Exodus 32:9-14 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that He brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.
How did Moses pull this off? God was going to destroy the Israelites but Moses got Him to change His mind.
How can we explain this change of heart?
First of all, to change one’s mind or to change one’s heart means that God has human characteristics and many theologians just don’t want to go there. God is spirit; He does not have a physical existence. God does not have a body so a change of mind or heart is impossible. Want to learn a fifty cent word: giving God human qualities is called anthropopathism.
Also in the Exodus passage, God threatens to destroy the Israelites but would God really do that? The kings and the Messiah came through the line of Moses, not Judah. Moses did not change God’s mind. God was never going to destroy the people in the first place. He would be destroying the ancestral line of Jesus.
Ok, you may be thinking that it is fruitless to pray. God is going to do what He wants despite our petitions. Yet in both testaments God commands His people to pray. It is not fruitless at all.
First of all, God’s ways are not our ways. In Job 11:7-8 Job admits“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?” In Isaiah 55:8-9 we see that God’s thoughts are beyond the thoughts of man: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I have come to believe that God is the Great Orchestrator working things out from a big picture point of view that we can never understand as mentally deficient humans. How could we know what God is up to? We might think that prayer X = response Y but that is far too simple for God.
Prayer is a free will act of humans. God is not dependent on our prayer or limited by our prayer, yet He is pleased to bring His purposes into reality by responding to prayer. Proverbs 16:9 says “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Philippians 2:13 declares “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” The key phrase is “His purpose”. We must remember that God is sovereign and He acts for the sake of His holy name. Note what God says in Ezekiel 36: 37-38: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” The key phrase here is “know that I am the Lord.” God is to be glorified. He is accomplishing His purposes despite man’s efforts while He is being petitioned by man.
Jesus taught us all to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Key phrase, “your will be done.”
Pray: if His will and your request coincide, a prayer will be answered.