godhead, the Father is revealed as God in authority and justice; Christ is God revealed in redemptive mercy; the Holy Spirit is God in manifest power. Yet, the goal of the Godhead is not only to display all the aspects of the divine nature, but to unveil the Almighty in His highest glory: love.

As Christians, our call is to manifest the voice and mercy of Christ to God. In intercessory prayer and mercy-motivated action, we identify with those exiled from heaven because of sin; and we unite with those separated from God because of heartache, physical suffering, or persecution. In manifesting the redemptive mercy of God, we embrace the very reason for our existence: to be transformed into Christ's image.

More Perfect Than Paradise
God so designed life that a significant measure of the administration of mercy would only come through human agencies. He tells Moses,

"Behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh." -Ex 3:9-10
The Lord says, "I have seen the oppression . . . I will send you." God sees the need, but He reveals His mercy through His servant. Whether we are speaking of Moses' intercession or the temple offerings of the Jewish priests or the most perfect act of intercession, Christ's incarnation and death, God's mercy finds its greatest manifestation through human instrumentality.

When we hear that the Spirit of God is threatening wrath, the very fact that He is warning us first gives us the opportunity, even with fear and trembling, to embrace the role of Christ-inspired intercession. He desires that we touch His heart with mercy, thus averting wrath. In truth, the primary reason God warns is not so we can run and hide, but so we can stand and pray. He seeks to inspire mercy in His people. Even when the Almighty shows Himself angered or grieved and poised for judgment, He tells us that He is still seeking a means of mercy. He says, "I searched for a man among them who should . . . stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it" (Ezek 22:30).

We can expect that the Lord would thrust us into times of desperation where we would face genuine calamities or fearful situations. He does this in order that we truly participate with Him in the redemptive purpose. And it is here, whether our cry is for our children or church, our city or country, that we are compelled toward God for mercy; in desperation, we grasp and attain the nature of Christ.

Adam's sin and subsequent expulsion from Eden seemed the worst of all possible events; yet, to the Almighty, there were lessons man needed to learn about mercy and love that could not be taught in Paradise. Indeed, what looks like an imperfect environment to us is actually the perfect place to create man in the likeness of God. Here, we have a realm suitable for producing tested virtue. In this fallen world, character can be proven genuine and worship made pure and truly precious. Yes, it is here where we truly discover the depths of God's love in sending Christ to die for our sin. And here, in the fire of life-and-death realities, where we become like Him.

Lord Jesus, Your love, Your sacrifice is the pattern for my life. How I desire to be like You. I want more than anything to reveal Your mercy, both to the world and also to the Father. I surrender all my other rights and privileges that I may possess this glorious gift of conformity to You. I love You, Lord. Use me, pray through me, love through me until, in all things, I reflect Your image and likeness.