By Dave Duris


Intercession is an expression of God’s mercy and love. It is often demonstrated in the Bible through individuals that stood between God and the object of his judgment. The intercessors, or mediators, would pray or act on behalf of those meriting judgment, often with a view toward reconciling a severed relationship. Taking a closer look at these examples of intercessors can help us to gain an understanding of the intercession we may need, and inspire us to intercede for others.

Our Lord Jesus Christ offers the perfect example of a mediator standing between God and the sins of all mankind. In the book of Hebrews a comparison is made between the ministry of the Old Testament high priest and the heavenly priesthood of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. The Old Testament high priest intervened for men by providing a temporary animal sacrifice for sin. Jesus Christ’s intervention consists of his sacrificial death for sin, providing a permanent way for men to be reconciled to God. Since his priesthood is unchangeable, he is our mediator, giving us continual access to God the Father and forever living to make intercession for us.

1 Timothy 2:5:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 7:24–25:
But this man [Jesus], because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.


A wonderful picture of intercession is seen in the book of Numbers. Numbers 16 opens with the murmuring and rebellion from Korah, Dathan, Abiram and the 250 princes of the assembly who challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. The judgment of God fell upon these rebels as the earth opened and swallowed up these three men and their households, and fire from the Lord consumed the 250 others. The next morning the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron and accused them of the deaths of those who were killed the previous day.

Numbers 16:41–48:
But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.
42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.
43 And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
44 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.
46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.
47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.
48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.

This account gives insight into the mercy and love of intercession as it is extended to undeserving individuals. It is amazing that the very one whom the children of Israel rejected is the one who stood between the people and the plague in order to avert God’s judgment from them. This act of intercession presents us with a picture of Jesus Christ, because he is the one who stands between the living and the dead. It is his atoning blood that saves us and averts the judgment of God not only for our sins, but the sins of the entire world. If we only knew the magnitude of the power of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness!

1 John 2:2:
And he is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate from the congregation to avoid the plague, but Moses instructed Aaron to make an atonement for the people to save them from the plague? At this point it would seem that Moses and Aaron would be inclined to step back and let the judgment of God take its course, but instead their merciful and loving response was to intercede. Not only did Aaron make an atonement, but he ran into the congregation to do it, which may have been challenging since he was elderly at this time. This action was one of mercy and love, seeing he had many reasons not to run into the midst of this congregation. They were hostile toward him, and the events of the previous day not only failed to bring about their repentance but instead furthered their rebellion.

One might ask if these people were even worth saving. Did Aaron himself want to be a target of the plague which was in the crowd he was running into? Even though the children of Israel’s actions in this record provoked God’s judgment to begin the plague, God stopped the plague in response to Aaron’s atonement.

Paul and Onesimus

In the Word of God, intercession and reconciliation are closely aligned. The New Testament offers an example of the apostle Paul, who stood in the middle of two men. One man received intercession because of an offense, and the other man received a reason not to enforce merited judgment for the offense. The purpose of Paul’s mediation was to reconcile the broken relationship between these two men. This record gives us a picture of the mind of Christ we should have toward the ones we intercede for in our prayers and actions. The book of Philemon offers an account of how the apostle Paul helped reconcile the relationship between a runaway slave named Onesimus and his owner Philemon. When Onesimus was separated from Philemon, he eventually met Paul and became a believer in Jesus Christ. Paul then exhorted Onesimus to return to his owner and wrote Philemon in an effort to intervene and restore their relationship.

People will always have reasons to be at variance and not to reconcile, but God’s Word offers us Jesus Christ’s example of how to receive others.

Romans 15:7:
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

I am thankful that Jesus Christ received me despite all my sin and shortcomings, and not on the basis of my worthiness. Was the prodigal son’s acceptance based on worthiness, or on sparing no expense in communicating the joy of an unworthy one who is reconciled? We often lose sight of the intrinsic value of a child of God, because we judge others by our estimation of their worth and do not see God’s estimation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul told Philemon that Onesimus was once unprofitable to him, but now is profitable to both Philemon and himself (Philemon 1:11). Paul approached Philemon on this basis and asked him to receive his once unworthy slave as he would receive Paul himself (v. 17). Paul also said he would repay Philemon for any wrong or debt incurred by Onesimus (vv. 18-19). Thus, he removed any potential of past offenses or debt from the situation that could hinder the current reconciliation process. When offended by another, how often do we hold unforgiving thoughts or "mental debts" against them in our minds? True reconciliation can only occur when we are willing to completely forgive and not wait for the offender to do something worthy enough in order for us to justify our acceptance of them.

Paul’s mediation in the mending of this relationship also had with it high expectations.

v. 21:
Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt do more than I say.

It should arrest our attention that Paul had an expectation that Philemon would do more that he said, and this is in the context of Paul’s exhortation to reconcile and mend a broken relationship. Do we put limitations on our efforts to intercede and reconcile others? May God grant us a fuller understanding of his love for the body of Christ and his desire for all to be restored and reconciled.

At the Right Hand of God

One can only imagine the benefits of having an eternal high priest at the right hand of God, whose sacrificial life was an atonement for our sins and who forever lives to make intercession for us. How often are the consequences of our sinful behavior averted and mercy extended to us because of Jesus Christ’s priestly ministry at the right hand of God? One can hardly comprehend the love of Christ which was manifested when he interceded for those who hated and crucified him and sought forgiveness for his tormentors when he prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was relatively short compared to his heavenly ministry? He has been at the right hand of God making intercession for people for over two thousand years. The love of Jesus Christ continues to be extended to us via his mediation for us whether we realize it or not. This same merciful and faithful high priest also extends his love to us by helping us in times of temptation.

Hebrews 2:17–18:
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

Intercessory Prayers

The Word of God exhorts us to make intercessory prayers, which are different from other types of prayer. The book of Timothy makes this distinction when it exhorts us to make supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority (2 Tim. 2:1-2). Despite our inabilities as we endeavor to pray for others, God has given us the supernatural provision of the ability to pray via the Spirit which makes intercession for us.

Romans 8:26:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

The examples of intercession described above were performed in the midst of some difficult circumstances, but those who intervened always acted out of a heart of mercy and compassion. God’s mercy and love is at the heart of intercession. Those interceding expressed this mercy and love when they set aside their own needs and offered up their prayers and lives on behalf of others. We are often in need of mercy, and we have great encouragement with the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s reconciling love for us and that he lives to make intercession for us. May these truths inspire us to have the mind of Christ to intercede for those who are in need of mercy and reconciliation.



From the August 2010 issue of The Vine & Branches