Praying for the sinner

First let me encourage you to check at the post before this one from karch on “Obama won. Now what?” It best expresses my own feelings on Obama’s reelection and my lack of concern over it in the grand scheme of things. This post can easily have some connections to the events of these past couple of days, but it also can relate to us in other areas of our life. It is based off a passage of Scripture that hit me so hard I nearly flipped over when I really read it for the first time.

It is a time of difficulty for Israel. They have gotten out of a nasty rut of worthless judges for a while and have had Samuel governing them as a nation. Samuel is now old. He has made the mistake of setting his sons up as the new judges, but they are not ready for such responsibility. Israel responds by making a request. Israel wants a king to rule them like all the other nations.

This is a controversial issue because God gets pretty ticked at Israel for requesting a king. He gets angry at them even though he tells Abraham kings will come down from his line, and even gives Israel guidelines in Deuteronomy for picking a king. Why then was God so angry? To go into the nuances of this issue will take another post for another day, but a very brief explanation is to take notice of the full request of Israel. Israel did not simply ask for a king. They asked for a king like all the other nations. Israel did not want to be set apart. They did not want to be unique as a nation guided by God. They wanted to fit in with other nations. It was not the request of the king that should Israel turning form God, it was the desire to be like the outside world that caused the issue.

God allowed it though. He let Israel have their king, but made a point to send a message. Samuel told Israel what a mess they were getting themselves into by wanting to have a ruler that would turn them from God, and lead them into a time of despair, taxes, and war. Israel was getting an insane rebuking for their sin. Israel responding with sorrow and guilt over their sin, and they ask for Samuel to pray for them. It is Samuel’s response that I want to focus on.

“Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside form following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people. Morever, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

People sin and turn from God. They need to be called out on those things. However, as believers we still have another responsibility beyond the confrontation. It is the responsibility of intercession. How often are we praying for those who are rebelling against God. Are we praying for God to be patient for them? Are we praying they will turn from their lifestyle and seek Him? Are we praying that God would spare them from punishment for a little while longer?

Samuel said that if he stopped praying for Israel he would be sinning against God. What a mind blowing concept. Did you catch that? Are job is not done when we confront sin. Our job continues by getting down on our knees and passionately praying for those we confront. Our response to sin is anger, and that is good. There have been sins that have hurt me and loved ones in the past. It was so easy to right the sinner off after those moments. However, this passage told me how wrong I was for that mindset. I need to be praying for the person that rebels against God.

Right now there are some of us that are angry at America for picking Obama. I have already seen the sea of response resembling the idea of “God, go ahead and smite our country and give it what it deserves.” My prayers are going to be a little different. It is the same prayer I give for adulterers, murderers, alcoholics, and everything else. “Father. Please be patient a little longer. Please spare your wrath on those who rebel against you. In your patience may you help them see the truth. May they turn from the darkness and move towards the light. May my heart always be lead with compassion over the rebellious heart. I long for your return, but I can’t wait a little longer if it means more will turn to you.”

God’s wrath will come when it comes. In the meantime let us intercede for others with humble hearts reminding ourselves that we once also lived in darkness. Anything less is darkness itself.

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