The next three appointed times on YHVH’s calendar is approaching, Yom T’ruah, Yom Kippurim, and Sukkot. It is always a good thing to “take stock” of our spiritual condition before we observe these days. Especially Yom Kippurim, a day of humbling ourselves before YHVH. It is part of Jewish tradition to do introspection for forty days before Yom Kippurim, the month of Elul and the Ten days of Awe (the first ten days of Tishri.) The word “elul” means search, so this is very appropriate as we search our hearts during this time. People examine themselves and forgive and ask forgiveness of those they have wronged. Though we should be doing this all the time, I find it a good tradition. It’s like a spiritual house cleaning before the fall feasts.
I am currently reading through the book of Isaiah, and Isaiah 58, struck a cord with me. It fits in very well with this context of searching our hearts. It showed me that only keeping YHVH’s commandments is not enough. If we only keep YHVH’s commandments, we are participating in false worship. This may seem like a harsh statement, but allow me to explain.
Why is it not enough to do righteousness?
We practice false worship when we religiously do the commandments, while not having compassion or love for those around us. YHVH feels very strongly about this. In Isaiah 58, He urged Isaiah to cry out loud, not to hold back, to raise his voice like a trumpet and declare this to them.
1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins.
He describes how they were seeking YHVH and delighted to know His ways.
2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their Elohim. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of Elohim.
They wanted to do righteousness and His ordinances. They asked YHVH for just decisions and delight in the nearness of YHVH. They fasted in sackcloth and ashes, humbling themselves. Yet YHVH did not hear them, He didn’t seem to notice. Why was this so, or should I rather ask “why is this so?”
3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. 4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
It is possible to be very religious and do the commandments, but our voice is not heard on high. Why? Because we may be doing our our desire, instead of His desire, and be participating in contention and strife.
This passage may very well be describing us in the Messianic movement of today. We are very conscientious in keeping the commandments, doing all the rituals as prescribed. The question is, “is our hearts in it?” Are we doing our desire, or YHVH’s? To do YHVH’s desire is to do it with our hearts also, a heart filled with love. We cannot claim to love YHVH, yet hate ourselves or our neighbor. YHVH is not interested in mere rituals, He wants us to love one another, to have compassion for one another.
20 The perverse in heart are an abomination to YHVH, But the blameless in their walk are His delight.
So, what are we to do differently? How do we become blameless in our walk?
What are we to do?
If keeping the commandments is not enough, what are we to do? We are not saying that it is wrong to keep the commandments, on the contrary. We are to be obedient to YHVH’s instructions, but there is more to being a believer.
Love and help others, set the captives free
We are to do what Y’shua did. Keep in mind that Y’shua always kept YHVH’s commandments. However, He did much more than that. We can read about His ministry in more detail in the gospel accounts, but we want to point you to two passages in Isaiah. Part of what He came to do was prophesied in Isaiah 58 and Isaiah 61.
6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? 7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
In Isaiah 61, the passage Y’shua read in the synagogue and proclaimed it to be fulfilled in Him, is the second one.
1 The Spirit of YHVH Elohim is upon me, Because YHVH has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of YHVH And the day of vengeance of our Elohim; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of YHVH, that He may be glorified.
Y’shua came to set the captives free, to heal the brokenhearted and bring good news to the afflicted.
Through Him we have the authority and ability to do the same.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
There is another connection between these passages in Isaiah 58 and Isaiah 61. The reward is similar.
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And YHVH will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
The passage in Isaiah 61 is followed by a similar passage:
4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. 6 But you will be called the priests of YHVH; You will be spoken of as ministers of our Elohim. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.
These are beautiful promises and YHVH will fulfill His word. There is another reward for those who do not do this:
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Master, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
Those who had love and compassion for others were called righteous. The passage continues with Y’shua explaining to the group on His left why they were being sent to the eternal fire. They didn’t have love and compassion for others.
When we read further along in the book of Isaiah, in chapter 59, we read about YHVH’s astonishment for the lack of intercession.
Our modern culture tends to focus on self. People tend not to care about something or someone if they are not directly affected. This is generally speaking, I know there are many people who do care. YHVH wants us to be concerned with others. He wants us to help others, but He also wants us to intercede on their behalf. There are many references in scripture of intercession and how YHVH relented after people interceded. In Isaiah 59, we read how YHVH was astonished that there was no one to intercede.
16 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him.
Intercede is defined as follows by the Holman illustrated Bible Dictionary:
INTERCESSION Act of intervening or mediating between differing parties, particularly the act of praying to God on behalf of another person. In the OT the Hebrew verb pagaʿ is used of such pleading or interceding (Gen. 23:8; Isa. 53:12; 59:16; Jer. 7:16; 15:11; 27:18; 36:25). More general terms such as palal, “pray,” or chalah, “appease,” are also sometimes translated “intercede” (1 Sam. 7:5; 1 Kings 13:6). In the NT the Greek term is entungkano and its derivatives (Rom. 8:26–27, 34; 1 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 7:25).2
There are many examples in scripture of kings and prophets interceding on behalf of the people. To intercede goes with the office of being king, prophet or leader. It does not only accompany a special role, it can be a special calling.
Intercession often arises as the distinct burden of the individual who has been called to serve God among His people. It becomes the inevitable accompaniment of his work for God, especially in the midst of crisis and failure. Intercession becomes more prominent as the servant of God increasingly identifies himself with the guilt of the people to whose service he has been called.3
Intercession is identifying with the guilt of the people you are interceding for. The people continue in their ways while the intercessor takes their guilt upon himself/herself and repent on their behalf. He/she pleads for mercy from YHVH’s wrath. YHVH may relent, but not always, He will do according to His will.
In Ezekiel we read again how YHVH was looking for somebody to intercede, but found none.
30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
Moses interceded for the people after the sin they committed with the golden calf.
23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them.
Moses stood in the breach for the people, else YHVH would have destroyed them.
How are we to intercede?
We read how he did it in Ex 32:11–14 and Deut 9:25–29.
25 “So I fell down before YHVH the forty days and nights, which I did because YHVH had said He would destroy you. 26 “I prayed to YHVH and said, ‘O YHVH Elohim, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 ‘Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. 28 ‘Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say, “Because YHVH was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” 29 ‘Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.’
Moses pleaded for mercy on two bases: his testimony to the Egyptians (32:12) and God’s promises to the patriarchs (v. 13). Such a destruction would vindicate Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt and would cause the Egyptians to mock the true God. Further, God would be viewed as One who breaks promises. He said He would make the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob) innumerable (Gen. 15:5; 22:17a; 26:4a; 28:14; 32:13) and would take them into the Promised Land (Gen. 15:18–21; 22:17b; 26:4b; 28:13; 32:13). Moses recognized that the people had sinned so he did not seek to justify their actions. As a result God relented of His threatened course of judgment. The word “relented” does not mean that God changed His mind but that He embarked on another course of action. The Hebrew word nāḥam suggests relief or comfort from a planned, undesirable course of action. God is not inflexible; He responds to individuals’ needs, attitudes, and actions.4
The mention of the 40 days and 40 nights recalled Moses’ fasting (v. 18) and indicated his sincerity as well as his understanding of the situation’s gravity. He was totally concerned with God’s glory and reputation on the earth. He did not plead for Israel on the basis of any merit of hers. Rather he “reminded” God that Israel was His own inheritance (cf. v. 29 and see comments of 4:20). Therefore in the light of His promise to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; cf. 9:5; see comments on 1:8), God’s destruction of Israel would call into question His ability to fulfill His promise (9:28). This prayer contained no self-seeking on Moses’ part. Instead it was out of concern for God’s reputation and a desire for Him to demonstrate once again His grace by forgiving the stubbornness … wickedness, and sin (v. 27) of God’s people, His inheritance, whom He delivered out of Egypt by His power (cf. v. 26) and outstretched arm (see comments on 4:34).5
Moses was sincere in his intercession for the people. He fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. He understood the seriousness of the situation. He did not plead for Israel on the basis of any merit of theirs. He also was not self seeking in his intercession, but was concerned with YHVH’s reputation and glory on the earth. He reminded YHVH of His testimony to the Egyptians if He destroyed the people and also the promises YHVH made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We can, when we intercede, “remind” YHVH of His promises to His people. We are His people, His children, fellow heirs through the finished work of the Messiah Y’shua and therefor share in the promises made to Israel. We are not replacing Israel, we are part of Israel.
Let’s look at some specific instructions and examples found in scripture.
Interceding for our children
Parents are called to intercede on behalf of their children like Job did. This is part of being a parent. We want the best for our children, but are not capable of realizing it for them as they make their own choices when they are older.
5 When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed Elohim in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Interceding for those in authority
Paul urges fellow believers to pray and petition on behalf of all men, kings and all who are in authority in order to be able to live a tranquil life.
1 Timothy 2:1–2
1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
In Proverbs, we read that a king’s heart is like channels of water in YHVH’s hand. He turns and directs it wherever He wishes.
1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of YHVH; He turns it wherever He wishes.
In Ezra, we read how YHVH turned the heart of the King of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of YHVH.
22 And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for YHVH had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of Elohim, the Elohim of Israel.
It may be wise to stop criticizing our leaders and start praying for them and on behalf of them. YHVH can change their hearts.
We also read in Jeremiah that we are to seek the welfare of the city He has sent us to and to pray to YHVH on its behalf.
Intercede for your city
7 ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to YHVH on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’
We are to intercede for the area and people in the area we live in. YHVH has placed each of us where we are for His purposes. We cannot live in a little cocoon, only focusing on ourselves.
We cannot ignore what is going on around us. We are to be vigilant and pray and intercede for the people in our lives, our children, our families, but also for other people. The people in our area, our leaders and the government over us. As believers we are called to do so. It is actually to our benefit also when we intercede for our area (city) and the authorities over us.
So from this study, we have to conclude that there is much more to being a believer than to do YHVH’s commandments. We have to be obedient, but with a sincere heart. We are also to have love and compassion for those around us. Helping to carry a burden when needed.
Last, but not least, we are to intercede on behalf of others. YHVH requires this from us. If we do, He may relent from the deserved punishment. This is how we make our voice heard on high.
1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus
2. Thompson, J. W., & Butler, T. C. (2003). Intercession. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, & E. R. Clendenen (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 828). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
3. Wallace, R. S. (1979–1988). Intercession. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 2, p. 858). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
4. Hannah, J. D. (1985). Exodus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 156). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
5. Deere, J. S. (1985). Deuteronomy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 280). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Tags: compassion, elul, example, family, fasting, government, heart, intercede, intercession, keep commandments, leaders, love, obedience, prayer, preparation, reward, search, set captives free, sppointed times, voice heard, Y'Shua
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