Ep.060: Ezekiel in the Gap.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

The prophet Ezekiel lived at the same time as Jeremiah. He was exiled to Babylon in the first round of deportations, along with King Jehoiachin and much of upper class Judah. So while Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon.

Ezekiel is responsible for the famous prayer metaphor, “stand in the gap”.  He quotes God by saying, “I looked for someone . . . who would build up the wall and stand . . . in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger” (Eze. 22:30 – 31).

This raises two questions:
First, what does it mean to stand in the gap?
And second, it seems to me that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were busy standing in the gap, so why couldn’t God find anyone to do the job?

First, what it means. Imagine a fortified wall, like the Great Wall of China or the wall Israel built against Palestine or the one President Trump wants along the Mexican border. Wherever there is a door or a gap in the wall, you need guards to keep out the undesirables. So the guards stand in the gap to protect the mother country.

One example of standing in the gap occurred during the exodus from Egypt. When God became angry at the Israelites for making a golden calf and calling it their god, Moses intervened. Psalm 106 tells the story this way:
    So [the Lord] said he would destroy them –
       had not Moses, his chosen one,
    stood in the breach before him
       to keep his wrath from destroying them (Ps 106:23).

Moses faced down God’s anger. He advised God that it was a bad idea to destroy the unfaithful people, and he persuaded God to change his mind.

Today, websites such as “Guardians of the Gap” and International House of Prayer in Kansas City are created by people who want to stand in the gap for their nation. A quick study of modern movements shows that they change the vision Moses and Ezekiel created in these ways:

  1. They assign God’s interest to all nations of the world, not just to his special people Israel in Old Testament times. So they encourage “standing in the gap” for your nation, wherever it is in the world, even if the nation doesn’t have a contract with God like Israel did.
  2. They don’t say much about facing down God’s anger and advising him not to act on it. God’s anger is a topic that gets lots of publicity in the Old Testament, but not much today.
  3. They suggest a broader application than just standing in the gap to prevent national disasters like the exile. They stand in the gap for people they know, for churches, for parachurch ministries, and of course for various countries. Ezekiel might be surprised, but probably not opposed, to see how his turn of phrase has become a standing metaphor for Christian prayer two and a half millennia later. I’m pretty sure that two and a half millennia from today, my turns of phrase will be long forgotten.

Let’s pray.

Our father, the people of Israel didn’t create just a gap with the golden calf, they pretty much demolished their relationship with you. But when Moses argued on their behalf, you changed your mind and did not destroy them. Jeremiah and Ezekiel stood in the gap for Judah, watching the people violate their contract with you. But these prophets were unable to avert your fierce anger, and Babylon destroyed the city, the temple, and the political system.

Our father, are you angry with our western civilization as you were with Judah and Jerusalem?  Are you angry with modern Israel for their sins against you and their neighbours? If we stand in the gap, confessing the sins of our country, asking you to lose your anger and spare us from judgment, will you do it? In our time, are you willing to preserve our nation — our civil society and our national security and our way of life? Where does your kingdom fit into our world of 21st century nations?

Our father, shelter us under your wings of mercy. Help us keep faith with Christ in our living and our dying. Be our God and our Saviour in the preservation of our civilization or in its judgment and destruction.

Amen.  

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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