I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Standing for the Lord
In his book 'Living Above the Level of Mediocrity' author Chuck Swindoll quotes pastor Bruce Larson who tells this story:
"When I was a small boy, I attended church every Sunday at a big Gothic Presbyterian bastion in Chicago. The preaching was powerful and the music was great. But for me, the most awesome moment in the morning service was the offertory, when twelve solemn, frock-coated ushers marched in lock-step down the main aisle to receive the brass plates for collecting the offering. These men, so serious about their business of serving the Lord in this magnificent house of worship, were the business and professional leaders of Chicago.
One of the twelve ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. He was not a very imposing looking man, but in Chicago he was a living legend, for he was the man who had stood up to Al Capone. In the prohibition years, Capone's rule was absolute. The local and state police and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation were afraid to oppose him. But single handedly, Frank Loesch, as a Christian layman and without any government support, organized the Chicago Crime Commission, a group of citizens who were determined to take Mr. Capone to court and put him away.
During the months that the Crime Commission met, Frank Loesch's life was in constant danger. There were threats on the lives of his family and friends. But he never wavered. Ultimately he won the case against Capone and was the instrument for removing this blight from the city of Chicago.
Frank Loesch had risked his life to live out his faith. Each Sunday at this point of the service, my father, a Chicago businessman himself, never failed to poke me and silently point to Frank Loesch with pride. Sometimes I'd catch a tear in my father's eye. For my dad, and for all of us, this was and is what authentic living is all about."
In the book of Ezekiel we have a prophet who is ministering to God's people in a time when they are in rebellion against the Lord. And they ultimately suffered the consequences of that rebellion by going into exile under the Babylonians.
In chapter 22 of his book we see the Lord looking for someone, anyone, who would stand in the gap or stand up for the Lord and His holiness, pleading for His mercy in order to keep the nation from sliding completely off the precipice of sin, falling to their destruction. Sadly, none could be found and their destruction took place.
God is still looking for people today who will stand in the gap and represent Him, calling on Him for mercy for the rebellious world in which we live. And He wants us to set the example for those lost in sin and destruction so that they may see us and possibly turn to the Lord and be saved themselves.
Let us look more deeply into this chapter and see what its message has to say to us today about how we too can stand on behalf of the Lord. We will begin by looking a little at the prophet Ezekiel and the times in which he lived.
I. The Setting of the Book
Ezekiel was 25 when he and his wife were taken captive to Babylon in 597 B.C., along with 10,000 other Jews who were part of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And 5 years later when he was 30, God called him to the ministry.
Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest. And, you can tell from his writing that he had an intimate knowledge of the temple details of his day.
He ministered in Babylon for the first 3 decades of the 6th century B.C. It extended about 22 years to around 571/570 B.C. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already fallen because of sin around 722 B.C. at the hands of the Assyrian empire and Judah was about to make the same mistake as her sister and fall to Babylon.
Ezekiel's book is composed of 48 chapters and is almost cut in half by its subject matter. The first half is before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. And the rest is after the fall. The first part is mostly judgment that will take place because of the sins of the nation. However, the second is God's promise of restoration and future glory for His people. His prophecy of a New Covenant between God and the entire nation of Israel is a profound influence on the later post-exilic reconstruction that takes place later in history
Chapter 22, is obviously in the first section and is part of the prophecy of warning and judgment. Let us look at an outline of this important section of the book.
II. The Outline of Ezekiel 22
In the introduction, verses 1-5 the word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel commanding him to pronounce judgment on Jerusalem. The city, once referred to as the holy city, and which was God's special possession, is now the bloody city. This is a reference to her judicial murders, her sacrifice of children on pagan altars and her rebellion against God by idolatry and the injustice against her own people.
God points out here that they are causing their own judgment to draw near (4). It is their own fault. Because of this, they will get no sympathy from any of the other nations. Those near and far will mock them (5).
In verses 6-12 Ezekiel turns from the sins of Israel in general to the sins of her princes or leaders in Israel.
Each of the leaders used their power to shed blood and for self-serving purposes instead of bringing glory to God. Here is a little taste of what they did as we read verses 6-12 of this chapter:
"Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding innocent blood. They have treated father and mother lightly within you. The alien they have oppressed in your midst; the fatherless and the widow they have wronged in you. You have despised my holy things and profaned my sabbaths. Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding innocent blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines.
In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness. In you they have uncovered their father's nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity. One has committed abomination with his neighbor's wife and another has lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law. And another in you has humbled his sister, his father's daughter. In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain and oppression, and your have forgotten me, declares the Lord God."
All of this including abuse, idolatry, murder, adultery, incest, bribery and much more, was done by those in power who should have known better and set the example.
Verses 13-16 shows God's response to all of this horror. It says that he smites His hand, or as some translations say: He beats His fists against Israel's corrupt leaders. And God's prophet proclaims that Israel will be scattered among the nations for their many sins. Ezekiel saw not only the immediate punishment of God's wayward people but also the worldwide dispersion that is still going on today. Israel is still being purged because of their sins. But one day they will know that He is Lord (16).
Moving on to verses 17-19 we see a picture of God gathering Israel into His furnace of judgment. Once Israel was regarded as a precious possession. Now they are like dross or the worthless impurities which come from the refining of metal.
And in 20-22 we see the judgment of melting in God's furnace as God pours out His anger and fury. But ultimately it is for the purpose of refining. We see this in verse 22 when Ezekiel talks about this judgment being like the refining of silver through melting.
Starting in verse 23 and going all the way through 29 we see the further elaboration of the sins of Israel's prophets, priests, princes and people. Like a prosecuting attorney, Ezekiel names all the reasons why the defendant is guilty and must be punished.
All of this leads up to the last 2 verses that I want to focus on. It is these verses that we, God's people today, can relate to in the 21st century the most. Verses 30 and 31 tell us:
"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out my indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads; declares the Lord God."
Let's spend the remaining time examining these powerful verses.
III. The Vain Search
In this last section we see a God of mercy and grace. Even though Israel did atrocious things and were a stench in the nostrils of a Holy God, He still wanted to find any way He could to save them. Ezekiel and Jeremiah, who was his contemporary, were faithful. However, besides them, God sought in vain to find just one person capable of advocating for Israel whose sins were about to destroy them.
God found absolutely no one who could lead the nation that He loved to repentance and bring them back from the brink of disaster. And they finally experienced it in 586 B.C. with the fall of the bloody city to the Babylonians and the destruction of temple that stood in it.
The Lord was searching for someone who would: "build up the wall and stand in the gap." A wall in the Old Testament world was very important to a city. It kept out the enemies of the people, so they wouldn't be able to come in and harm them.
So, the breach in the wall was a metaphor of the sins that put the people of God in danger of destruction. Figuratively, there was a major gap caused by that sin that would allow Israel to be in great peril of being exposed to their enemies. And no one, out of all the people was willing to fill it by standing for what was right.
Now, sadly, the consequences of that lack of leadership of God's people Israel is still felt to this very day. And only the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ will have the character and credentials to stand in the gap and cause the people of Israel to turn to God in faith.
Today, we are not a favored nation like Israel. Rather we are members of all nations and people groups who have been brought together by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are rather the Church, the Body of Christ. However, God is still searching for a man, woman or child who will stand in the gap and proclaim His glory and holiness to a lost world who will one day face the destruction of Hell and eternal separation from God and all that is good.
IV. God Continues His Search
There are many enemies seeking to destroy God's people today. The world is no friend to God or to those who follow Him. And neither is it a friend to those who haven't yet accepted Christ but might otherwise be persuaded to come to eternal life through Him.
We are living in a time when Scripture isn't honored. Rather, people do what is right in their own eyes. And we have many preachers who have abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are preaching a new kind of message of works salvation, which isn't new at all but an old lie from the pit of Hell.
It is a gospel where, if you say the right things, do the right things, and give enough money to the church, God will prosper you and give you all that you ever wanted of earthly value. This gospel may or may not help you to gain the world. Certainly, it has for many of its preachers. However, you will lose your eternal soul.
Also, in this society, the family is being attacked by those who would seek to redefine it. Further, many fathers are absent from the homes, leaving the mother's alone to rear the children.
Life is no longer seen as sacred and the womb is no longer safe. And sadly, children are being sold into sex slavery right in front of our eyes.
There is murder, rape, looting and destruction, and now it is viewed by many as a "peaceful protest". Also, many of our leaders are using it all to further their own agendas.
There is racial tension that is threatening to lead us into another Civil War. And very few are standing up and saying that we are all children of one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. Therefore the only race that God created is the human race. There are just many varieties and ethnicities of that one race.
Many of our schools, teaching our children, are rewriting history, and leaving out the fact that the Judeo-Christian values that our nation has espoused have made our country great and has caused it to be one of the most successful and free societies in history.
Our belief that all men and women are created in the image of God has lead to the abolition of slavery, giving to women the right to vote and allowing minorities to have a chance to become whatever the Lord has designed for them to be, among other things.
And these same schools are teaching some of the youngest and most vulnerable children in our society that they are the result of a mindless process over millions of years when both Scripture, the evidence and common sense show us that we have a universe so complex and orderly that it is insane to believe that it popped out of nothing or came into being by random chance and some mysterious matter whose existence they can't explain. And many teachers also tell our children that life came out of non-life, though that is scientifically impossible, or was seeded here by some aliens from a distant planet that no one has ever seen.
They are taking away the faith of our children. Is it any wonder that in Europe and America, we are living in societies that are abandoning the church and replacing it with everything but God. And our societies are falling apart because of it. God is not mocked. A man, or a country will reap what they sow.
Today, like He was in the days of Ezekiel, God is still looking for someone who will stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of our society, telling them the truth and living it out in their own lives.
My main point for giving this message is that we must stand up for God and His Word, no matter what the opposition to Him, or to it. And we have to live our lives like we actually believe what we are preaching. Because no one will follow a hypocrite.
I am not perfect, and will never claim to be such. And I've made many mistakes over my life. However, because of the grace of God I am still here and have a chance to proclaim to this sick world that the Great Physician is looking for new patients to cure. The wall guarding our society has an enormous gap today, just as Israel had so long ago.
God continues to search for those who will stand in it and fill it with his grace and love. It is my prayer that you will join me in God's mission of salvation for our country and for this world.
May we together stand in the gap, today and every day that the Lord allows us to live on this planet. Because if we don't, who will?
© 2020 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on September 28, 2020:
KC: I don't know what was presented in that video so I can't give an educated answer to your question. My subject of standing in the gap is taken directly from Scripture and I have tried to reliably set forth the teachings of God's Word. I would hope that all who teach His Word will do the same, though some don't. Thanks for reading!!
KC McGee from Where I belong on September 28, 2020:
It seems a wihile back I read or seen a vedio about Standing in the Gap, from the SDA church. Is this the same subject? Great read.