After writing last week’s post about coming to the Father through Jesus, I started studying the words “intercessor” and “mediator.” Interestingly, I found that in Hebrew the word used for “intercession” also means to encounter, come between, and meet with. It’s used in a variety of contexts, but I focused on the ones that related to how God interacts with us here on earth.
There are multiple ways that God can interact with humans. Two of those interactions involve rewarding good and punishing evil. We see the word for “intercession” used in both these contexts. This confused me at first, but as I studied it I found something that is very exciting and encouraging about how the two meanings connect.
Meeting With Punishment
The Hebrew word paga (Strong’s H6293) means “to encounter, meet, reach, entreat, make intercession” (BDB definition). Here’s one place it’s used in Exodus, when Moses and Aaron were talking with Pharaoh.
They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Yahweh, our God, lest he fall on us with pestilence, or with the sword.” (Ex. 5:3, WEB)
“Fall on us” is translated from the word paga. We might paraphrase, “Let us worship God, or He’ll meet us with punishment.” It seems strange to have the same word as “intercession” used for meeting someone with pestilence or sword. Intercession tends to be seen as a more positive thing. If we head over to Isaiah’s writings, though, this starts to make more sense.
All of us have wandered about like sheep; we each have turned to his own way; and Yahweh let fall on him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:6, LEB)
In this passage from one of the Messianic Servant Songs, we start to see how intercession is related to the concept of God encountering someone with punishment. Christ stepped into our place and “met with” the punishment due to all people. The just rewards of iniquity should have fallen on us, but Christ intervened. He acted as our intercessor.
Isaiah continues to develop the idea of the Messiah as our intercessor in a way no other Old Testament book does. These passages are beautiful prophecies of the work Jesus did on this earth.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied. My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself; and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion with the great. He will divide the plunder with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death and was counted with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors. (Is. 53:11-12, WEB)
Our God wants to meet us with good things so much that He stepped in between us and our just punishment. He is a God of justice, but also one of love and mercy who is highly motivated to intercede in order to bring about good.
Yes, truth is lacking; and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Yahweh saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore his own arm brought salvation to him; and his righteousness sustained him. (Is. 59:15-16, WEB)
I love the picture Isaiah paints in all these verses with the word paga. The Lord’s drive for justice and His desire to save us lead to Jesus and the Father choosing to work together so that They could meet us with salvation instead of punishment. It’s incredibly beautiful.
Mediating a Better Relationship
In Greek, the word typically translated “intercession” is entugchano (G1793). It means to meet someone (by accident or with a purpose in mind), to entreat, and/or to make intercession for anyone (Thayer’s definition). This word’s use in the New Testament makes very clear that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies of God acting as our intercessor.
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Rom. 8:34, WEB)
In His role as High Priest, Jesus “lives forever to make intercession for” “those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25, WEB). He makes it possible for those who should justly be met with punishment for their sins to instead become friends with God and have a real relationship with Him.
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:15, WEB)
The role of intercessor also connects to Christ’s role as mediator, or mesites in Greek (G3316). This word refers to one who intervenes in order to restore peace or ratify a covenant. Covenants are how God forms relationships with us, so it’s no surprise that Christ’s intercessory role would be connected with the change from old to new covenant. It’s because of Him that we can meet with God in a close, real relationship, enter a covenant with Him, and become part of His family.
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