“The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”
Ezekiel 22:29-30 ESV
Through the Bible: Ezekiel 21-22
There’s probably no verse that has been used for men’s events more than Ezekiel 22:30. The idea that God is looking for a man who will stand in the gap for him is so compelling that in 1997, nearly a million men gathered in Washington DC for Stand in the Gap: A Solemn Assembly. I was there, and I remember the overwhelming feeling of commitment, and solidarity as hundreds of thousands of men sang, prayed, repented, and stood shoulder to shoulder promising to love our wives and raise our children and turn the tide of culture.
And I am not knocking PromiseKeepers at all. It made a profound difference in my life. And I one hundred percent believe that men and women must commit every day to stand against the sin and evil that threatens our families, our churches, and our nation.
The problem is, we are missing the point of Ezekiel 22:30: God looked for a man, and God could not find one. Not that no man stepped up. Not that no man volunteered. It’s that no man could be found. And if the omniscient, omnipresent God couldn’t find a man who could stand in the gap, that means there wasn’t a man who could.
The immediate context of Ezekiel’s prophecy is the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. 2 Kings 25 tells us,
“And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah.”
2 Kings 25:1-4 ESV
For nearly two years, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the walls of Jerusalem. The people were starving. Then a breach was made in the wall. It isn’t clear whether it was made by the besieging army trying to get in or the starving people trying to get out. It didn’t matter. Once the breach was made, the city fell. And when there was a gap in the wall, the men of war didn’t stand in the gap, they fled through the gap.
The prophet Ezekiel began his prophetic ministry around 597 BC, thirteen years before these events. So Ezekiel 22 gives us God’s perspective on the impending fall of Jerusalem. God never once gives the reason for the fall of Jerusalem as famine, siege, or a breach in the wall, or Nebuchadnezzar. No, God places the blame on four groups of people.
The Lord catalogues a depressing amount of sin among the everyday citizens of Jerusalem. Treating parents with contempt (v. 7). Exploiting foreigners (v. 7). Injustice toward orphans and widows (v. 8). Despising what is holy and profaning the Sabbath (v. 8). Slander. Idolatry. Bribery. Extortion. Usury. Sexual sin (v. 9-13).
God judges the “princes of the city” who are bent on shedding blood (v. 6). They are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain (v. 27).
The priests, who should have been preserving the Law and remembering the Sabbath, had disregarded and profaned it, treating it like any other day. They hadn’t just forgotten God’s law, the had “done violence to it.” They made no distinction between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean (v. 26).
God’s prophets were maybe the worst of all. They “smeared whitewash” for the people, convincing them that God didn’t have a problem with their sin. They claimed to see things in visions when they didn’t. They claimed to speak for God when they weren’t (v. 28).
There wasn’t a group not represented in God’s indictment. Prophets, priests, politicians, regular people. Not one was found who could stand in the gap.
And we still can’t. Does anyone really want to make a case that politicians are less greedy today than they were then? That people are less sinful? That preachers and teachers are more willing to tell people the truth than they were in Ezekiel’s day?
We are incapable of standing in the gap. We can’t mend the walls. We can’t close the breach our sins have created between us and God.
But there is Someone who can.
Do you know what a mediator is? A mediator is one who stands between two parties that are in opposition. In a court of law, a mediator can speak for both parties. A mediator’s job is to make peace between to factions that are at war.
With that in mind, meditate on these Scriptures:
- Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one (Ephesians 2:12-14a)
- For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:5-6)
- For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15).
- Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25)
- “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12 ESV
- “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Isaiah 61:4 ESV
So the point of men’s ministry–of any ministry, really–is not to pump us up to stand in the gap. A good men’s ministry ought to call us to repentance and humility, and to acknowledge the only One who can stand in the gap. Jesus, the God-man; word made flesh; God with us; reconciling, redeeming, restoring, repairing, mediating, bridge-building, breach-closing son of God.
He is at this moment standing in the gap for you.
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