Summary: Facing the election of 2008, the morality crisis of leaders (secular and religious), the need for intercessors, as seen in this text, is great among us.
Standing in the Gap
Ministry takes on many faces, my friends. It can be as deep as sitting in an ICU waiting room, holding the hand of someone whose loved one has just died. It can be as simple as offering a glass of cold water to someone who is thirsty, or a word of good cheer to someone who feels lonely. Ministry is not always the “big thing” that gathers a lot of attention or praise.
Sometimes, perhaps often, the ministry that is most important is that which happens where no one can see, where no personal praise is received. Ministry begins in our hearts, and only God has a clear view of those, my friends. Ministry begins when we are ready to pour out our love upon a people who may not really think they want it. Ministry begins when we are ready to pray for those who think they have no need. Ministry begins when we are ready to take our place among the people of God and stand for what it good, and right, and true. Ministry begins when we are ready to stand in a bucket brigade, if need be, to put out spiritual fires of destruction. Ministry begins when we are ready to build up a levee so that the flood waters of judgment will not sweep against our land. Ministry is standing in the gap of fallen defenses.
Ezekiel understood that. Indeed, the Lord told Ezekiel that he looked in vain for someone to build up Judah’s fallen walls of defense. God wanted someone to stand in the gap for his people, to intercede for Judah.
The ministry of intercession is still crucial to the people of God. I believe that God is calling us to take up this aspect of ministry. God is calling us to intercede for our land. Let us examine our text this morning and discover reasons for us to stand in the gap.
I. Our land desperately needs us to stand in the gap.
The corruption in Judah reached from the top of society to the bottom. The religious leaders were spiritually bankrupt. The political leaders were lost in corruption. Even the people of the land had turned their hearts to stone.
What do I see when I look out at the land of my birth? I see a “pop” spirituality that is all about making people feel good without making any moral demands upon them. I see leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their personal power—often at the expense of the people they should be serving. I see ordinary folk who have lost sight of what it means to care about each other in their efforts to get ahead in this world, who have sacrificed their families in order to have their own pleasures, who have turned their back on what is right in order to own more things they really don’t need, who have forgotten what is really important in life in favor of what is fleeting. In short, while we live in a land of prosperity and power, it is a land that I believe is sick—a land that has lost its moorings, and needs desperately to find God.
Only one cure can heal the sickness of this land, this world—the good news of Jesus Christ—and I believe that the church of Jesus Christ must stand in the gap if the cure is to be applied. We must seek the Lord, asking him to bring a fresh move of the Spirit upon our land. We must seek the Lord, asking him to bring revival to the house of God. We must seek the Lord, our the sickness of sin will devastate this land—and it will be too late for a cure.
II. God earnestly seeks for people who will stand in the gap.
The Lord told his prophet that no one could be found to plead for his people. Jeremiah was back in Jerusalem at the time Ezekiel received God’s message. Yet Jeremiah had been commanded by God not to pray for the people. No one else cared—surely someone in Jerusalem remembered what God had required of his people, they just did not care.
Throughout time, as God readied himself to bring discipline to the children he loves, he has consistently sought for people who would stand firm for him. Early in the time of the patriarchs, God went to Abraham with a word of warning concerning Sodom and Gomorrah—and Abraham came through the test by pleading for those cities. In the time of the Exodus, God was ready to wipe out Israel, and told Moses, who promptly interceded for the people with a bold declaration—destroy them, destroy me! Into the NT era, God’s love prompted the Apostle Paul to make a bold declaration of his own—he would gladly give up his own salvation, if his people Israel would come to faith in Christ.