We have all known believers who have had prevailing power in prayer. Men or women, who through their faith and godliness, have been instrumental in turning back sin, bringing spiritual revival, or leading others to victory in service. God singles out five such individuals in His Word: Moses, Samuel, Noah, Daniel, and Job. Yet, God declared, there comes a time when neither the godliest of men nor the most effective intercessors will stay His hand of judgment.
Moses. Of all the people on earth, God chose Moses to lead a multitude of several million adults and children out of a hostile country and through the maze of a wilderness over the course of forty long years. Virtually no one today can appreciate the demands such a task would make on the administrative and leadership skills as well as the character and energy of one man. God Himself testified that “Moses was very meek [“humble”], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). God spoke to Him “face to face” as friend to friend and entrusted to him the tables of the law. The psalmist reminds us that at one point God would have destroyed His people “had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them” (106:23).
Samuel. A man, prayed into existence by the fervent faith of his mother, chosen by God from his youth to be the prophet to a difficult king, Saul, and a recalcitrant people, Samuel was a special vessel in the hands of the Lord. Israel, having given herself over to idolatry, was about to be overrun by the Philistines, when Samuel called on her to “return unto the Lord” (I Sam. 7:3). Having prepared a burnt offering, “Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him” (v. 9). He alone stood between Israel and destruction. In the ninety-ninth Psalm, Samuel is mentioned alongside Moses and Aaron as those “that called upon the Lord, and he answered them” (v. 6).
Noah. Of all the people on earth, Noah, we are told, “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). For 120 years, he faithfully prophesied of the impending judgment of God by means of a flood. His labors produced not one convert apart from his immediate family of “eight souls.” Such was the character of this man’s faith and walk, that God destroyed the entire human race with the exception of him and his family. Noah’s example “condemned the world” (Heb. 11:7).
Daniel. What a man was Daniel, who as a youth, captured by the Babylonian invaders, ripped from his family and his country, and taken as a slave to a pagan land, nevertheless, “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8). For his faithful service, he was promoted to second place in the kingdom, only to be plotted against by jealous and ambitious rivals. And for being faithful to the one true God, Daniel found himself cast into a den of lions. Such was the character of this man, that God gave to him the most panoramic revelation of future events to be found in the Old Testament.
Job. We need not deduce the character of Job ourselves. God provides a description Himself. Regarding Job, God says, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). Though he endured trials more extensive than most have experienced, we are told that “in all this did not Job sin with his lips” (2:10). And in the end, we read that, though Job’s acquaintances were more accusers than friends, he interceded for them and prevailed: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends” (42:10).
As already noted, these five men were all unique in their generation, special men of faith and faithfulness, blessed and used of God in outstanding ways, and all exemplary intercessors. Nevertheless, it is possible for an individual, a nation, and a world to get to a point of no return before God, when the only remedy is judgment. Jeremiah observes: “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth” (15:1). And Ezekiel records: “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God [emphasis added]” (14:14, read through v. 20). If we persist in sin, there ceases to be a remedy. And God finally will judge without mercy. Only He knows when that time comes in the life of an individual, a nation, or the world. In the meantime, the message is this: “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (Heb. 6:2); and, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7).
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