Exodus 34:8-9 (TNIV)
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
This prayer follows on the heels of Moses’ coming down from the mountain with a freshly minted Ten Commandments, only to find the people worshiping a golden calf. In his anger, Moses smashes the stone tablets and orders punishment for the idol worshippers. Yet now he returns to God’s presence to beg forgiveness on behalf of the people.
Although their action betrayed Moses as their leader, Moses did not take personal offense. Instead, his anger was on behalf of both the God he loved and the people he loved, who now bore the weight of terrible sin and would suffer for it. Notice also that Moses asks the Lord’s forgiveness for “our” sin and wickedness. He had no part in worshipping the idol, yet he includes himself among the unclean who need God’s restoration. He identifies more with a disobedient people than with a holy and perfect Judge.
Moses’ plea on behalf of the Israelites is a good example of the intercessory effort that Jesus describes when he tells his disciples to bless and pray for their enemies. A prayer on behalf of our enemies today might read something like this:
Holy God and sovereign Lord, I put before you [offender’s name], whose wrongful action has grieved your Spirit and violated your law of love. In the name of Jesus, I ask your forgiveness. You are a just God, yet we seek your mercy because we are weak and prone to sin and selfish actions. Because of your steadfast love, I ask you to cover me and cover [name] with the righteousness of Jesus, that we may not suffer the punishment we deserve.
If we cannot pray these words from a sincere heart, then we know we still have forgiveness work to do.
FATHER, when someone hurts or offends me, I typically assume your role as righteous and holy Judge. I pray for humility like Moses’ to recognize that I am like the person who hurt me, and that I need your love and mercy just as much. Soften my heart until I desire only blessing and restoration for those who wrong me.
Luke 6:28; Acts 7:59-60
In what ways can you admit that you are like your offender?