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God Sought For A Man


So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall,
and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land,
that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.
Ezekiel 22:30

What does it mean to stand in the gap? The best way to answer this question is through the Biblical analogy of a wall of protection around a city. If the city wall is broken in a certain place, there is now a gap in the wall. And this gap is not good. Inside the city are the people of God. Outside are their enemies plotting to destroy them. As a good shepherd fights to protect his sheep, a godly man must stand in the gap to watch and pray for the people in the city. He will stand in the gap till the wall is rebuilt, and the gap is properly and fully sealed.

But sometimes the spiritual conditions of the leaders in the city have deteriorated and become degrading. They don't care enough to protect God's people from being destroyed.  They do not work rigorously in rebuilding the wall. And worst still, they do not vigilantly position watchmen to stand in the gap, guarding against invaders and intruders. Unguarded, the gap in the city wall is now a place of great danger.

As a matter of fact, any gap in the city wall is disturbing news to the people living inside. To calm these fearful people, their leaders will try to hide the truth. They will say, "Don't worry! There is no danger. We are at peace!"

Ezekiel 13:10-14 (NLT)
This will happen because these evil prophets deceive My people by saying,
‘All is peaceful’ when there is no peace at all!
It’s as if the people have built a flimsy wall,
and these prophets are trying to reinforce it by covering it with whitewash!
Tell these whitewashers that their wall will soon fall down.
A heavy rainstorm will undermine it;
great hailstones and mighty winds will knock it down.
And when the wall falls, the people will cry out,
‘What happened to your whitewash?’
Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I will sweep away your whitewashed wall with a storm of indignation,
with a great flood of anger, and with hailstones of fury.
I will break down your wall right to its foundation,
and when it falls, it will crush you.
Then you will know that I am the Lord.

The whitewash simply hides the gaps, and briefly touches up the flaws in the wall. The cover-up is flimsy and lousy. Hiding the gaps and covering them with whitewash may look good on the surface but it is utterly foolish and irresponsible! People may not notice these covered gaps, and may presume that everything is alright. They may feel safe, secure and confident. However this terrible weakness of the gap exposes God's people to many unforeseen dangers. They become vulnerable to the attacks of their adversaries! Because of this gap, the city is often invaded and easily destroyed by the enemies! That’s why standing in the gap is of utmost importance to God!

Let’s take a closer look at Ezekiel 22:23-31. God sent Ezekiel to deliver a serious message and warning to the people of Israel.

“Son of man, give the people of Israel this message:
In the day of My indignation,
you will be like a polluted land, a land without rain.
Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey.
They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth.
They make many widows in the land.
Your priests have violated My instructions and defiled My holy things.
They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not.
And they do not teach My people the difference
between what is ceremonially clean and unclean.
They disregard My Sabbath days so that I am dishonored among them.
Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims.
They actually destroy people’s lives for money!
And your prophets cover up for them
by announcing false visions and making lying predictions.
They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’
when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them.
Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy,
and deprive foreigners of justice.
I looked for someone
who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land.
I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall
so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.
So now I will pour out My fury on them,
consuming them with the fire of My anger.
I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins.
I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

The people of God will be like a polluted land, a land without rain. They become polluted because they have corrupted their way of living, and have compromised their walk with God. No more rain means no more blessings from above. Once blessed but now no longer blessed. Why? Because the leaders are scheming and plotting evil plans. They are like lions stalking their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. As a result, many men died, leaving behind many widows in the land.

The priests have also violated the instructions of the Lord and defiled His holy things. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not. And they do not teach the people of God the difference between what is ceremonially clean and unclean. They disregard His holy Sabbath days so that the Lord is dishonored among them. People no longer have any reverence and holy fear for God!

The leaders are like wolves tearing apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for the love of money! And worst still, the prophets cover up for them. They did so by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them.

Because of what the leaders, priests and prophets have done, the common people join in to oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice. From the top down, all the people are sinning against the Lord by disobeying His laws and commandments. As they do so, they become lawless, falling out of grace. They bring disgrace to the name of the Lord! And they dishonour Him!

God looks down and witnesses all these evil things in the city. Herein is a big gap of weakness and impending disaster. Someone must stand in the gap to watch and pray, interceding and pleading for God’s mercy and grace, and for His divine intervention. God Himself says, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” Therefore, God will pour out His fury on them, consuming them with the fire of His anger. He will ensure that they pay the full penalty for all their sins.

The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av) was recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:11-21:

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king,
and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years.
He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God,
and he refused to humble himself
when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord.
He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar,
even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name.
Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man,
refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.
Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people
became more and more unfaithful.
They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations,
desecrating the Temple of the Lord
that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.
The Lord, the God of their ancestors,
repeatedly sent His prophets to warn them,
for He had compassion on His people and His Temple.
But the people mocked these messengers of God
and despised their words.
They scoffed at the prophets
until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained
and nothing could be done.
So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them.
The Babylonians killed Judah’s young men,
even chasing after them into the Temple.
They had no pity on the people,
killing both young men and young women,
the old and the infirm.
God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar.
The king took home to Babylon all the articles,
large and small, used in the Temple of God,
and the treasures from both the Lord’s Temple
and from the palace of the king and his officials.
Then his army burned the Temple of God,
tore down the walls of Jerusalem,
burned all the palaces,
and completely destroyed everything of value.
The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon,
and they became servants to the king
and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.
So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled.
The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest,
lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled,
just as the prophet had said.

Because of their presumptuous sins, the leaders, priests, prophets and people became hard and stubborn, refusing to return to God. They thought that everything was alright when it was not. All the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, mixing the holy things of God with the unholy things of the idols, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

As we see the dreadful outcome for the people who blindly followed their leaders, we must not follow their wicked footsteps. They continued to live in their sins, refusing to humble themselves and seek God, and turn from their evil ways! Herein is a warning that we cannot ignore. We must discontinue doing things that are not pleasing to God!

The Lord in His great mercy and love repeatedly sent His prophets to warn them, for He had compassion on His people and His Temple. But the people continually mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done. So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. It was the Lord who brought the Babylonians against the Israelites. He was the One who handed His people over to their enemies and destroyed the First Temple! What good was the Holy Temple when all the priests, prophets and people no longer worshipped God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? They had gone astray to worship other gods and idols. And the glory of the Lord had departed from the Temple.

The people of God were called by His name. The shocking and saddening truth was that they did not humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways. Nobody was standing in the gap. How then, could God hear from heaven, forgive their sins and restore their land?

God is love and He is also just. Very often God delays judgment for very long periods of time. As nothing seems to be happening, some people become presumptuous, thinking that it will never happen. But when God does judge sin, He is both relentless and thorough.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise,
as some count slackness,
but is longsuffering toward us,
not willing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.

Thanks be to God that His judgment is often accompanied by His mercy and compassion.

Lamentations 3:22-27
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.

Therefore, we will hope in the Lord. He is good to those who depend on Him, and to those who seek Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit to God, trusting and obeying Him at an early age, and bearing His yoke of discipline and training.

Regarding judgment, God can make three choices:

  1. He can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. As such, all the terrible and ungodly things, distressing injustices and wickedness that are happening on earth now will continue to abound and go on without end. God does not want that, and neither does mankind.
  2. God can enforce men to obey Him and control them as robots. But He is sovereign and will never do that.  Love cannot be forced. If He forces men to repent and do His will rigidly, they cannot truly love Him.
  3. He can withdraw Himself from those who refuse His love. He can let them have their own way for a season of time. As God is light, without Him, there will only be gross darkness. Without God, the ungodly will experience terrible torments of godlessness and wickedness. This is the only wise way to bring them back again to the journey of godliness.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The father allowed his wayward son to go off from his presence and household. The younger son got together all he had, and set off far, far away from his father. And there he squandered all his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he began to search for a job, and was hired to feed pigs. However, he remained hungry. He even longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything. He then finally came to his senses. Yes, finally, he remembered his father. He finally acknowledged that he was wrong. He then decided to quit his folly, wise up and go back to his father and say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” The father loved him back unconditionally. Similarly, the divine love of God never fails.

What is the breaking point of our wilful sinning against God? God may allow us to go on sinning but there will come a point in time when we are in total desperation. Game over, and it's time to quit! It is there and then we begin to realize and acknowledge our wrongdoings and sins. It is here we must make the decision to take the journey home. Yes, return back to God, seek His face, and turn away from our wicked ways!

There are many prodigal sons in the household of God today. Many of us are like the elder son. We continue to do our own things. Most Christians have a lot of things to do daily. But we are like fat hamsters in their cages running and keeping the wheels rotating. Always busy doing something but actually going nowhere.

 It is so difficult to be still and wait on the Lord, to commune with Him and to hear His voice. Very few people are spending quality time with God. Almost none are standing in the gap for our younger brothers who are lost. Very few Christians pray for their families, their churches, their communities and their nations. This God-given responsibility is often neglected. And standing in the gap is given very low priority! This is a shocking discovery but it is true in the churches across the globe.

To understand what this means to stand in the gap, let’s look at the great example of Abraham (Genesis 18:16-32). Abraham interceded with God for the wicked city of Sodom. He was the most persistent intercessor recorded in the Scriptures. He kept on pleading with God, bargaining down so that God would not destroy the people. Abraham’s relationship with God was true friendship. He was able to commune freely and directly with God. Face to face! God did not hide anything from Abraham what He was about to do. However Sodom was eventually destroyed. It was not because God refused to answer Abraham’s prayer and hear his intercession, but because Sodom could not produce even the minimal evidence of righteousness and repentance. Abraham dared not ask God to spare Sodom for fewer than ten righteous persons.

As history revealed, the Lord searched His own people for even one righteous person and could not find one. The prophet Jeremiah declared that God would spare Jerusalem for the sake of one! Yet not a single righteous person could be found. In Jeremiah 5:1-3, God exposed the sins of Judah and revealed this honest truth:

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the Lord.
“Look high and low; search throughout the city!
If you can find even one just and honest person,
I will not destroy the city.
But even when they are under oath, saying,
‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
they are still telling lies!”
Lord, You are searching for honesty.
You struck your people, but they paid no attention.
You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected.
They are determined, with faces set like stone;
they have refused to repent.

Yes, only one righteous man is enough for God. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).

Romans 5:18-19
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone,
but Christ’s one act of righteousness
brings a right relationship with God
and new life for everyone.
Because one person disobeyed God,
many became sinners.
But because one other person obeyed God,
many will be made righteous.

God needs only one righteous man! Who prepared the way of the Lord in His First Coming? John the Baptist. But who were the parents of John the Baptist?

Luke 1:5-6
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea,
a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.
His wife was of the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
And they were both righteous before God,
walking in all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blameless.   

Both Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous and blameless in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.

Yes, God is still seeking for one righteous man. He is seeking for a man to stand in the gap for the sake of the land, so that He doesn't have to destroy it.

Standing in the gap means doing three things:

  •  Watching out for the enemies of God coming to destroy His people
  •  Warning God's people to humble themselves and repent of their sins
  •  Waiting on the Lord, pleading for His mercy and grace on behalf of His people

The whole world is in this current state of turmoil, crisis and chaos today because the Church is not doing what God desires us to do. Jesus Christ has commissioned us to do an awesome job. But the Great Commission is not yet fulfilled because we have committed the Great Omission. We forget to stand in the gap for the nations. How to do His will without communing with Him daily?

The big question is still this: Are we done with all the follies of our sins? It's now game over, and it's now time to take our position and stand in the gap.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If My people who are called by My name
will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

Jesus is coming again. Another "John the Baptist" is needed to prepare the way of the Lord. God is still seeking for godly men and women to stand in the gap. They will be blameless and righteous in the sight of God, like Zacharias and Elizabeth. They will give birth and bring forth "John the Baptist."

Will we be the ones God sought for?

 

Written on 2 August 2012