PART 2 PRAYER - Does God hear and answer our prayers?
What Is the Basis or Condition for God Hearing and Answering Prayer during the Age of Israel?
The Age of the Jews - From the exodus of the Jews from Egypt under Moses to the birth of Jesus Christ
Now that we believe we know what the condition is for God hearing and answering prayer during the Age of the Gentiles, let’s see if we can confirm it by looking at two individuals who prayed to God during the second age, the Age of the Jews.
1 Samuel 9:27; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 18:7-9
We’re going to take a look again at Saul, who became Israel’s first king. We’ll begin by asking this question.
Why did God allow for a king to be placed over the Israelites?
Before the children of Israel entered Canaan, the land of promise, God appointed a new leader to replace Moses. This man’s name was Joshua. Under his guidance, they crossed over the Jordan River into a new land. While there, they set out to conquer its inhabitants. After Joshua died, leadership changed. The Jews had no distinct ruler over the twelve tribes.
When they would disobey God, they’d find themselves in subjection to one of their enemies. God after hearing their cry would raise up a person to be in charge over them, who was otherwise known as a judge. The judge would receive instructions from God as to how to secure Israel’s freedom from their oppressive ruler. This period of time would be known as the period of the Judges, which lasted for over 400 years.
After these many years had gone by, Israel decided that they no longer wanted a judge to rule over them. Apparently, both of the sons of one of the judges, whose name was Samuel, were considered corrupt. So, this was what prompted them to ask Yahweh for a different form of leadership to be placed over them. God reluctantly consented to their demands and chose a man named Saul to be their first king.
1 Samuel 9:27 And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.
1 Samuel 10:6 And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
God spoke to the prophet/judge Samuel and told him that on the following day to look out by the city gate for a man from the land of Benjamin. So, on the following day, Saul came to the gate of a city in the land of Zuph, where Samuel was waiting. God spoke to him and told him that this was the man, who would be Israel’s next king. Samuel proceeded to declare unto him the Word of the Lord, and after which he anointed him with oil. Then, he instructed him to go to a certain place, where he would meet up with a company of prophets. Saul did as he was directed and it would be at this time, when the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him.
1 Samuel 16:14-16 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
During King Saul’s reign, the Israelites gained victories over many of their foes. However, at times, he would disobey the divine instructions that were relayed to him via the prophet/judge Samuel. In one instance, he was commanded to destroy all the people and animals of one of Israel’s enemies known as the Amalekites including their king, Agag. Rather than doing exactly as God said, he spared not only their king but also the best of the cattle. This disobedience continued to be evidenced by him.
Eventually, he was approached by Samuel and told that God had rejected him from being king. What happened next was that Samuel would receive a glimpse from God as to who the next king would be. He was instructed to visit the sons of a man named Jesse and that time it was revealed to him that the youngest son whose name was David would be the next king of Israel. As King Saul continued to do things his own way, God eventually caused the on-resting Spirit to depart from him and instead gave him an evil spirit. Thus, King Saul would never be the same man again.
1 Samuel 17:37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.
King Saul would meet the person who unbeknownst to him would become the next king of Israel in an unusual set of circumstances. At this time, the Israelites and their enemy the Philistines were ready to engage in battle. Goliath, a champion of the Philistines, decided to come forward from the ranks and challenge Israel to send one of their men out before him in a fight to the death match. However, neither the king nor any one of his men would reply. David, in the meantime, had just shown up having been sent by his father to bring food provisions for his elder brothers who were enlisted in Saul’s army. While there, he heard Goliath’s challenge and decided to come before the king letting him know that he would fight him. King Saul tried to discourage him by mentioning that he had no experience in military matters. David replied and said that yes, he had experience as evidenced by the lion and bear which he killed by means of the deliverance of the Lord.
1 Samuel 18:7-9 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
King Saul upon hearing this allowed David to confront the giant. While running toward the giant, using a sling shot hit he him right in the middle of his forehead with a small stone. Subsequently, Goliath became unconscious and fell down. David quickly took Goliaths sword and finished the job. Because of this victory, he receives more admiration from the Jewish people than King Saul did for his military conquests. As a result, King Saul became jealous of him and expressed the sentiment that what more could he desire but to usurp the throne.
This poisonous mindset caused King Saul to eventually try to take David’s life on numerous occasions. Eventually, David was appointed by him to be captain over 1000 men of war, which allowed him to be away from his presence. As time went by, David became friends to one of Saul’s sons, named Jonathon. He told him about his father’s attempts to kill him and asked him if he could try to find out why this had been the case.
During this time, one of Saul’s daughters had aspirations to marry David. So, King Saul upon hearing this used it as another opportunity to slay David. However, as this new attempt failed, David and Saul’s daughter Michal marry. However, a short time after, his wife became aware of a plot by her father to have her husband killed. So, she informed him of this and he immediately fled.
King Saul, learning of David’s departure, took with him his army and decided to hunt him down. On a couple of occasions, he came very close to carrying out his directive. Likewise, David on the other hand had opportunities to kill him, but chose not to. Eventually, Saul realized that David had no aspiration to usurp the throne. He admitted to David that he was wrong in pursuing after him. David not being sure if his confession was truthful decided to leave the land of Israel and enter into the land of the Philistines.
It was at this time that Saul would find himself in a situation where he desperately needed to hear from God in prayer. Surely God would answer the king and provide instruction. Another battle between Israel and the Philistines was about to take place. Saul was concerned that this battle might not go his way, so he decided to seek guidance by means of the Urim and Thummim. Many believe that the Urim and Thummim were two stones which were contained on the inside of the breastplate of the high priest, located on a piece of beautifully embroidered fabric that hung on the high priest’s chest. On the breastplate, it’s believed were contained twelve beautiful jewels arranged in four rows, each stone representing one of the tribes of Israel.2 Some thought that if the high priest was approached by the king for an answer to a question that God would convey his answer by means of illuminating one of these stones.
1 Samuel 28:6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
What was God’s answer to Saul’s prayer request in regard to the outcome of the battle? God chose not to answer him by this or any other means (e.g., dreams, prophets, etc.). Did God hear and answer Saul’s prayer? No. Why not? Because Saul was no longer in fellowship with Him? Saul was only looking out for himself. He had no desire to repent of his ways. So, God left him up to his own doing.
With that said, I’d like us to take a look at another person, who was also a king that made some decisions, which were contrary to God’s Word. Like Saul, he’d eventually find himself in a place where his very life was at stake. And like Saul, He decided to pray to the Lord. Did the Lord hear and answer his prayer? Let’s find out.
Suggested Reading: 2 Kings 18:1 -19:37
The next person we’ll take a look at is King Hezekiah, who reigned over the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Why was he king of only two tribes? After the reign of four successive kings (e.g., Saul, Ishbosheth, David, and Solomon), the nation of Israel became split. Ten tribes cooperated together and formed what was known as the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The remaining two tribes also formed a kingdom, which was known as the Southern Kingdom of Judah that had a priesthood and temple at Jerusalem. Eventually, the Northern Kingdom would go into captivity by Assyria never to reunite again. Years later, the Southern Kingdom would also go into captivity by the Babylonians. However, Cyrus the Great of Persia would be used by God to overthrow the Babylonians and set the Jews free thus allowing them to return to their homeland.
2 Kings 18:5-7 He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
The Scriptures are not clear as to when God made himself known to King Hezekiah. But what we do know is that he faithfully adhered to keeping His commandments. This is a clear indication that he communed (fellowshipped) with the Lord.
At age 25, he became the new king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His father, Ahaz, had defiled the temple at Jerusalem and finally closed its doors, thus prohibiting the Levitical ministry of the Mosaic Law from being exercised. The temple worship was at the heart of the Jewish nation, and if that was wrong, everything else would be wrong.3
On the very first day of his reign as king, Hezekiah commanded the priests to clean the temple inside and out, removing all of the remnants of idol worship. It took 16 days to complete the work. Also at this time, he commanded that all of the high places, the places of pagan worship, be destroyed. As the worship of Jehovah was reinstituted, the nation experienced agricultural prosperity.
It was abundantly clear that Hezekiah loved the Lord but this didn’t mean that every decision of his was made in accordance with God’s commands. One of his decisions, which God clearly said in his Word to not engage in, came back and caused him trouble. In the 14th year of his reign, the army of King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the territory of Judah and was heading toward its capital, Jerusalem, to inflict punishment unless Hezekiah changed his mind in regard to a particular practice.
Apparently, he had continued to engage in providing tribute money to Assyria, as had the previous kings of Judah before him. He decided, however, at this time to no longer provide tribute. Being aware that a war with Assyria was imminent unless he changed his mind, he decided to do just that. It appeared that he was torn over this decision. Here he was encouraging the people to worship Yahweh and yet in this very area, which was prohibited under the Mosaic Law, he was allowing this practice to continue.
Eventually, he changed his mind again and the tribute stopped. This precipitated the Assyrian army to come back to Jerusalem with warnings of dire consequences if the tribute was not reinstituted. A messenger of the Assyrians named Rab-shakeh was sent to speak to a man named Eliakim, who was over the household of the king. He was told by Rab-shakeh that if the tribute was not forthcoming soon that not even their God could help them. After hearing this pronouncement of doom, Eliakim contacted King Hezekiah and told him this message.
Instead of changing his mind again, the king decided to do something entirely different. He decided to enter the temple of God and remain there. He came to the conclusion to send men to search out the prophet Isaiah and convey to him what was going on with the hope that God would give him a word in response. Almost immediately, the Lord conveyed to Isaiah a response and that was to tell the king to not be afraid of the words that he heard from the Assyrians. So, the messengers returned and told the king these words.
2 Kings 19:14-16, 19-20, 32 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only. Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
The king of Assyria decided to flame the fire a little more. He reinforced his demands by sending messengers again to Jerusalem with a letter to be given directly to King Hezekiah. In this letter, he mocked Hezekiah’s God by saying, let your God not deceive you into thinking that Jerusalem will not be handed over into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hezekiah instead of changing his mind again about providing tribute money, he took the letter and spread it out before the Lord in the temple. After which, he prayed to Him. His prayer consisted of praising God for who He is and declaring unto Him the words of the Assyrian king. What did his prayer consist of? He asked Him to save him and his people, not just for their sake, so that all of the nations around would know that the Lord, He is God.
Unbeknownst to him, God heard his prayer and gave an answer concerning it to the prophet Isaiah, who had the Lord’s response sent back to the king. In it, Hezekiah received assurance that the Assyrian army wouldn’t enter Jerusalem. God in his unique response sent the angel of the Lord into the Assyrian camp causing about 185,000 men of the army to be killed. Because of such, the Assyrian forces decided to withdraw and go back home to the city of Nineveh, their capital city. When they arrived, King Sennacherib decided to enter into the house of Nisroch his god for worship. Little did he know that two of his sons would be waiting to kill him in this very place with the sword. After reading this story, let’s answer the following question.
Why did God hear and answer Hezekiah’s prayers on a number of occasions, when he disobeyed one of his biblical commands?
I think the difference between Hezekiah and King Saul was that King Saul habitually sinned and didn’t repent. Hezekiah, however, was faithful to God in not only reopening the temple, but also in obeying most of his commands. And at some point, he did decide that he wouldn’t continue in the practice of paying tribute money to another nation. I’m sure he repented, because of the evidence of which was in his change of mind toward it. I believe that God saw that his heart was after Him. Yes, he made a mistake, but he eventually acknowledged it, turned from it, and made the right decision in addressing it, which was to go to the temple and seek counsel.
I believe that the lives of these two people confirm the condition for having one’s prayers heard and answered by God. And just what is that condition? I will reiterate them here again. The initial basis for having one’s prayers heard and answered is the person must have believed in God, when He appeared before them or communicated with them. Secondly, that at some point of time in this person’s life they received the on-resting Spirit. And third, that they trusted in what God said, hid it away in their heart, and obeyed it.
What else we could infer is that God provided clear guidance for the Jews as how to live by means of the Mosaic Law as He did for those who lived during the Age of the Gentiles by means of direct oral revelation. And by the way, this new Law could be divided up into four sections each of which can be denoted by one word. Here are the four words and the sections of the Law which pertain to each one.
- Statutes - the Spiritual Code-the ordinances of the Law; e.g., the Tabernacle, the Holy Days, the Offerings, the High Priest, The Meat Offering, the Trespass Offering, the Levites, etc. (Exodus 26-31; 35-40; Leviticus 1-24)
- Commandments - the Moral Code which included not only the 10 commandments called the Decalogue, e.g., honor thy father and thy mother (Exodus 20:12-17) but more than 100 other commandments, e.g., thou shalt have no other gods before me; the Sabbath,… thou shalt not do any work. (Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 12)
- Judgments - the Social Code which are the laws belonging to civil government, e.g., dietary, marriage, military, conservation, etc. along with the related consequences (punishment). (Deuteronomy 14-28)
- Testimonies - the laws directing the commemoration of certain events, e.g., Seventh year Sabbath rest; the 50th year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of Unleavened Bread; etc. (Exodus 12:43-50; Numbers 28: 16-25; Deuteronomy 25-26)
Any king or person who appropriated, reflected upon, and obeyed the Law was said to have communion (fellowship) with God. With that said, my next question for you to consider is this.
What is the basis or condition that will cause God to hear and answer the prayers of those, who are New Testament believers?
You might say, that’s easy, the condition is the same as for the Old Testament saints. Believe in God, receive the on-resting Spirit, and do what God says. This sounds right, right? The only way to know if this is correct is to present scriptural information that pertains to these three components. So, let’s proceed to the next chapter, and take a look at what is called the Church Age, which is the age in which we as believers live, and determine what the condition is or the conditions are that will cause God to hear and answer our prayers.
2Bible Exposition Commentary/Old Testament, 2004, 3 April 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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