Sometimes I wonder why God made me different. After all, how many people do you know that get excited about something they read in the dry parts of the book of Exodus? I had already read the exciting chapters that recount the plagues and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Now, I was reading the part with all the instructions for the priests and the minute directions about what they were to do and how. This included precise details for the making of the clothes they were to wear when they entered God’s presence.
As I read, my heart leapt with joy when I read some words in Chapter 28. Verses 11 and 12 said, “Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD. “
I could see the picture it in my mind. There was Aaron with measured tread stepping through the curtain into the most sacred place. As he entered into God’s holy presence, he carried on his shoulders these beautiful gemstones, set in gold filigree. They must have been huge because on them were engraved names, six on each stone. There were Reuben, Simeon, Levi…Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali. They were all there and these were not short names. Each of the sons of Israel was included. What excited me was that for me, this was a picture of intercession.
Every morning when I enter God’s holy presence with the names of all those whose concerns I want to bring to Him, it is like I am bringing Him something exquisitely beautiful. I imagine those names being written on precious stones because each of these individuals is infinitely valuable to the Lord. What a privilege is mine to quietly carry them like I am wearing extremely expensive jewelry as I step into the Lord’s presence!
As I read further in the chapter, I discovered a couple of other things in this picture. Aaron was not carrying these precious stones in his hands. Rather he was wearing them on his shoulders. That left his hands empty to receive whatever Jehovah chose to place in them.
When I come into God’s presence to pray, He does not need me to come with the answers that I think are appropriate for my prayers. He will place in my empty hands, anything that He might have me do to help to bring about the answers to those prayers. It is a good idea to keep a pen and paper handy when we pray. Often we will have a nudge to call this person, or e-mail that one or do something that we would never dream of doing. The Spirit places in our empty hands what He can use to answer our prayers.
Not only were these precious engraved stones sewn into the beautiful robe that Aaron wore as He entered into the special place of God’s holy presence. The same chapter says that he also was to carry in what must have been some kind of pockets in the attire he was to wear. It says in verse 30 of Exodus 28 that into the breastpiece of judgment he was to put two other stones called the Urim and Thummim. These stones were somehow used to determine the response of God to questions of judgment. They were indications of his yes or no.
What this says to me is that we are not to make judgments about those for whom we pray. We bring them into His holy presence where He will make the judgments. We have nothing to say about it. He alone determines what is appropriate for them and we must leave Him to do that. What He wants from us is to bring them to Him, so that any judgments that must be made will be made in His loving presence. He alone will determine the yes and the no for them. It is never up to us.
The final encouragement I found in this picture of intercession is that the idea comes so early in the story of humanity’s relationship with the Eternal. I always thought real intercession began with Jesus, although clearly there are other pictures of such prayer in the Old Testament. This is far back in our history, many years before Jesus appeared on earth. Already God is introducing us to intercession. He knows that we will need to bring one another into His presence. He is aware of the frailness of our faith even at its best, and He knows the way we need the prayerful support of one another to walk in His ways and to trust Him. What an awesome God!