One of the saddest passages in the Bible is found in Ezekiel 22:30,31, where we read: “ ‘And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,’ declares the Lord GOD.” God was looking for a man capable of advocacy for Israel when its sin had gone so far. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were faithful, but apart from them, there was no one to stand in the gap and lead the people to repentance and draw the nation back from the brink of the judgment that came in 586 B.C. (Jer. 7:26,36; 19:15) at the hands of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. Only the Messiah, God the Son, will have the character and the credentials sufficient to do what no man can do, intercede for Israel (cf Isa. 59:16-19; 63:5; Rev. 5). He was rejected by them at His first coming to earth, so the effects of this judgment continue today (look at the mess in the Middle East and all the nations which want to destroy Israel). But one day, as a result of the judgment of the Great Tribulation, they will turn to Him in faith at His Second Coming (Zech. 12:10; 13:1). The Apostle Paul, in speaking of the duration of Israel’s temporary rejection, wrote this to the church at Rome: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed…that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (the Church is complete); and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Ro. 11:26-27).
As I think of how much God had done for the nation of Israel and yet how the people, rather than continue to be thankful and serve Him faithfully, turned their backs on Him and worshiped false gods, I can’t help but thinking about our own Nation which began as a place where God could be worshiped openly both in private and in the public sector. We even put “In God We Trust” on our coins and added the phrase “One Nation Under God” in the pledge to our flag. The Bible was the textbook for most of our early public schools and many of the colleges and universities began as Bible schools and seminaries. We had huge spiritual awakenings and revivals and have sent out thousands of missionaries world-wide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as well as to minister to the physical needs of others. No other nation on earth has helped out other nations in their time of disaster and need as has the United States of America. But, look where we are now—like Israel, we fit Paul’s description in Rom. 1:21-28: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
Sound a little like our nation?! As we witness the spiritual decline, the corruption, the anti-Semitism, the anti-Christian world view of leadership in our nation, what are we as believers to do? Are we to just tolerate the curtailment of our freedoms? At what point are we to speak out and act? As we think about how the early Christians suffered and were murdered on the floors of pagan arenas and theaters because they wouldn’t trade their faith for freedom, or were bound to stakes, waiting for flames to consume them because they refused to forsake their Savior, no one anticipated that the most horrific crimes against Christians would be perpetuated in our lifetime. The evil against Christianity today equals or exceeds that of previous eras. Open Doors USA, which serves the world-wide persecuted church says that in at least 50 countries today, Christians suffer extreme persecution at the hands of groups like the Islamic Boko Haram in Nigeria, and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The secular media remains relatively silent due to its ideological prejudice or animosity toward Christianity, but how does one explain the muteness of the majority of American Christians who should be speaking out, especially since the jihadists who now seem far away proclaim their intent to take down America next. It seems that the church marquee had it right: Apathy is our most serious problem. But who cares? There is no better statement on the perils of apathy than that of German Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller, whose outspoken opposition to Adolf Hitler (while most churches and Christians remained silent) earned him seven years in horrible Nazi concentration camp:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. (From Prelude to Apocalypse by Elwood McQuaid in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Israel My Glory)
I am very grateful that in our country today, we have numerous individuals and groups who ARE willing to stand in the gap. They are standing up for our Christian freedoms in the public venues as well as from behind the pulpit, and praise the Lord, they are winning many victories in the courts on behalf of those who are suffering injustices for their stand for their Christian faith and values. Here is a partial list of such organizations, which we need to pray for and support as we are able, and as the Lord leads: Alliance Defending Freedom (Alan Sears), The Christian Legal Society, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ…Jay Sekulow), the Justice Foundation, Family Research Council, Freedom Alliance (Oliver North and Thomas Kilgannon), Traditional Values Coalition (representing some 43,000 churches in America), Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital (a Christian outreach ministering to top-level government officials, representing Christian beliefs and values). While we greatly appreciate what these organizations are doing in standing in the gap, we also know that we need to do our part. We will face some tough times in the days ahead as we find more and more that our commitment to share the Gospel will run counter to the laws of the land. “We must ask ourselves: At what point do we have to become lawbreakers rather than betray our faith? At what price are we willing to take the cross into the world and identify with our Savior? How do we both love the people of the world and yet oppose the agenda of those who would crush the Gospel. I believe it is time that we all begin to live for eternity—not time, and for Christ, not ourselves” (Erwin Lutzer in When a Nation Forgets God). How about you? Are you willing to be one who Stands In The Gap? If so, God will show Himself strong on your behalf, and may your tribe increase!