I started a one-year Bible reading plan this past January and too soon came upon the oft-dreaded book of Leviticus. You know what’s harder than reading the book of Leviticus? Listening to the book of Leviticus (which is how I’m doing my Bible reading plan this year). Not only does it seem repetitive and inapplicable, it can sometimes fill us with questions of how the same God who inspired Leviticus could inspire the book of John.
But through a podcast, God reminded me that every passage in Leviticus is about Christ. The first five books are in the Bible because they point to a specific part of God’s redemptive plan.
Similar stories that began to stick out as I read through the Pentateuch were the intercessions of Moses on behalf of the people of Israel. The first time recorded was in Exodus 32. After God miraculously saved His people out of Egyptian slavery and parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, He was ready to show them how they would live as His people. Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the freshly inscribed Ten Commandments, only to find the people worshipping a golden calf. God, righteously angry at the egregious sin of the people, tells Moses to stand back so that He can consume them. But then Moses prayed:
“But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Exodus 32:11-13).
The beauty of the story is that God relented! Moses reminded God of His covenant with Abraham that He would bless his descendants (Genesis 15), and God fulfilled His promise. Even when the Israelites forsook the covenant, God preserved it!
These intercessory prayers of Moses are recorded multiple times throughout the Israelites’ wilderness journey. Moses is a constant intercessor between a holy God and a sinful people (Numbers 11:1-2, 14:11-19, 16:20-23). God sovereignly ordained that His servant Moses would be the means by which God saved a stiff-necked people.
What does this story have to do with us, Gentiles who have been grafted into the people of God? One application is that, when we pray God’s promises back to Him, He answers (a great sermon on this can be found here). But God revealed to me an even greater purpose of this story—to point us to Christ, our greater intercessor.
Christ Intercedes as the Son
The writer of Hebrews says that Moses foreshadowed a role of Christ in God’s Kingdom:
“For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:3, 5-6)
Moses interceded as a servant; Christ intercedes as the Son! But why do we need intercession? A couple chapters later, the writer tells us:
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Christ] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25)
We have security in our salvation because Jesus was the perfect temple, the perfect priest, and the perfect sacrifice. When we, like the Israelites, forget the God that saved us out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13), Christ intercedes for us—reminding God, just like Moses did, of His promises to us, achieved through Christ!
Resting in His intercession
How does this affect our daily lives? While Christ has saved us from the penalty of sin, in our human flesh we struggle every day with the presence of sin in our lives. As much as we like to look down and scoff at the rebellious Israelites, every day we are guilty of equal rebellion. God gives us good gifts, and we complain. He leads and guides us, but we tire of following. He has promised an unimaginable inheritance, but we would rather have the fleeting pleasures of the world.
If we were honest with ourselves about our sin, we may be prone to fear. How could God still love us when we have forsaken Him? How do we know that He will not punish us for disobedience after He gave up His own Son? Because we have a better intercessor. We have confidence that no matter what we do, we will not be consumed by the righteous anger of God. We are secure in His love.
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:34, 38-39)
Your salvation does not rest in your own hands. Christ is guarding you today. When you sin, you can boldly approach the throne of God in repentance, confident that Christ is interceding for you, imploring His Father:
Turn from your burning anger at the rebellion of your child. For while their sin deserves the punishment of death, you have forgiven them and made them alive in me. Their debt has been paid at the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). Remember my perfect, sinless life. Remember my death. Remember my resurrection. I have sanctified your children through the offering of my body, once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).
So, sisters and brothers, let Christ’s intercession give us confidence, drawing us near to God with a true heart in full assurance of our faith (Hebrews 10:19-22).