Ezekiel 22:30 - And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.
The month of September always seems to bring with it a good news/bad news type of situation for many fellowships. The good news is that "the troops" are rested up from vacation and are eager to move out. Many have renewed zeal and enthusiasm about their faith. There are new programs and fresh ideas. No one is bored or burned out yet. Weariness and lethargy are foreign words at this point. Everything seems positive. But the bad news is that September seems to be the month when gaps appear in a fellowship's walls of defense and witness--especially in campus fellowship groups. Key Christian leaders have graduated or changed roles over the summer months. New leaders are not tried and tested at this point--and some are nowhere to be found! The energy and excitement of new unseasoned Christian students has not yet been channeled or disciplined. New plans and programs still have to be implemented and perfected. Gaps in the walls of any Christian fellowship are critical and potential danger points. The Bible teaches that the enemy of our souls is always around looking for gaps. Satan would love to get a foot into any gap of a Christian fellowship and proceed to tear down the whole wall. (See 1 Peter 5:8.) Gaps never repair themselves automatically, and unrepaired gaps have a tendency to widen. No leadership, or poor leadership, leads to general discouragement and lack of commitment. Undirected zeal and enthusiasm often ends with a bull-in-a-china-shop effect. New programs that fizzle are many times not replaced with any programs. There must always be diligent effort made in any Christian fellowship to close the gaps in the walls of testimony and defense. Perhaps you are in a church or campus fellowship where there are some obvious gaps in the wall. Pray earnestly and specifically that those gaps would soon be filled. God closes gaps with people. Regardless of whether the gaps in Christian fellowship are associated with programs or positions, they are repaired and filled by godly individuals. These people are more than just "Sunday morning only" Christian stopgaps! These are men and women who are willing to rise up and get involved and take on responsibility in spite of discouragement and opposition and ridicule and hard work. Our text above indicates that God is searching for such gap persons. Maybe you are the gap person that God wants to use to fill that special need in your fellowship. Ezekiel lived and wrote in a day when huge gaps had developed in Israel's walls of testimony. God had specifically chosen these people to be a light to the nations, but they themselves had turned to darkness. The gaps in Israel's witness were so gaping that God was about to remove this testimony to His Name. Already the Lord had permitted the northern kingdom of Israel to be overrun by the nation of Assyria. The northern capital of Samaria fell in 722 B.C. About 150 years later, as Ezekiel was writing, the southern kingdom of Judah was tottering before the Babylonian nation. God's people had not repented and repaired their walls, even though God had been very patient and tolerant. The southern kingdom was about to learn the hard way. Some of the people of Judah had already been taken away to Babylonia. In fact, Ezekiel was one of these captives and was preaching and writing from Babylon. The thrust of his message was that even God's Temple and His city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. God was removing His presence, His name and His glory from the midst of Israel. God had searched for individuals to stand up and close the gaps of what little testimony remained, but had found no one. Now God must remove the nation completely to protect His name from further defamation and to prevent further distortion of His holy character. Jerusalem, with the beautiful and magnificent Temple of Solomon, was completely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's forces in 586 B.C. There is a pointed lesson in all of this for God's people today. When a Christian fellowship group does not repair the breaches in its wall, and conditions go downhill to the point where the witness to Christ is detrimentally affected, the Lord must step in with discipline. 1 Peter 4:17 states that "judgment begins with the family of God." If the gaps are not closed and the situation persists to the point where the testimony is no longer Christ-centered or Christ-honoring, the Lord may even remove such a testimony. It doesn't matter how wonderful and outstanding the group might have been once upon a time. Like God's chosen city of Jerusalem with His beautiful Temple, such a testimony may be removed when it no longer brings glory to God. The first century church at Ephesus was close to that position when Revelation 2:5 was written by the apostle John. If they would not repair their walls and brighten their testimony, the Lord would "remove your lampstand out of its place." According to Revelation 3:15-16, the church at Laodicea, like ancient Judah, had already reached the point of no return and would therefore be "spit out". What a terrible and heart-rending situation it is when a once-strong testimony to God is permitted to die or is removed in some other way. How much better it is when gaps are closed before the downward spiral sets in. How important gap persons are! Up to this point the idea of gap persons has been applied to filling gaps in the walls of testimony and defense of Christian fellowships--especially campus fellowships. The principle of closing gaps could also be applied to our nation as well. We claim to be a nation under God but our walls of testimony to this claim are in ruins. The gaps in our moral defenses are gigantic and ever-widening. The parallel to the nation of Judah at the time of Ezekiel is striking. In Ezekiel 22:23-29 we see that every segment of Israel's society was guilty. Prophets, priests, princes and people all contributed to the gaps in the walls. The false prophets (vs25, 28) claimed "Thus saith the Lord" status for their false visions. Their false prophecies led to all kinds of problems for the nation, including loss of wealth and life as leaders blindly followed these lies. (See 1 Kings 22 as an example.) In Ezekiel 13:5 these false prophets are condemned precisely because "you have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build up the wall of Israel." The priests (v26) blurred the distinction between the sacred and the secular, and thus lowered and hid the holiness of God. Is it not true that many of the "prophets and priests" in our nation today are guilty of the same sins? The truth of God's word is not proclaimed. The lies of human religion and philosophy bring untold heartache and loss to those who blindly follow. How can there be any peace and fulfillment apart from a relationship with the living God of the Bible? And like the corrupt priesthood of ancient Israel, the Church has allowed the increasing secularism within our nation to hide the glory and holiness of God to the point where many churches are nothing more than social clubs or commercial opportunities. How long will God tolerate a "Christian" nation which is ripe for judgment? Judah's princes and people (vs27, 29) were woefully guilty of social oppression and injustice. Virtually no one raised a voice or an eyebrow at the social sins committed. The voice of any true prophet like Jeremiah was literally turned off and shut up in prison. (See Jeremiah 37 and 38.) Now notice how verses 27 and 29 read like a current newspaper account of life in our own country. Maneuvering and manipulating by unscrupulous leaders and politicians for dishonest gain hurts our society right down to the grass roots. And the all-pervading attitude of "What's in it for me?" of the public at large has made our society a prison of oppression for many of our citizens who are truly poor and in need. God's plumbline does not show our walls to be in any better shape than those of ancient Israel. (See Amos 7:7-9.) How can a country which claims to be one nation under God expect to survive, never mind prosper, when God and His standards are buried beneath the ruins of former walls? God is still searching for gap persons. Whether it be a gap in the testimony of your fellowship group or a breach in what remains of the moral defenses of our country, the call goes out for individual believers who will "build up the wall and stand in the gap." Gap persons can greatly affect the outcome of a situation. When the Israelites murmured in the wilderness back in Moses' day, God said that He would destroy them. But we know that "Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them" (Psalm 106:23). Remember that at first Moses was reluctant to be a gap person (Exodus 4). This should be an encouragement to those of us who are hesitant and need to be motivated. Let us muster up the moral courage to stand up and be a gap person!