One of the most difficult things we are called to do as Christians is to love and pray for those who sin against us. The sinful corruption and weakness of our flesh protests loudly against this. We are called to love and pray for our enemies and yet we find it difficult to pray for each other in the common grievances and offenses that are sure to be present when sinners live together in community. Thankfully the Lord has given us wonderful illustrations of intercessory prayer for those who sin against us.
One great example comes from the book of Numbers chapter 14. There we find that the whole congregation of the people of Israel rebel against Moses once again. The Lord had raised him up and used him to lead the people to the edge of the promised land and yet they refused to enter. They chose to believe the report of the unfaithful spies that suggested that the land was not all that good and that they could never gain victory over the strong and mighty people who lived there. And so they responded in unbelief to God’s promise to give them a good land and to give them victory over those who possessed it. Then they turned on Moses in anger and ungratefulness. Not only did they suggest that the choose another leader and go back to Egypt but that Moses be stoned!
The response of the Lord was righteous anger and indignation. He announced his intent to strike them with the pestilence, disinherit them, and to make a nation from Moses. Now one might think that Moses would be greatly tempted after such a rebellion and threat to his life to say, “Yeah that’s right Lord, strike them dead and bless me. I’m the only one who has been faithful and I’ve put up with this people long enough.” But he doesn’t. Though the whole congregation had said he ought to be stoned to death, he prayed for their lives. He prayed for God’s mercy and blessing upon them saying, “Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love…” And then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word.”
Let me encourage you to read Numbers 14:1-20 and understand what grace and forbearance we ought to exercise in order to intercede for other sinners. Yes, even those who greatly sin against us.