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Holman Bible Dictionary
Old Testament The heroes of Old Testament faith are in most cases heroes of intercessory prayer. Abraham asked God not to destroy Sodom in order to save his nephew Lot. He called on the righteous character of God, asking if God would “slay the righteous with the wicked” (Genesis 18:25 ). In so doing, Abraham acknowledged that he was not worthy to lay such claims before the holy God (Genesis 18:27 ). Abraham also interceded for Abimelech, fulfilling a prophetic function and bringing healing (Genesis 20:7 ,Genesis 20:7,20:17 ).
Moses intervened between God and Pharaoh as he tried to get permission for the people to leave Egypt (for example, Exodus 8:8 ). At Sinai the people asked Moses to represent them before God since they feared to approach the awesome God (Exodus 20:19 ). After the people built the golden calf, Moses prayed for God's mercy, calling on God to remember His reputation among the nations and His promises to the patriarchs. As a result, God “repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:11-14 ). Through intercessory prayer, Moses sought to make an atonement for sin, identifying himself so completely with the people that he asked to be blotted out of God's book if God would not forgive the people's sin (Exodus 32:30-34 ). Compare Deuteronomy 9:25 .
In face of the people's idolatry, Samuel asked God to forgive them (1 Samuel 7:5 ). Even when he did not agree with the people, Samuel took their plea for a king to God (1 Samuel 8:1; compare 1 Samuel 12:1 ). When God rejected Saul, Samuel prayed in grief (1 Samuel 15:11 ). David interceded all night on behalf of his new-born baby, even knowing God had decreed the child's death because of David's sin (2 Samuel 12:14-18 ). After taking a census without God's direction, David asked God to punish him and not the innocent people (2 Samuel 24:17 ).
In dedicating the Temple, Solomon asked God to hear the prayers of the sinful people and forgive them (1 Kings 8:1; compare 1 Kings 3:3-14 ). Elijah accused God of bringing “evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son” (1 Kings 17:20 ) and prayed successfully that the child would live again. Compare 2 Kings 4:32-34 . Hezekiah took Sennacherib's letter to the Temple and opened it before God, praying for deliverance from the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:14-20 ).
Intercession formed an important part of the prophet's task. Amos prayed that God's word would not come to pass (Amos 7:5-6 ). Jeremiah responded to God's word of judgment on the nation with a plea for God not to be a stranger among them who could not save themselves (Jeremiah 14:7-9 ). Lamentations is filled with prayers for the nation. The priests had intercession as part of their job description (Joel 2:17 ). Compare 1 Samuel 2:25 . The high priest's task was to make atonement for the people (Leviticus 16:1 ).
The prophet looked to a day when people from all nations could come to the Temple and make intercession (Isaiah 56:7 ). The prophetic hope centered in the Suffering Servant who would bear the sin of all people, making intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:6 ,Isaiah 53:6,53:12 ).
Intercession was not always effective. God told Jeremiah to forsake the prophetic duty of intercession: “Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16 ). Even the great heroes of intercession would not succeed in such situations (Jeremiah 15:1; compare Ezekiel 14:14 ). In the final analysis, even the most righteous of people need an intercessor with God (Job 9:32-35; Job 19:25; Job 23:1-17 ).
New Testament The New Testament teaches that intercession is expected of all believers (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ). Intercession for the sick is particularly important (James 5:14 ). Paul in his letters constantly referred to his prayers for the readers, and Jesus set forth the supreme example of intercession (Luke 22:32; Luke 23:34; John 17:1 ).
The Bible reveals that intercession is performed by the Holy Spirit, Christ, and Christians. Romans 8:26-27 shows that the Holy Spirit works to sustain the burdened believer, to intercede to carry even inexpressible prayers to God. Romans 8:34 offers the truth that the risen Christ will maintain His intercession for the believer, being the Mediator between God and humanity. God accepts a believer's prayers and praises through Christ's intercession. His death secured removal of sin; His resurrection bestowed life on those who believe in Him; His ascension brought exaltation to power in heaven and on earth. Now He intercedes for us at God's throne of grace. Hebrews 7:25 proclaims the complete deliverance that comes through salvation accomplished through Christ and notes that He is ever present in heaven to intercede for those who come to Him. See Prayer .
J. William Thompson and Trent C. Butler
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Intercession'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/i/intercession.html. 1991.