Sitting on the Fence or Standing in the Gap
Reading: Ezekiel 20-22; 1 John 1
The latter part of Ezekiel 22 always hits me hard. It’s not as though the message that the prophet delivers is any different from what he has said so many times before. It’s the statement at the end of the chapter that is so condemning.
From verse 23 on, the word of the Lord that came to Ezekiel laid a heavy on the leaders of that time, and ours. The political leaders, the spiritual leaders, the public servants, all came in for their fair share of criticism. Nor did the common man-on-the-street escape being pointed out.
Again the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has had no rain or showers in the day of wrath. There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her’” (22:23-25, NIV).
Who makes the decision to go to war and who does the fighting and dying?
‘Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them’ (22:26, NIV).
How many of our spiritual leaders have found it expedient to water down the truth so as not to offend anyone in their audience, or because they have wandered from the paths of righteousness themselves?
‘Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain’ (22:27, NIV).
Why is it that the system doesn’t work for those who really need it?
‘Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, This is what the Sovereign Lord says—when the Lord has not spoken’ (22:28, NIV).
Where are those among God’s people who see the truth but prefer not to stir the pot by speaking it?
‘The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice’ (22:29, NIV).
Whatever happened to treating others as we would like to be treated?
Then comes the appalling truth. God sees all this and says:
I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf on the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none (22:30, NIV).
There is a connection between these verses and 1 John 1. John says that in God there exists no darkness and if we claim to belong to God we should not walk in darkness, as Ezekiel describes it. Rather, we should walk in the light reflecting the character of God. It’s only by walking in this light—demonstrated in our thoughts and actions—that we can fellowship with the God Who is light.
Though we might not put ourselves in the middle of any of the categories described by Ezekiel, we have to ask ourselves how proactive we’ve been in correcting the slips and slides away from righteousness that all of us experience. We have to ask ourselves how proactive we have been in speaking out when we see the incorrect becoming the politically correct.
Are we better at sitting on the fence than we are at standing in the gap?
John writes: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in is. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8, 9, NIV).
We can get off the fence and into the gap; for our own sake, for the sake of others, and so that God can bless us all.