Standing In the Gap In Perilous Times

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Ezekiel 22 says the following: “30 I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for [the sake of] the land, that I would not destroy it, but I found no one [not even one].”

Ezekiel 22 summarizes the sins and abuses of the nation. As punishment for Israel’s sins, God says He will disperse them among the nations. In the ancient world of the Bible, cities had walls surrounding them to protect them from enemies. When the wall was breached, the city was vulnerable to destruction; the only way to secure it was for people at times to risk their lives by literally standing in the gap in the wall and fighting the enemy. Another option was for the gap to be repaired as soon as possible. If a breach was left unattended or unrepaired, the city would fall.

So in Ezekiel 22, the “gap” here represents the danger facing Jerusalem: God’s wrath is about to break through in judgment on the sinful city. So the Lord asked if there was anyone who would, in righteousness, intercede on behalf of the city and seek God’s mercy. For if the gap is not repaired, then destruction is imminent. God searched for such a defender, but He could find none. It seems that, if someone had been willing to “stand in the gap,” the destruction of Jerusalem could have been avoided. Since no one was available or willing to defend the breach and rebuild the wall, judgment fell.

This is similar to the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God reveals to Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah are to be destroyed for their grave sins (18:20). Abraham pleads for the lives of any righteous people living there, especially the lives of his nephew, Lot, and his family.

Still today the question echoes of who will in this last hour of perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1), like Abraham, be willing to stand in the gap of the Church? For make no mistake, there are plenty of “gaps” in the church walls, and the church is facing the danger of being overrun by the enemy and even judgment at the hands of God for her idolatry, treachery, and devious ways.

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Establishing Prophets of Identity

There is just no more room for us to argue that it is OK with the church. The enemy is no longer at the door but has been allowed to breach the walls. Sin, iniquity, witchcraft, and all other forms of rebellion and carnal behavior are evident in this Church, once described by Augustine as the City of God.

It is time to again take a stand on the walls and declare God’s Word and God’s Truth. It is time again to stand at the city gates and declare what is proper, holy, and pure. It is time again to stand in the gap and defend God’s holy ways and truth no matter the cost. Who is prepared in this hour to be true watchmen, to be a rebuilder of what is broken and a restorer of what the enemy (John 10:10) has stolen and trampled upon?

In the days of Ezekiel, Jerusalem was accused of several repulsive acts. This includes idolatry, shedding blood in the city, and sexual immorality. It also says the following: “25 There is a conspiracy of her [false] prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured [human] life; they have taken [in their greed] treasure and precious things; they have made many widows among her. 26 Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy (sacred) and the profane (secular), they have not taught [people] the difference between the unclean and the clean. 27 Her princes within her are like wolves tearing and devouring the prey, shedding blood, and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God’—when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced oppression and extortion and have committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and needy and they have oppressed the stranger without justice.”

If we look at the state of the Church these days, then the similarities with Jerusalem are shocking. The Church also sits with a priesthood (all believers) who are struggling to distinguish between the holy (sacred) and the profane (secular).

We simply do not even know the truth anymore. We also sit with the counterfeit prophetic movement that has caused immense harm with so many false and misguided instructions and promises. Who can deny so many ministries and churches run like a business, where extortion, spiritual abuse, and manipulation are rife in the quest for self-enrichment and self-glorification? Who can deny that so many believers have been oppressed from truly following their calling and mandate because of religious control (for even manipulation is a form of witchcraft)? And while we may not have shed physical blood (even though the Church did so hundreds of years ago during the wars between the Catholics and the Protestants), we have indeed done incredible spiritual harm through our dubious church practices, traditions, and erroneous teachings. Jesus leveled such accusations against the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23. Also read 2 Timothy 3, 2 Timothy 4, 2 Peter 2, and the Book of Jude.

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Prophetic Activation Through Obedience

Of Jerusalem, the Lord said: “4 I have made you an object of scorn to the [pagan] nations and a thing to be mocked by all countries. 5 Those who are near and those who are far from you will mock you, you [infamous one] of ill repute, full of turmoil.” Can we not see or realize the Church has lost its credibility in the world? We are also in turmoil? The church’s reputation is also of ill repute.

Can we not see we have also become a laughingstock because the Church looks so much like the world and our action is these days more worldly than godly? Yes, this world mocks the Church for our shameful actions, falseness, and hypocrisy. How can we indeed be victorious if we look so much like the enemy and the world?

So who is willing to stand in the gap for the Church in these last days? Who is willing to stand for the truth? Who is willing to preach and teach the Word of God without compromise? Who is willing to seek the ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16)?

The one person who should be willing to stand in the gap is the prophet. After all, the prophet should be able to know what the danger is and where the ‘wall’ has been breached, what the threats are, what is God saying about it all, and what God is instructing. This applies to the Church more than ever in this time and hour.

The prophet has the task of speaking God’s will, His instruction, His correction, His truth, and His message to repair the gap where needed, to mend the wall, to repel the attacks, and to guard the gates. Such a task rests most assuredly with the prophetic, for the prophet should indeed be able to see, know, discern, and understand the reality of the situation. And the prophet should be able to act according to God’s will and God’s plan and mandate.

A false prophet will not be able to discern, for by implication such a prophet walks not in alignment with God’s thoughts, His will, or even His reality. Such a prophet will act erroneously and even out of the will of God, causing greater harm and damage to the Body of Christ. Only a true prophet hears from God – be it directly or through dreams or visions. Such a prophet will not be misled by the flesh or the imagination or demonic forces but by the true Word and Will of the Lord Almighty.

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Slavery That Deafens the Prophetic Spiritually

Standing in the gap is thus an important function and role of the prophet. And thus the prophet is able to fulfill this role simply because of his or her mandate and calling. The prophet sees, hears, and discerns as God leads and guides, and thus can operate sufficiently and effectively to accordingly fulfill God’s commands. No action can be taken without clear understanding and discernment, which should flow from the true prophet.

Similar wording of standing in the gap is found in Psalm 106:23. This psalm summarizes the sins of Israel in the wilderness, primarily concerning the golden calf. Verse 23 explains, “So [God] said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.” Moses “stood in the gap” and saved the people of Israel with his petition on their behalf. In standing in the gap, he “stepped between the LORD and the people” (Psalm 106:23, NLT). Moses had been chosen for that very purpose. The original story of Moses standing in the gap is found in Exodus 32:9–14: To stand in the gap is, therefore, to intercede and plead for God’s mercy.

In Ezekiel’s day, there was no Moses. No one interceded for Israel. No one understood the danger God’s people were in. With no intercessor to stand in the gap, the destruction of Israel would be carried out. Not even the prophets were willing to stand in the gap. In Ezekiel 13 we read of the prophets: “4 O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among the ruins. 5 You have not gone up into the gaps or breaches, nor built the wall around the house of Israel that it might stand in the battle on the day of the Lord.” Sadly, instead of standing in the gap, the prophets simply denied that judgment was going to come. They were prophesying all was fine and declaring ‘peace, peace’ when there was no peace. They were speaking out of the imagination or even worse, by a different spirit. They were creating a false reality. Glory to God, these days there are still true prophets who are standing on the watchtower and many of them are willing to stand in the gap, praying and interceding. For the true prophets know the church is in danger. For the true prophets know there is no ‘peace, peace’ for idolatry and immorality is rife. Such prophets are declaring God’s will, His Word, and truth in the Spirit in such perilous days. But many have also turned a blind eye, or have been seduced by a different reality or truth. Woe indeed to us.

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Prophets to Actively Build And to Plant

Like Moses and Abraham, over the years there are those in the Church’s history who have had the courage and insight to “stand in the gap” and intercede for others. Just think of the Reformation and of men like Martin Luther and Jan Hus.

We need once again more people like Stephen who prayed for those stoning him (Acts 7:60). Paul prayed for Israel’s salvation (Romans 10:1), and so we need to stand up for God, for His Kingdom and intercede in prayer without ceasing in such perilous times. And so the Lord is looking for those who are willing to stand in the gap. The Lord Jesus is the master of standing in the gap, praying from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) and continuing to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25). We follow Jesus, and thus we must also be standing in the gap right now, willing to give it all, no matter what, lest darkness falls upon us.

James 5:16 KJV says the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” How God is looking for people to stand for righteousness, to stand in faith and in truth. God doesn’t need an army to stand in the gap, but only those who are willing to be obedient, faithful, and willing to be a living sacrifice to the glory of God. This was proven with David who slew Goliath, with Gideon who routed an entire army with a few men, and with Samson who sowed fear in the hearts of the Philistines. Jesus picked only 12 disciples. Just men and women filled by the Spirit who will not back or who will go quietly into the night!

John Knox is known as the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism. By the end of his ministry, he became better known for his prayer than for his other ministries. The devout Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” She saw the impact of Knox’s prayer. From a human point of view, it was the prayer of Knox that sparked the Reformation in Scotland. His prayer became the fuel of the ongoing reformation during his time. His prayer shook the land of Scotland, causing a revival among God’s people. Perhaps of all the prayers of Knox, “Give me Scotland, or I die” is the most quoted one. It was not an arrogant prayer but a passionate plea, showing his intense desire for the conversion of the people of Scotland.

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To Break Down and to Plant

How God is looking for such men and women today like Knox who are willing to stand in the gap. A healthy Church leads to a healthy society and a healthy nation! Who is willing to fight for the soul of the church? Who is willing to intercede, to plead and speak God’s word of truth? For correction is not done for judging, but to bless for in correction comes the blessing. In God’s wisdom and sovereignty, He has chosen to use the prayers of people to accomplish His will. He still seeks those who will stand in the gap for friends and family, for people groups and nations. And especially those who are willing to stand in the gap for the Church.

Like Abraham and Moses, we should be willing to stand in the gap, asking God to spare and to save. We must seek God’s will, turn our ears more than ever toward God and be willing to follow where He leads.

And this applies, as mentioned, most definitely, to the prophet. May the true prophets arise to stand in the gap, to act as the Lord leads, and to even close the gap where necessary and in the will of God.

Riaan Engelbrecht

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