Ezekiel 22:23-30 23 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 24 “Son of man, say to her: ‘You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.’ 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 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.
Historical Orientation: Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries. Daniel, likely as an older teen or in early twenties was taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar about 605 BC. He was taken into the King’s court to be trained as a servant. About this time Ezekiel, still in Israel, prophesied that the captivity would last for 70 years. Then Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in a second deportation about 597 BC, but unlike Daniel he ministered to the captives in Babylon who were outside the King’s court. Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem and preached to the people left there after the captivity. Jerusalem was again put under siege and sacked by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC and both Jerusalem and the Temple were burned. The captivity did last until 536 BC at which time both Jerusalem and the Temple were rebuilt over the next twenty years.
Key Verse for Today’s Message: Verse 30 – 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.
Consider the situation in which Ezekiel found himself when he received this word from the Lord. Some of the Jews had been taken into exile to Babylon and this message to Ezekiel focused on the fall of Jerusalem. The Jews were God’s covenant people and Jerusalem was the holy city and abode of His Temple. Yet that did not keep God from placing judgment on the people or the city. When you read through the 22nd chapter, God told Ezekiel the sins of the people, included killings, disrespect of parents, sexual promiscuity, contract killing (assassins), forgetting the Lord, oppression of the poor and needy. And on top of that were the sins of the leaders, both religious leaders (the prophets and the priests) and political leaders (the princes).
In Ezekiel 22:26, God addresses those who are supposed to be leading the people to Him, the prophets. “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the clean and unclean; and they hide their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” I wish we had time to detail the betrayal of God that is seen in the Church’s of today, especially in America. The Word of God is denied, rejected, abused, misused, and convoluted. How many of God’s statues have we changed to fit our own desires? How many ministers have stood before their congregation and told them that God is not concerned about their sins as long as they give their tithes? How many ministers have stated to their congregation that “life-style” choices are acceptable to God because we must be a people that accept everyone and everything? When we change God’s word to fit the needs of the day or to fit our own life choices, we are doing violence to His word. “….they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane and they have not taught the difference between the clean and unclean.”
Now God addresses even more specifically what these ministers were doing. They made no distinction between what was holy and profane – everything was acceptable. It was a “feel good” atmosphere where sin was never addressed. They no longer taught the people the difference between what was right and acceptable before God and what was wrong and called sin. The spiritual leaders gave in to the demands of the sinful society and to the mores of a depraved culture. With each generation holiness and righteousness slipped further and further from the minds of the people. And when the religious leaders lose their love and respect for God, and for God’s Word, you can only imagine how far from God the people fall.
This is the society that Ezekiel was living in. And when society is going downhill fast, you’d expect that the men and women of God, those supposedly “standing in the gap”, would be there to tell society that they are going down the wrong path. You’d hope that these men and women of God would take a stand and call sin exactly what it is, sin. But when God spoke this to Ezekiel, this was not the case. God’s desire was to spare Jerusalem and He sought out someone who could stand in the gap for it, but look at the results. Look again at verses 30 and 31.
“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.”
At the time Jerusalem fell (586), Ezekiel and the Jews were already in Exile. It was the hope of the Jews that they would be able to return because they were God’s covenant people and Jerusalem held His temple. When Ezekiel prophesied that Jerusalem would fall, this crushed the people. But God in His grace searched the land for someone to stand in the gap for Jerusalem so that it would not be destroyed, but the wickedness was so extreme that He found no one and He was left with the only option He had, to destroy Jerusalem.
If you are thinking about the United States of America, you should.
And if you are not, you are blind.
So our key verse God asks Ezekiel — “Who will stand in the gap? — Who will stand up for the nation and defend them and lead them back to Me?”
Perhaps we need to define what it means to “stand in the gap.” In its simplest form it means to make intercession for another. Do you recall the story of Moses and Israel in the wilderness in Exodus 32:7-14?
MOSES STOOD IN THE GAP FOR ISRAEL.
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation. 11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Or perhaps you remember the story of Abraham and the debate he had with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33? ABRAHAM STOOD IN THE GAP FOR SODOM AND GOMORRAH.
20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” 22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” 27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.” 29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.” 30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” 33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Finally, let us look at how DANIEL STOOD IN THE GAP FOR ISRAEL in Daniel 9:1-19.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. 3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. 8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly! 16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
I believe that God is asking that same question of us. Are we willing to stand in the gap to intercede for this nation and lead the people back to God? Are we willing to turn to God on behalf of America and ask for His hand to move across this nation once again?
I hope you will recall this great verse and great promise from 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 will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
John Wesley once said, “Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven on earth.”
He is also known for saying, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”
Yes, today is Father’s Day, and this has not sounded like a message that you would expect to hear on this day. But it is more than just appropriate – it is God ordained! You see, as fathers, as men, we are called to stand in the Gap for our children, our families, and our nation. It is not popular today to speak such words, but God has placed the responsibility of spiritual leadership on the shoulders of men. And whether or not as a man you accept this responsibility, one day you will be judged as to how well you did in that role. But men, you cannot lead when you do not know where you are going. So it is time to get serious about the things of God. It is time to learn how to be a man who stands in the gap. The eternal destiny of your children and grandchildren may depend on it. The spiritual condition of your family will depend on it. The ministry of your church depends on it. And the judgment and destruction of this nation may very well depend on it.
I am not through, but I have to close. I want to close by going back to our text, Ezekiel 22. But this time I want to read the verses before the text we began with, so here is what verses 1-22 say in the NLT. Does this sound like any place you know?
The Sins of Jerusalem
Now this message came to me from the Lord: 2 “Son of man, are you ready to judge Jerusalem? Are you ready to judge this city of murderers? Publicly denounce her detestable sins, 3 and give her this message from the Sovereign Lord: O city of murderers, doomed and damned – city of idols, filthy and foul – 4 you are guilty because of the blood you have shed. You are defiled because of the idols you have made. Your day of destruction has come! You have reached the end of your years. I will make you an object of mockery throughout the world. 5 O infamous city, filled with confusion, you will be mocked by people far and near. 6 “Every leader in Israel who lives within your walls is bent on murder. 7 Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt. Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you. 8 You despise my holy things and violate my Sabbath days of rest. 9 People accuse others falsely and send them to their death. You are filled with idol worshipers and people who do obscene things. 10 Men sleep with their fathers’ wives and have intercourse with women who are menstruating. 11 Within your walls live men who commit adultery with their neighbors’ wives, who defile their daughters-in-law, or who rape their own sisters. 12 There are hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere. They never even think of me and my commands, says the Sovereign Lord. 13 “But now I clap my hands in indignation over your dishonest gain and bloodshed. 14 How strong and courageous will you be in my day of reckoning? I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said.15 I will scatter you among the nations and purge you of your wickedness. 16 And when I have been dishonored among the nations because of you, you will know that I am the Lord.”
The Lord’s Refining Furnace
17 Then this message came to me from the Lord: 18 “Son of man, the people of Israel are the worthless slag that remains after silver is smelted. They are the dross that is left over—a useless mixture of copper, tin, iron, and lead. 19 So tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you are all worthless slag, I will bring you to my crucible in Jerusalem. 20 Just as copper, iron, lead, and tin are melted down in a furnace, I will melt you down in the heat of my fury. 21 I will gather you together and blow the fire of my anger upon you, 22 and you will melt like silver in fierce heat. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out my fury on you.’”