I looked for a man [to] stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.
A People in Trouble
Israel had completely lost its grip on what really matters. Through His prophet, Ezekiel, God levied an unbelievable list of indictments. The prophet buttoned everything up with: “The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” (Ezekiel 22.29) They were too wrapped up in their own agenda to realize their Maker was extremely displeased with their faithless and callous behavior. He wanted it stopped. And if Israel couldn’t find the will to change on its own, He was prepared to help them—before they hurt anyone else. (Americans may find all of this eerily resonant.)
Disobedience comes from overestimating our strength. When we decide we’re big and bad enough to go it on our own, God graciously lets us. But sooner or later, our best thinking is insufficient to sort through what’s happening, let alone what’s next. Our clearest sight doesn’t see far enough to spare us from unnecessary harm. We end up weaker than ever. This is where Israel landed.
Not only were its arrogance and selfishness indefensible; Israel’s disobedience left it defenseless, vulnerable. Typically, when it strayed from God’s will, He stood back and allowed its enemies to humble Israel to its knees. In this case, however, its actions were so grievous God said its enemies would stand back in mockery as His own anger fell on Israel. He threatened to gather His people and melt them down like metal thrust in the fire of His wrath.
Holes in the Wall
Curiously, the prospect of wrath excites some. The airwaves hum with red-faced preachers and pundits who relish predicting divine terror for anyone they disagree with. Yet here we see God’s reluctance to carry out His plan. “I looked for one person,” He said, “willing to stand in the gap to prevent the flow of my anger.” Nobody stepped in.
Disobedience riddles our world—and our community—with wide, open holes in the wall. Pursuit of power, wealth, and pleasure at the expense of righteousness leaves us with no defense against our Father’s displeasure. Instead of looking for someone to blame, it’s time to step in and become the mending material God seeks. He wants us to live honestly, pray always, love without hesitation, speak to power gone wrong, and uphold His example. He wants us to be fearless of standing in the gap.
Disobedience has left our world riddled with holes. God is looking for us to stand in the gap.
(Tomorrow: Standing Inside the Gates)