He said to him, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.” Ezekiel 9:4 NLT
God takes special note of those who share in the grief of His heart for the sinful world around them. As in every generation throughout history, there are many things today that vex the souls of God fearing people, just as they did the righteous soul of Lot in his day. (2 Peter 2:4-9) And all the more now as we are being inundated by an unending flood of evil, the news of which, like a deluge, is coming from every corner of the world, streaming day and night through multiple forms of media.
Ezekiel, while in captivity in Babylon, is visited by God and taken in the Spirit to the temple in Jerusalem. There he is shown among other things, God’s preparation to bring judgment on the city. He sees six men appear, each with a deadly weapon in their hands and he sees with them a man clothed in linen with a writing kit at his side. Then he hears God call to the linen clad man and instruct to him to “walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.” In startling succession the next two verses contain the instructions given to six other men. They are told to “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion . . . but do not touch anyone who has the mark.” (Ezekiel 9:5-6 NIV)
What caused God to mark these people for mercy rather than for judgment? We are told that they were weeping and sighing because of the sinfulness of the city.
It is instructive here to look at the root meanings of these two words. The Hebrew word for “weep” conveys the type of crying associating with mourning or a lament. This indicates that these people were genuinely grieving the condition of the society around them. The Hebrew word for “sigh” means to exhale, to moan and to groan. This is particularly insightful because in the New Testament, Spirit led and inspired intercession is referred to in exactly the same way. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV)
In fact we even see Jesus interceding at the tomb of Lazarus “with groanings too deep for words.” When He encounters Mary and the other Jews with her weeping, we are told “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” (John 11:33 KJV)
Again let’s ask the question – what caused God to take special note of these people and mark them as recipients of His mercy? I am of the firm conviction that it was a direct result of them entering into and carrying a spirit of intercession for the sinful world around them. I believe that the weeping and sighing going on in the spirits of these people was Holy Spirit inspired prayer and intercession. And the manner in which they were sharing the grief of the heart of God, through intercession for His creation, so deeply pleased Him that He extended His scepter of mercy, even in the midst of His judgments to spare them.
I find this passage of scripture a great encouragement with regard to the ministry of intercession. It underscores the fact that being an intercessor who pleases and touches the heart of God is more about the why of intercession than the how. It is more about why we groan than how we groan, more about being than overtly doing or even saying anything. And ultimately it is about who we allow ourselves to become as we yield to Him and increasingly identify with His grief for the world.
The ministry of intercession at its very core is identifying with God. It is a state of being from which naturally flows weeping and sighs for His creation.
What have you been experiencing as you have been praying for our world?
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