Today’s reading: Ezekiel 21-22.
“You mean there was no one in the whole country who cared enough to ask God for mercy?”
There was a rich tradition of Hebrews standing in the gap before God.
- Abraham interceded for Abimelech and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
- Moses asked for forgiveness for the children of Israel when they angered God
- Aaron stood “between the living and the dead” when a plague threatened to kill all the Israelites
- Esther stood between the King and the destruction of her people
- Job prayed for his three friends
Yet that tradition failed completely in the final days of Jerusalem. God told Jeremiah, “If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” No one was found. Jeremiah was even forbidden to pray for the people. Then, as the final destruction of the city drew near, God told Ezekiel a startling secret about Jerusalem’s fall.
“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.” Ezekiel 22:30-31
Not one man was found to stand in the gap. God implies that if there had been just one man then that man would have salvaged Jerusalem’s fate. When I’ve read this verse in the past I’ve always thought of it as an encouragement to pray for one’s family, church, or nation. That’s still true, but there is another side to the story, and it applies more in today’s reading.
- No one prayed because there was no godly man or woman left in the city to pray for mercy. That seems to be the message God gave Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
- No one prayed because those who did fear God and believe in him saw that there was no basis on which to petition God. The people of Jerusalem had completely broken God’s covenant, were desperately wicked, and unrepentant. That seems to be why God forbid Jeremiah from praying.
There may be a time when America will be past repentance, but I don’t believe that time is now. There is still time for godly men and women to petition God for mercy, standing in the breach of the wall and asking for forgiveness for ourselves, our churches, and our neighbors. We can pray faithfully based on God’s grace. We can confess our own sins and the sins of our nation. We can ask God to convict us of our sins and to send a spirit of renewal. Now is the time to do it, before God says it is too late.
Image by Gail Johnson on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0