A dictionary defines “stand in the gap” as “to expose oneself for the protection of something; to take the place of a fallen defender or supporter.” Scripture shares numerous examples of people standing in the gap for others. Moses was a man who chose to “stand in the gap” and plead with God not to destroy the people (Exodus 32:11). When the Bible uses the exact phrase "stand in the gap," we see a different situation.
Where Does the Bible Say 'Stand in the Gap'?
The words “stand in the gap” are found in Ezekiel 22:30:
“I looked for someone 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 no one.”
The book of Ezekiel, written between 593 and 571 BC, shares visions the prophet received from the Lord. The prophet Ezekiel had powerful visions of God’s messages of condemnation and consolation to exiled Jews living in Babylon.
The city of Babylon was located on the Euphrates River. The Babylonians began to rely on themselves, and they lacked faith in God. Without putting God first, they depended on their own ways and desires.
Ezekiel wrote strong warnings of judgment and also words of encouragement. He compares the city to an adulterous woman abused by sinful partners (Ezekiel 16:23). He likens the people’s hearts to a valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37).
The prophet told about the desecrated temple in Jerusalem but also shared about a restored temple. Ezekiel was considered to be a watchman of judgment and restoration (Ezekiel 33).
What Is the Context of Ezekiel 22:30?
In this Scripture, the Lord says that He looked for someone among the people to build up the wall and stand before Him in the gap on behalf of the land so that He would not have to destroy it. But, no one was found to stand in the gap. Physical and spiritual walls were built and continue to be built to keep out enemies. In biblical times, a wall could have protected from unwanted intruders. Any breach in the wall could have allowed the enemy to enter and devastation to occur.
As Ezekiel reminded the people of their sins, he also shared how there would be consequences for those sins. God would show punishment by dispersing them among the nations. Unless God could find someone to “stand in the gap,” He would destroy the land. Among all the people, God found no one. In seeking someone to “stand in the gap,” God was giving the opportunity for repentance. God waited.
As a result of finding no one to stand in the gap, He would pour out His wrath and anger and bring down the people.
The judgment of God came, and all experienced the consequences. To learn the end of this story, we have to go past Ezekiel to another prophet.
Why Did God Use Babylon to Bring Judgment on Jerusalem?
Jeremiah was appointed to be a prophet before he was born (Jeremiah 1). In Jeremiah 5, he told the people that the justice of God required everyone to answer to Him for how they live. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised the Babylonians would be judged for their sins. The Babylonian empire fell. God’s promises are always true. According to biblical scholars, due to the horrible destruction caused by the Babylonians, Babylon became a symbol for the enemies of God. Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
King Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia from about 605 BC until around 562 BC. He was considered a great king of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar was famous for conquering and destroying Judah and Jerusalem.
“I will summon all the people of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nation. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin.” (Jeremiah 25:9 NIV)
The people had been unfaithful, disobedient, and followed idols. God would make an example of them.
The book of Daniel shares about the king having troublesome dreams that no one could interpret. Daniel spoke up and interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The king then promoted Daniel to his personal advisor. Yet, Daniel also shares how the king created a golden statue of himself and required everyone to bow to it when music played (Daniel 3). Ultimately, God used Babylon to show the people the consequences for their sins:
“At the sound of Babylon’s capture the earth will tremble: its cry will resound among the nations.” (Jeremiah 50:46)
God is faithful to His people. God judges and he also follows through on His promises.
Why Did the Israelites Not Listen to Jeremiah?
Jeremiah was set apart by God to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Like other prophets in the Bible, Jeremiah questioned his ability. Even while he is uncertain, he follows the path the Lord has given. Jeremiah pleaded with the people to repent. They did not want to hear about their wrongdoings or that God was unhappy with their behaviors.
Jeremiah was called “the weeping prophet.” Saddened by people’s actions and God’s judgment, he cried out. He believed the Lord had been deceitful by saying there would be peace in the land. God never deceives. His judgment and love are real. Jeremiah predicted the Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 25:11-12). He also predicted the length of 70 years of captivity.
Jeremiah was a man who decided to“stand in the gap” for the people because he sympathized with them. Because he trusted God, he could approach God with confidence, boldness, and honesty.
Enemies of “the weeping prophet” put Jeremiah in prison, flogged him, and prepared for his execution. He was thrown into a cistern and left to die. Every time something terrible happened to Jeremiah, the Lord rescued him.
The people kept turning away from God. The punishment was brutal. They were filled with spiritual sickness. The prophet repeatedly told them to repent and turn to God.
What Can We Learn from Jeremiah and Ezekiel about Standing for God?
The words of Jeremiah are often seen or heard today:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
We are reminded that faithfulness to God will overcome failures and sins through Jeremiah. Turmoil and confusion existed in Biblical times and today. We have the choice to follow God or to worship idols. The judgment of God will reach every person. May we be faithful to Him.
The good news is that when we stand in the gap, we are not doing it alone. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus intercedes on our behalf. In the end, He is the one who stands in the gap for us. As Christians, we have the most powerful protector that ever was or ever will be, and that is God.
In His Name,
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/marchmeena29
Award-winning author Melissa Henderson writes inspirational messages sometimes laced with a bit of humor. With stories in books, magazines, devotionals, and more, Melissa hopes to encourage readers.
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