There is a second emergency measure that has been seriously misunderstood. If God really is so gracious, and if He is love personified, why does the Bible picture the need for mediation and intercession–for someone to stand between us and the anger of an offended God? I believe that Satan would love to have us misunderstand this. For nothing can really distort the picture of God more than a misunderstanding of this most gracious of His provisions. Satan would love for us to believe that were it not for Christ’s constant intercession on our behalf, the Father could never find it in His own heart to forgive and to heal.
Is God, after all, unforgiving and severe? We know that isn’t true, yet priestly intercession runs all through the Scriptures, especially the intercession and mediation of our Lord. Could priestly intercession also be an emergency measure tailored to meet our needs until we come to know God better, until we realize there is no need for anyone to stand between us and our God? We have had an enemy between, no question, the damage has been devastating. But do we need a friend between? And if so, why?
God came down onto Mount Sinai to speak to His people, remember? There was such irreverence that God had to show His might and power, and the people were terrified. They turned to Moses and said, “Don’t let God speak to us lest we die. You speak to Him first and then you speak to us” (based on Exodus 20:19). They begged for an intercessor, for someone in between, though God wanted to speak directly to them. “They said to Moses, ‘If you speak to us, we will listen; but we are afraid that if God speaks to us, we will die.’ Moses replied, ‘Don’t be afraid’” (Exod 20:19-20, GNB).
Now actually, God had already been speaking to them and they had not died. They had noticed this, but they just didn’t want to run the risk any further. Look at what the people said in Deuteronomy:
And [Israel] said, “Today we have seen that it is possible for a man to continue to live, even though God has spoken to him. But why should we risk death again? That terrible fire will destroy us. We are sure to die if we hear the Lord our God speak again. . . . Go back, Moses, and listen to everything that the Lord our God says. Then return and tell us what He said to you. We will listen and obey” (Deut 5:24, 25, and 27, GNB).
You see, the people pled for a mediator. They pled for a friend between them and God. They needed him. God didn’t need someone in between. But Moses was such a friend. Was there anyone between Moses and God? Look at Numbers 12:
If any man among you is a prophet I make myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles (Num 12:6-8, Jerusalem).
Compare that with Exodus 33: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exod 33:11, RSV). There was no one between. Years later, Jesus tried to encourage the disciples to believe that He wanted to speak to them as friends, the way He used to talk to Moses:
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15, RSV).
When friends speak together, they speak plainly, face to face. Among friends there is explanation. There is understanding desired and achieved. It is quite apparent that Jesus didn’t want blind, do as you’re told, obedience. He wanted the understanding cooperation of friends. He wanted His disciples to obey because they agreed. He wanted them to admire God for His wise and gracious ways. That is the obedience of a free person. That is intelligent obedience, as the Bible describes it.
When we are friends, no one needs to come in between. When friends are talking together, no one needs to intervene, intercede or protect one friend from another. The disciples could see no need at all for anyone to come between them and Christ. On that they were clear. They weren’t afraid of Him. But they were not so sure about the Father. That is what led them to say, “Tell us more about the Father.” That is, tell us more about the One who requires all the sacrifices and the priestly intercession. “Jesus, could that God, the Father, be like You?” And you remember Christ’s stunning reply: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (based on John 14:9).
As to this whole matter of intercession, Jesus is the one who gave us that whole system because we needed it. But the time came, in the upper room, for Jesus to plainly tell them that there really is no need for this:
I have been speaking to you in parables— but the time is coming to give up parables and tell you plainly about the Father. When that day comes, you will make your requests to him (my emphasis) in my name, for I need make no promise to plead to the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you (John 16:25-26, Phillips).
Goodspeed translated the last part, “There is no need for Me to intercede with the Father for you, for the Father loves you Himself.”
Think of the implications of this passage! There was no one standing between God and His friend Abraham. There was no one between God and His friend Moses. And for three and a half years there was no one between God and the disciples. And no one stood between God and Judas as the Creator knelt and washed His betrayer’s dirty feet. Even though Judas had passed the point of no return, there still was no need for anyone to stand between him and his God.
For those who are still afraid of God, it is good to know we have a Friend between. God has made provision for your forgiveness, and He has provided a friend to stand between you and our just and holy God. And who is that friend anyway? “Thomas answered him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!’” John 20:28 (RSV). So I say the following with all deference; if you still need a friend other than the Father, it means you still need emergency measures.
But in the larger, great controversy view of all sixty-six books, there is far better news for us than intercession from a mediator. There is no need to be afraid of God the Father. The Father is forgiveness personified. There is no need for anyone to stand between Him and His most wayward child. And, in any case, the Friend who came to win us back to God is none other than God Himself. This reality says so much about the quality of life in the hereafter. We are truly free to be friends with God now, and we will truly be friends of God in eternity.