‘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’.
Have you ever wondered what kind of man God was searching for?
God sought for a man among them. Who were them? Or who were they? They of course where the people of Israel. The nation consisted of twelve tribes. And it’s interesting to see that the man God was looking for wasn’t restricted to any one particular tribe of Israel.
God wasn’t necessarily looking for a man from the tribe of Judah. God didn’t say to Ezekiel ‘I sought for a man from the tribe of Reuben’. Neither did God say ‘I looked for a man from among the tribe of Manasseh or the tribe of Gad’.
There was no tribal preference for Ezekiel’s man. The man God sought may ascend from any part of the Jewish community. The man could derive from any of Israel’s people groups. Tribal history was no advantage. Tribal achievements were of no benefit. Tribal reputation was irrelevant.
God’s opportunity was not based on any man’s connexions. God’s opportunity was made despite a man’s connexions. A universal opportunity engages every individual.
The Gospel of St John 3:16 contains a famous universal opportunity provided by the grace God.
‘For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son that whosoever should believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life’.
World is all-inclusive. World shows the total range of God’s love. Whosoever is all-embracing, whosoever includes; whatever person.
We only come to God on an individual basis because the Gospel reaches out to everyone. If God only loved 99.99% of the world some of us would be in trouble presently. If God only loved 99.99% of the world some of us would not have the opportunity for the forgiveness of sins. If God only loved 99.99% of the world some of us would not have our prayers answered.
Happily Ezekiel’s call into God’s service was not a bias call. Thankfully on this occasion God was not headhunting any specific man. Ezekiel invited any man from any clan to stand in the gap.
We also see that Ezekiel made no stipulations about the missing man’s vocation.
God didn’t say I sought for a prince or a priest. God didn’t say I looked for a prophet or soldier. The man’s public office, career or ministry was unimportant.
Neither is there any adjective used before the word man. The noun man has no limitation put on it by Ezekiel.
For example God didn’t say ‘I searched for a strong man’ or a ‘skilled man’. God didn’t say ‘I looked for an experienced man’ or a ‘newly qualified man’. God didn’t say ‘I sought for a great man’ or a ‘perfect man’. God didn’t say ‘I searched for a young man’ or ‘a wise man’. God didn’t say ‘I looked for the very best man’ or ‘a man with a good reputation’. God didn’t say ‘I looked for a sinless man’ or ‘the holiest man’. God didn’t say ‘I sought for a man like Daniel a man in whom was the Spirit’. Neither like King David, ‘a man after God’s own heart’.
The more I read this verse in Ezekiel I’m persuaded that standing in the gap could be anybody’s job if they wanted it. Connexions irrelevant. Character irrelevant. Skills irrelevant. God would work with any man to save the city from ruin.
When we say man of course it’s a generic term. Ezekiel didn’t say men only please woman need not apply. There were no signs outside the crumbled wall prohibiting ladies. There wasn’t a noticeboard saying,
‘Sorry no females allowed inside the gap’.
There were no metal warning plates saying,
‘Ladies please keep away from the breach in the wall’.
God was not looking for a man at the exclusion of a woman.
In fact when it comes breaches in walls women are very capable of doing God’s work. The Old Testament woman of faith Rahab. She resided in a house inside the walls of Jericho. And by the time Rahab had finished her work with God, Rahab’s house was the only piece of structure left standing upright in the smashed city walls. Every other part of Jericho’s wall was demolished.
Rahab’s house stood unmoved with a red sash hanging out of a window. That was the only part of Jericho’s wall which remained intact. 900 years before the times of Ezekiel, Rahab a woman stood in the gap and she opened Israel’s door into Jericho. Rahab stood in the gap and she opened Israel’s door into the Promised Land.
God is always looking for his woman to stand in the gap. God is always looking for his man to stand in the gap.
What is this Gap? Literally the walls defending Jerusalem had been physically destroyed by an invading enemy. Israel’s opponents smashed down the brickwork, marched into the city and conquered the people by force. That gap was a work of the enemy. That gap was a weakness of the city. That gap was a fault that needed correcting. The gap was a loss that needed redeeming. This has some implications for the Christian believer.
I would suggest that the three letter word GAP be considered as an abbreviation.
Ezekiel’s missing man had a GAP to fill. Ezekiel’s missing man had a God Appointed Place to fill. Sometimes Gaps can be unpleasant. A God Appointed Place can be ruthless and challenging. I don’t in anyway judge or criticise the absence of Ezekiel’s man.
That gap in the wall was created by conflict. At one stage the breach in the wall was a killing zone. The gap was a consequence of struggle. The gap was evidence of annihilation and destruction. The gap was broken structures, burnt timbers, and smashed stones. Bodies of fallen civilians and soldiers lay nearby that gap. It was a place where people were slain with sword, cut with knives, bludgeoned with weapons. The gap was a place of failure. It was a place where the City’s defenders failed to stop the onslaught of the enemy. By the time of Ezekiel the battle had long been fought and lost.
But the gap in Ezekiel’s wall remained a strong symbol. It represented defeat, death, loss of happiness and loss of freedom. It represented chaos.
Therefore Ezekiel’s invitation to come and stand in the gap was and invitation to come and stand in a whole heap of mess. God was looking for someone to come and stand in the middle of a pile of mess. I can understand why Ezekiel’s man was missing. I can understand why no one volunteered for the job.
Christians. Thanks for the times when you’ve stood strong in messy situations.
The Lord bless you, for standing in your tough God Appointed Place when you were needed. Thanks for standing in your God Appointed Place on difficult days. Thanks for standing in your God Appointed Place when it was risky. Thanks for standing in your God Appointed Place when it seemed unrewarding. Thanks for standing in someone’s chaotic life to bring hope. Our GAP our God Appointed Place is not always an easy place to be. If you’re struggling in a God appointed place this morning, I encourage you don’t walk away. Stay in the gap if you can. Get some emotional support. Get some prayer support. Ask someone to lend you a hand. Daniel in the lion’s den shows God can keep us where ever he puts us. We remain intact in the gap.
Why was the man missing? I’d like to consider three possible reasons for the absence of Ezekiel’s man.
Where was the man whom God was looking for?
Perhaps the man was hiding?
Maybe the man was hiding behind some of the wall which had been left standing? Hopefully Ezekiel doesn’t see me hiding behind all the brickwork. Maybe the man was keeping out of sight staying at home away from all the action. Maybe the man was being discrete and isolating himself from others in the temple?
Church is a good place for Christians hide. Once I attended a church social event. We were celebrating a birthday. I didn’t want to talk about a particular issue because we were all partying, having fun, enjoying games and eating a nice food buffet. But one elder was looking for me to discuss a nasty situation. So I hid from the elder at the party.
The first place of concealment was the church vestry. But the elder didn’t stop looking and he made his way towards the vestry. I quickly stepped out of the vestry before the elder could see me and hid in the church kitchen. Then I heard the elder’s voice in the corridors asking my whereabouts. So I sneaked out through a fire exit door made my way outside of the church and entered back into the main hall. The elder was persistent he followed. So I hid myself in the church crèche with some parents and toddlers. I then had to sneak off into the minor hall. The elder never did find me that day. We met up on Sunday morning and he said
‘Kevin I was looking for you at the party yesterday but couldn’t find you’
Was Ezekiel’s man absent because he deliberately hiding to avoid standing in the gap? Are we dodging our God given responsibilities? Are we sidestepping the things that God wants us to do? Why are we not in our GAP? Why are we not in our God Appointed Place?
Then again Ezekiel’s man might have been absent because something or someone prevented him from standing in the gap?
Perhaps the missing man’s thinking had prevented him from standing in the gap? Israel’s prophet Jeremiah had a ministry in Ezekiel’s day. So maybe the missing man expected Jeremiah to stand in the gap. The young Hebrew boy Denial was also available. Maybe Ezekiel’s missing man thought Denial will stand in the gap? Baruch Jeremiah’s secretary was available. In fact Ezekiel himself was also available. The missing man might have thought one of these men would stand in the gap. If he did the missing man was wrong.
Perhaps the missing man had a good excuse which prevented him from standing in the gap. I once led a team of six people to Ghana. One of the young people in church wasn’t traveling with us to Africa but they wanted to support the project.
They appealed to the congregation to get involved in a sponsored car wash. I stood at the church entrance and on the way out and another young person said,
‘I’ve been asked to wash cars but I’m not going to do it’.
I said ‘fine, no problem I’m not going to do it either’. The person then said to me. ‘I don’t blame you. She then angrily stated ‘I will only wash cars when God tells me to wash cars and not until God tells me to wash cars’.
That’s a good excuse for any Christian not to be involved in anything. Ezekiel I will only stand in the gap if God tells me to stand the gap.
Excuses are like armpits. Everybody’s got a couple and they stink. Excuses can prevent us from standing in the gap. Faulty thinking that someone else will do the job can prevent us from standing in the gap.
Even good intentioned friends can prevent us from standing in our God Appointed Place. Jesus said to his disciples
‘I have to lay my life down for you’.
The disciple Peter said no Jesus you don’t have to die. We won’t let you die we’ll fight for you.
Jesus rebuked Peter ‘Get behind me Satan you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’.
Thank God Peter failed.
If Peter would have kept Jesus off the cross no one would have forgiveness of sins today. If Peter would have kept Jesus alive there would be no resurrection from the dead. Thank God Peter often failed. God’s purpose is often conducted through our failures.
Do things people say prevent us from standing in our God Appointed Place? Did someone speak to Ezekiel’s missing man and say that’s not your job.
Maybe Ezekiel’s man wasn’t prevented from standing in the gap. Maybe Ezekiel’s man wasn’t hiding. Ezekiel was right to say that no man was found. But as Christians living today we have the advantage of hindsight. Ezekiel didn’t know what we know. Ezekiel didn’t know that there was a man on the way. There was no man found on earth. But there was a man descending from heaven. Ezekiel’s gap would not remain permanently empty.
If you’ll accept it, the gap in Ezekiel’s wall represents the moral breach inflicted on creation.
The disobedience of our first parents Adam and Eve made a demonic gap in our world. Satan run through that gap into the realms of creation. Sin poured through that gap into the realms of creation. Death flowed through that gap into the realms of creation. The world’s defences are subtly penetrated by an evil force.
But there’s a man with a God Appointed Place for bridging that gap. There’s a man who arrived on earth to fix up the damage. Jesus Christ stood in that gap from the moment he was born in a messy stable in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ stood in that gap when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
‘Father not my will but your will be done’
Jesus Christ stood in that gap when he was put on the cross at Calvary. Jesus Christ stood in that gap when he was raised from death to life. Jesus Christ stood in that gap when he ascended back into heaven.
Ezekiel didn’t know that 600 years later Jesus would arrive on earth and stem the tide of ruin for sinners. Ezeikel had no idea even before the world was made, Christ was on his way to turn the fortunes of his people. Ezekiel must have thought that it was all too late and everything was lost. But that’s not the case. It wasn’t too late. It’s not too late to stand in our God Appointed Place.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am going to prepare a place for you’. Our God appointed place in heaven is a perfect place.
But before we go there’s some gaps to fill on earth.
Christians have a God Appointed Place in serving Jesus. We have a God appointed place in worship. We have a God appointed place in church. We have a God appointed place in society. We have a God appointed place in our family. We have a God appointed place in surviving challenges, trials and temptations. We have a God appointed place in sanctification and holiness.
No matter how many opportunities we’ve missed, no matter how old we are, no matter how many times we’ve failed. It’s never too late to stand in a God appointed place. A late arrival to us is sometimes perfect timing for God.
‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day’. 2 Peter 3.8
We think Jesus is taking a long time to return to earth. God’s thinking it’s way too soon to begin judgement day. It’s never too late to stand in a God Appointed Place.
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