Monday, May 20, 2013

In the Gap

Ezekiel 22:30 (KJV)  And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

We know that Israel had a habit of straying from God with just about every form of sin imaginable. The people allowed outside influences to take precedence over what God's Word said.  Does that sound very much like modern day Western civilization?  I think so.  We still need someone going to God on our behalf.  But there's more to the whole story.

Most commentaries agree that what God is looking for, here, is a prayer warrior, an intercessor who will go to God as Israel's spiritual advocate.  He would implore God to deal with Israel in ways much kinder than His justice would otherwise allow.  But take a look at verse 26.

Ezekiel 22:26 (KJV)  Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

Barnes suggests that "violated My law" could be retranslated as something like "did violence to my law by intentional misinterpretation".  Here's a nation, Israel, who are God's people, who have misinterpreted what God wants for their lives.  And about to get punished for it.  Who does God say violated the law? "Her priests" are the ones at fault.  My pastor began yesterday morning's sermon with this verse:

Deuteronomy 27:18 (KJV)  Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Israel was stumbling in spiritual blindness because they were being mislead by their own priesthood. And God is saying, here, that the priesthood is cursed because of it.

Let's think about some of our own spiritual leaders.  What about the "pastors" who are looking for some sort of popularity and influence by reinterpreting the meaning of Scripture to gain the backing of some group that wants that misinterpretation?  Or how about those who preach that we must do certain things to please God or we may not really have already gained (or kept) His salvation?  Yet that calls for our flesh to do them.  And the Bible is clear that nothing about our fallen flesh can ever be pleasing to God.

Think of the Pharisees, whose combination of regulation to be obeyed in the flesh, pompous ways and rituals did all of that.  Ritual replaced response to God's leading.  "Thou shalt" was replaced by "thou must".  Rote incantations replaced prayers from the heart.

We have a picture, in Ezekiel 22:26, of a population being led astray by spiritual leadership who blurred the distinction between the sacred and the profane.  That leadership misrepresented God to the people, making the leaders cursed and the people out of touch with God.  That sounds barren of all hope.  But, several verses later, God says otherwise.  He speaks of intercessory prayer as being the answer.  And it is.  But think of the idea of standing in the gap.

Someone standing in the gap is a picture of someone or something placed in between a person in battle and the weaponry coming against them.  In the ancient world, a person going into battle might have an arms bearer -- a servant whose job was to give his master the armor and weapons needed to successfully fight the battle.  In the spiritual sense, try these verses:

Mark 16:15 (KJV)  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Acts 1:8 (KJV)  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Two different ways of saying that the opportunity for salvation is all inclusive -- for everyone everywhere.  We can stand in the gap by giving people the right "weaponry" to choose God.  But the choice to be in unity with God changes people from unbelievers into disciples.  It doesn't really matter whether you choose Old Testament Hebrew or New Testament Greek.  The term "disciple" is defined as a student or learner.  For that, there has to be someone correctly teaching.  So, we have three ways that we can stand in the gap:

  1. We can intercede in prayer for salvation and proper understanding.
  2. We can share the Gospel to give people the chance to choose God.
  3. We can teach proper doctrine so that disciples can see the difference between the sacred and the profane.
Standing in the gap requires caring for others as God does.  So, as long as there's someone actually standing in the gap, there's always spiritual hope.

How are you standing in the gap, today?

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