Separation and Intercession
An Essay on Numbers in Type and Antitype
Yesterday I was speaking with a man named David who was promoting separation from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. He is one of perhaps a dozen that have appealed to me in the last few years to join one or another movement. My general response to such movements is described in a paper I have written regarding the Shepherd’s Rod.
We have no reason to be surprised at the calls being made by David and others. In the prophetic history of the Egypt-to-Canaan travels of Israel God foretold:
- That such calls would come repeatedly
- That such calls would be bolstered by legitimate evidence of truly wicked practices of the congregation
- That the glory of God would be involved in our response to those calls.
- That we will be tested by those calls
The setting for the calls to separation from Israel was the aftermath of a God-ordained separation from Egypt. In each case Moses received the call to “come out.” Why he heeded the first and refused the latter invitations will be the subject of this brief essay.
When Moses left Egypt he led behind him a mixed multitude. On one hand there were the few and the faithful that had preserved their spiritual heritage while in slavery. Then there were the pliable majority who had wished for freedom while continuing to submit to evil pressures and influences.
Finally there were Egyptians and wayward Jews that left a doomed nation behind to escape its plagues and benefit from association with the miracle-working sons of Amram. These reasoned that the same God that would take his people out of Egypt in such a marvelous way would lead them swiftly and surely into a luxurious land.
The latter class led the entire body into repeated scandals. Apostasies on a national scale litter the book of Numbers.
The Intercession Stories
Three of these scandals are found in Numbers 13-14, 16, and 20. In the first Israel follows the counsel of the faithless spies. In the second Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and afterwards the people at large, rebel against the authority of Moses and Aaron. In the third the congregation wishes to return to Egypt and provokes Moses to strike a rock representing Christ.
Key verses in these three stories are found in the chart on the next page. From these passages, and others, I would propose the following:
- The history of the Exodus was selectively recorded. Those portions only were written that would parallel the history of the church in the last age. After mentioning five specific stories from the wilderness wandering, with their lessons for today, Paul wrote “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” I Cor. 10:11.
- God recorded repeatedly a pattern of history that would mimic church history at the end of time.
- That pattern could be summarized as a national event of rebellion followed by the singling out of a few faithful as objects of popular wrath.
In the pattern this persecution is followed by a test designed to reveal the extent to which love has endured in the hearts of the faithful. They are encouraged, apparently by God, to separate from the wicked body and to form a new organization of the faithful.
But in the invitation to separate they hear a call to intercession. Rather than removing themselves from those threatened with slaughter, they risk their own life to plead for that of the wrong-doers.
The call to intercession is so subtle as to be noticed only by those that have drunk deeply at the wells of Christ’s sacrificial compassion. It is found in the words “let me alone that I may.” These words virtually say that the judgments are waiting for the departure of the innocent.
Those hoping to justify self are gratified by the separation call and leave the sin-bearer behind as they exit his church. But those sharing Christ’s character “weep between the porch and the altar” for God to spare his people.
In a different essay we explore the relation between this intercession and the latter rain. Here we want to notice a few more details regarding our stories.
In two of them (Numbers 11 and 16) intercession brings an end to an already on-going judgment. The sufferings of God’s rebellious people alert us to wake and actively intercede for them. The latter of these two chapters is particularly interesting.
There Aaron, the same that led out in the apostasy of the golden calf because of his fear of the people, has truly repented. Rather than saving his own skin at the expense of thousands of his people as he had done before, in Numbers 16 he recklessly disregards his own safety and God’s call to get out of the camp of the rebels. Instead, at the urging of Moses, he takes a censor and runs into the middle of the camp and stands between the living and the dead, v. 48, and “the plague was stayed.”
This remarkable transformation on the part of Aaron is not allowed by many apparently faithful today. When they see a leader fall as Aaron did, they judge him as ever unworthy of spiritual trust. They respect not his position or his piety. His repentance is, to them, ever suspect of being a mere political maneuver.
Thank God that He allowed Aaron to change.
One anomaly in the pattern is the story proceeding Aaron’s active intercession. In the prayers of Moses for the people Moses ever urges powerful arguments. He pleads with God to forgive the people because of God’s own character. He argues that he has forgiven them before and urges this fact as a reason he should do it again. He presents God’s own reputation as depending on his treatment of the people.
But in the early part of Numbers 16 he urges a weaker argument. “Will you destroy all the church for the sin of a few leaders?” In effect Moses separated the leaders of the people from the people themselves. God accepted Moses’ position and directed that the church separate from the guilty leaders. Then the guilty were destroyed.
In this scenario the rebels and Moses had something in common. The former had said “the whole church is holy, every one of them.” The latter said by his intercession, “the common people are consecrated, unlike the rebellious leaders.”
But Moses soon learned how ineffective his argument had been. The very body that had been spared by Moses’ call to separate from Korah and company, the very next day, turned on their prayer warrior. They accused him of murdering their dearly loved “people of the Lord.” This is how they styled the deceased rebels.
We can not well argue in prayer for God to spare the church because of the faithfulness of the 7,000 that have not bowed their knee to prevailing apostasies. It is not love for these that we are being tested on.
Moses’ prayers worked wonders in preserving the church of his time when those prayers were based on the character and love of God.
There is much to be gained from a study of the chapters discussed here. Why did God’s glory appear each time? Why was the pattern so often repeated? What movements in the history of Adventism appeared as legitimate calls to abandon the Seventh-day Adventist church for its wickedness?
From the brief data here we may learn to expect such calls to come again. We may be preparing our hearts for these tests by engaging in earnest intercessory prayer even now. We may come close to our brethren, even to the point of standing between the living and the dead.
No doubt some reading this will feel that this paper is the torch of false prophecy undermining God’s call to save his faithful from the plagues that doom the Seventh-day Adventist church. If you are one of these, be careful before you make your own conclusions.
Moses himself became frustrated with the church for which he prayed. After falling on his face and asking grace for them in Exodus 32 and later in Numbers 11 and again in Numbers 14 and twice in 16, he finally felt that he could take little more. After praying for the people again in Numbers 20 he became angry and struck the rock.
And he didn’t enter Canaan.
It is only those whose love for the erring endures to the end that will be saved.
10 But all the congregation bade stone [Caleb and Joshua] with stones.
10 the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation
11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
19 Moses said “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against [Moses and Aaron.]
19 the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.
20 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?
42 the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron
42 they looked toward the tabernacle . . . and the glory of the LORD appeared.
44 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment.
45 And they fell upon their faces. 46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them:
2 there was no water [and] the congregation gathered themselves . . . against Moses and . . . Aaron.
6 the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
[Moses and Aaron Interceded before the glory appeared, and there was no invitation to separate.]
6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces:
1 the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods
[Moses was speaking to God face to face in the mountain—God’s glory was seen by Moses before the end of this story…in chapter 34. But most relevantly, the entire mountain lit up as on fire…the mountain being the equivalent to a sanctuary, the meeting place with God and the location of the Ten Commandments.]
9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, . . . Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
1 And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD:
and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled;
and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
16 And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
15 So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
13 The LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
18 And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
God’s Glory Appears
God Convicts and Sentences the People to Judgments
God Calls Moses to Separate and Escape the Judgments
God Calls Moses to become the Father of a Righteous Offshoot
Moses Refuses to Separate, and Rather Pleads and Intercedes for the Fallen Body
“My soul is stirred within me. I shall trust in God with heart and soul. I shall proclaim the messages that He has given me to proclaim. I testify in the Lord that our youth should not be encouraged to go to Battle Creek to be made infidels. God will help us to see what can be done to prevent this. We are now to work earnestly and intelligently to save our youth from being taken captive by the enemy.”(LLM, 70)
“Sister Magan worked with her husband, struggling and praying that he might be sustained. And God did sustain them, as they walked in the light. From her small store of money, Sister Magan gave five hundred dollars, to erect the Memorial Hall. She strove untiringly to maintain a perfect home government, teaching and educating her children in the fear of God. Twice she had to nurse her husband through an attack of fever.
But it seemed to her as though some of our brethren had not a heart of flesh. After the General Conference in Oakland, a report was circulated that Sister White had turned against Brother Magan. There was not a word of truth to this statement. But his poor wife, who had toiled and sacrificed and prayed with him was informed that Sister White had taken a stand against her husband. O why did any one ever say such a thing? Sister White never turned against Brother Magan or against Brother Sutherland. But Sister Magan was so weighted down with sorrow that she lost her reason.”(PC, 84)
The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.—1SM 48 (1890).
For the Word Doc, click here:
 Written December 14, 2003
 Available at www.canvassing.org/docs
 Moses and Aaron were, at the same time, grandsons and great-grandsons of Levi. Jochebed was Levi’s natural daughter and Amram his natural grandson by one of Joghebed’s brothers.
 This paper is a companion paper to the studies titled “Laodicea” and “Intercession and the Latter Rain.”