Here’s an eye-opening, humbling passage to consider: In Ezekiel 22, the Word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel about all about the disgraceful, ungodly things that Jerusalem is guilty of doing. And then in verses 30-31, we read this:
God is saying, “I looked for a godly man who would appeal to My mercy - a man who would pray that I would spare the people, who would be an example to the people of how they should be living. I would have relented for one godly man, because I didn’t want to give them what they deserved. But I found no one! So I had to. I had to destroy them because there was no one righteous enough, no one that called out to Me on behalf of the people, that called on My desire to be merciful and to relent. And so I dealt with them in justness, instead of mercy.”
“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
The people’s sin earned them serious consequences and punishment. But God wanted to relent. He wanted to be talked out of destroying them. And He would have . . . if only. If only He could have found at least one godly person who would “stand in the gap” for the people. One godly person who lived rightly before Him and who sought to intercede by prayer for the people of the land.
That is so sobering to me. The older I get and more I learn about the way God works, the more I realize that God doesn’t just “do whatever He wants.” He relies on people who are sensitive to His leading and who are obedient. He relies on us and our prayers to get His Will done. And I used to think prayer was just about connecting with God and showing dependency. But it is so much more powerful and effective than just being a formality. It is so much more necessary to getting His Will done.
[And if you are not convinced that prayer really matters, look up my other posts on prayer where I share biblical support for this. I talk about it in the “Iron Sharpens Iron” Bible Study (ISI 13: Prayer) in the 2015 May posts and in the Understanding God’s Will (UGW) series in the 2013 posts.]
The point here is that He needs righteous people to stand in the gap for others. This is why a heart that is sensitive to Him is so important, why reading the Bible and spending quality time with Him is critical. It’s how we find out what God expects from us, how He operates (as much as we can possible understand that), what His Will is, and how we can best live and pray to get that accomplished.
After I realized that God doesn’t just do whatever He wants but that He waits for our prayers, I felt a much greater responsibility to do my part to seek the Lord, to remain connected through prayer and the Word, to learn to listen and obey, and to try to live righteously. Because as the Bible says in James 5:16, the “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” And I want my prayers to have impact for God’s glory, for His will, and for eternity. I want to stand in the gap for people who have fallen under His wrath and justness. I want to lead as many people to Him as possible. How about you?
Just take a look around our country right now, Americans. (And so many other parts of the world.) With the way we are turning our backs on God and telling Him to “get out” . . . well, it’s just a matter of time until He does. It’s just a matter of time until His hammer falls on us. And God knows that we as a country would deserve it. We’re not so special that we are above His righteous discipline.
I am thoroughly convinced that our country desperately needs a spiritual awakening - a revival - because we are headed in some really bad directions. Society is doing everything it can to erase God from the public mind, to criminalize Christianity, and to flat-out defy God and snub their noses at Him. Even churches are getting away from the Bible and true Christianity.
My goodness, I am afraid for us! Because I feel that we have earned ourselves some very serious punishments and consequences. And if He were to deal with us according to His justice - to give us what we really deserve - we’d probably be decimated and become a shell of what we once were. (We pretty much already are a shell of what we were.)
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And it’s time for us Christians to get off of our sorry, lazy, self-serving, pleasure-seeking, finger-pointing, back-sliding butts and to start seeking righteousness in our own lives so that we can “stand in the gap.” It’s time for us to get our heads out of the sand and see what’s really going on and where we are really headed. It’s time to get out of the spiritual fog and get into the spiritual battle.
We need to be less concerned with running after toys, desires, and “happiness,” and more concerned with seeking the Lord. We need to stop complaining about all the ways society is failing while ignoring the ways we fall short before God. And we need to start passionately and diligently seeking God, aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit, and humbling ourselves before our mighty God so that we can plead with God for mercy, pray for revival, call others up to righteousness, and share His Love, Truth, and the only Hope we have.
But change starts with us. Revival starts in our own hearts. And then it spreads to our families and churches and communities and, finally, our country. If you’re not standing in the gap, then you’re standing by and watching our country’s disintegration and eventual discipline under God’s wrath. Come on, Christians . . .
2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
Our God searches for people who are fully committed to Him - to doing His Will and to following Him wholeheartedly. But how many of us will He find? Will you stand in the gap?