For the Sake of One Righteous Man
For the Sake of One Righteous Man
Years ago, the China Inland Mission discovered that at one particular mission station there were far more converts, and those converts were growing stronger spiritually than anyone ever expected. They tried to analyze what was happening, but they didn't find anything extraordinary about the staff there. The mystery remained unsolved until Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, visited England. At the close of one of Taylor's messages there, a man from the congregation came up to greet him. As they talked, Taylor realized this man had particular knowledge of this particular mission station.
"How is it," asked Taylor, "that you are so conversant with the conditions of that work?"
"Oh," he replied, "for four years I have conversed with my missionary friend there. He has sent me the names of inquirers and converts, and I have daily taken these names to God in prayer."
Now the China Inland Mission had found the missing piece of the puzzle: the daily, specific, prevailing prayer of one man had brought an amazing harvest for God's glory.
In Genesis 18, God gives us a model of intercession in the person of Abraham, a friend of God. When he is confronted with the impending doom of Sodom, Abraham is moved to pray. Knowing the fear of the Lord, he is moved with compassion for those who will soon fall under God's just judgment. So he assumes the role of a faithful intercessor—he stands in the gap and pleads for mercy.
Such an awareness of God's judgment is essential if we are truly going to persevere in prayer. As Ligon Duncan aptly observes, "Intercessory prayer is only effective when one realizes how awesome the judgment of God is. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pray effectively for lost souls if one is not convinced that lostness will ultimately result in literal, eternal punishment."
Abraham was a friend of God, but he was also a friend of sinners—not in a way that compromised his relationship with the Lord, but rather in a way that moved him to intercede for them. Like Paul, his heart's desire for them was that they might be saved. Like Jesus, he made intercession for the transgressors.
As he prayed, he began pleading with God on the basis of God's merciful and just character: "Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the Lord agrees—if He finds fifty righteous people at Sodom, he will spare the whole place for their sake.
But fifty righteous people cannot be found there, so great is the depravity of humanity. Abraham, however, does not give up. He continues to plead with God—for the sake of forty-five... forty... thirty... twenty...until finally he stops: "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." And God answers, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
If the salvation of a city depends on the righteousness of its inhabitants, there is no city on earth that is exempt from God's judgment. In Sodom, there were not even ten men righteous enough to spare the city from God's holy wrath.
But God's mercy was greater than Abraham had dared even to ask. In Ezekiel 16:63, after describing the grave wickedness of Sodom and Jerusalem, the Lord speaks to them of a day when he will "atone for you for all that you have done."
How can God have mercy on people as wicked as Sodom?
Answer: For the sake of One Righteous Man.
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).
"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 7:25).
Empowered by Christ's unceasing intercession for us, may we learn to pray without ceasing as we stand in the gap for others. Our next evening of prayer is coming up on Wednesday, September 28—please join us in this labor of love.
Saved for the sake of One Righteous Man,