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