Monthly Archives: May 2020

Praying During The Pandemic

How can we pray at such a time as this? Consider the Old Testament man of God, Daniel.

Daniel’s life was changed forever by other people’s mistakes. When he was just a teenager, he was taken by force from his home in Israel. His life would be spent in a foreign land: Babylon.

You might say that Daniel just lived at the wrong time. God’s chosen people Israel had persisted in disobeying the Lord for generations. God warned them. They refused to listen. Finally, God disciplined Israel.

Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by a Babylonian army. All who survived were carried off into exile in Babylon. God’s people would not return to the Promised Land for seventy years. So, Daniel would live and die in Babylon.

Daniel was truly an extraordinary man. He could have hated the Babylonians. After all, they destroyed his home and kept him in exile. Instead, he served in the Babylonian government with distinction and integrity.

Daniel could have been bitter toward God. After all, God could have protected Daniel, couldn’t he? But Daniel showed no bitterness toward God. He was devoted to God and faithful to God’s word. He was a man of prayer, even when praying risked his life (Daniel 6)!

Daniel could have been angry at God’s people and refused to have anything to do with them. After all, their sin kept him from living in the Promised Land. But Daniel had no malice for sinful Israel. His love for God’s people is evident in his prayers.

One of Daniel’s prayers is recorded in the Bible (Daniel 9:1-19). He began by confessing the sins of Israel. Surprisingly, he included himself. “We have sinned and done wrong,” he said to God.

Daniel was willing to reckon himself among God’s people, even though they were sinful and he was faithful. He knew God loved his people and had a plan to bless them, despite their past disobedience and despite their current circumstances.

Daniel appealed to God for restoration of his people Israel. Because Jerusalem was God’s city, and the Temple was God’s sanctuary, and Israel was God’s people, Daniel pleaded with God to restore them.

Daniel wanted God’s name to be honored among the nations. If God’s city and temple were destroyed and his people were defeated, then the other nations of the world would assume the God of Israel was weak and defeated.

The world around us is like Babylon, increasingly pagan. The church is too often like ancient Israel, distracted by countless idols. God seems to be distant, angry, allowing disaster to sweep across the land. How can we pray?

We can pray like Daniel. We can remain united with God’s people, the church, despite their shortcomings. We can appeal to God’s mercy for his people, remembering his promises. God promised that his church will be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it!

Daniel did not live at the wrong time. He was appointed by God to live faithfully in Babylon during the Exile. We are not living at the wrong time. God has called us to serve him now, in these circumstances. Let’s be faithful in our generation.

Brother Richard Foster

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Standing In The Gap

Ezekiel was chosen by God to speak his message to a people who were anxious about their future. Israel had ignored God and disobeyed him for so long that the Lord finally allowed disaster to visit them as punishment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel was with a group who had been expelled from their home, the Promised Land: Judah. They were deported to Babylon, unsure if their lives would ever return to normal.

God’s word came to the prophet, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30, NIV).

All had failed. The leaders of the people were unwise. The priests had led the people astray to idolatry. The prophets had lied to the people, telling them that they would enjoy peace and prosperity without interruption. The people followed along, content to be misled.

Government and religion, leaders and followers, rich and poor, every group was guilty of spiritual foolishness. God found nobody to “build up the wall” and “stand in the gap.”

The wall around an ancient city was vital for security. In war, the enemy tried to open a breach in the wall. If they were successful, brave warriors inside the city had to stand in the gap and resist the enemy, otherwise, the people in the city were doomed.

In this case, God is talking about more than military tactics. He said, “stand before me.” This is the language of prayer. To stand before God, in this context, means to appeal to him in prayer on behalf of others. The one who stands in the gap must know God well enough to stand before him. And this person must be willing to do so!

God looked for someone to stand before him “on behalf of the land.” The spiritual wall protecting the people of Israel had been breached by the enemy. In this case, it was their own foolishness that had allowed the dangerous rupture in their spiritual condition.

Ironically, God himself was ultimately the enemy. Babylon was merely his servant to bring punishment on Israel. He gave Babylon victory over Israel because of the stubbornness of his people.

In Ezekiel’s time, God found no one to stand in the gap. The results were devastating for Israel. Because the spiritual walls were breached, God allowed the physical walls of the city to be breached. More than that, the walls were completely broken down and the gates burned with fire. Jerusalem and the temple were utterly destroyed. All who survived were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.

Like Ezekiel, we live at a time when people are anxious about the future, wondering if and when things might return to ‘normal.’ But was our normal state one of spiritual health? The questions we face and answers we seek go deeper than medical and economic issues. The power and wisdom we desperately need are more than political and scientific. The core issue is spiritual.

God is looking for someone to stand in the gap. He is looking for those who know him well enough to approach his throne of grace with confidence, seeking mercy and finding grace to help us in our time of need.

May our Lord find many who are able and willing to stand in the gap for the people! May we be those who stand before the Lord on behalf of the land, appealing to God for his great grace.

Brother Richard Foster

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