For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 19
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 15; 2 Corinthians 8; Ezekiel 22; Psalm 69
MY CALL TO THE MINISTRY WAS bound up with Ezekiel 22:30-31: “I looked for a man 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 none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
We should first reflect on this passage in its own textual and historical context. Ezekiel 22 condemns the sins of Jerusalem, this “infamous city, full of turmoil” (22:5). In particular, it focuses on the sins of the leaders—the kings and princes, the priests, the prophets—and shows the ways in which their sins have brought ruin to the people as a whole. In any declining culture much of the declension comes about by leaders and preachers who are self-serving or even rapacious, corrupt, and perhaps vicious, people who are far more interested in retaining power than in serving, people who devote more attention to the “spin” they will give to public answers than to the truthfulness of their answers. Pretty soon the entire fabric of the culture unravels. Corruption is soon tolerated, then expected. Cynicism becomes the order of the day. More and more people do more and more of what they think they can get away with. Integrity becomes so rare it is newsworthy.
That is what happened to the ancient kingdom of David. When God says he sought for a man to build up the wall and stand in the gap before him on behalf of the land so that he would not have to destroy it (22:30), in part he is picking up the imagery already deployed in chapter 13 with respect to the false prophets (see meditation for September 10). But he is also looking for a mediator, a leader like Moses to intercede for the people when they sin (Ex. 32—33), a leader called and equipped to establish righteousness and justice. In Israel at the beginning of the sixth century, he found none. Of course, God had Jeremiah in Jerusalem and Ezekiel among the exiles. But these men were to declare God’s word in declining times. Theirs was not the task of rebuilding the wall, of standing in the gap, of averting the wrath of God.
Superficially, of course, one might say that Nehemiah rebuilt the wall, that Ezra reestablished righteousness. But ultimately, only one Mediator would suffice to stand in the gap.
And my call, more than thirty-three years ago? It was complex. I did not understand this passage very well. But the Spirit of God hit me hard with it, and I knew only that I wanted to stand in the gap before him for his people.