The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would 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. – Ezekiel 22:29-31
God told the prophet Ezekiel that He had looked for a man, just one man, who would stand in the gap for His people so that He would not have to destroy the land. But he could not find anyone. Not one single man. Because of this, He poured out His indignation on them.
What can we learn from this passage? Of course, there is the most obvious point of application: We should be interceding before God on behalf of our world. But other than that this passage has some valuable lessons.
Intercessory Prayer means Praying for Those You Don’t Want to Pray For
First point: Intercessory prayer is not just for people we like or people we deem worthy of our prayers. In verse 29 God lists several things that the people were doing in Israel at the time He brought judgment on them.
- Practicing oppression;
- Stealing from others;
- Doing wrong to the poor and needy;
- And oppressing the foreigners in their land and depriving them of proper justice.
That’s a pretty hard-hitting list. What God described their looks a lot like what is going on in our own nation today. And God was looking for someone who would intercede on behalf of the people who were doing these things! Contrary to what many of our preachers are doing today, God wasn’t looking for someone who was preaching hate towards these evildoers or spewing out condemnation on them. He was looking for someone who was on their knees praying for the people who were doing these things. Praying for them, not against them.
Intercessory Prayer is Prayer for Mercy
Second Point: Intercessory prayer focuses on “building a wall.” Intercessory prayer is one person asking for God to have mercy on someone else who is undeserving of mercy. When you do so you are building a wall between them and the judgment which may come upon them if they do not receive mercy. You are asking God to give them something they themselves will not ask God to give them. You are asking God to do something for them that they themselves will not ask God to do for them. You are praying for those who will not, or cannot, pray for themselves. In most cases in the Bible intercession is usually done on behalf of those who will not as compared to those who cannot. They choose not to pray to God because of their love for sin. So we, in our love for them, pray to God on their behalf.
Intercessory Prayer is Powerful
Third Point: Intercessory prayer is powerful. Intercessory prayer reveals how different God is from us; how loving, compassionate and merciful he is; and the power we have to change things. You want to change the world? Then pray for it. You want to change your community? Pray for it. You want to change your church? Pray for it.
God said if He had found just one man who would’ve interceded for the corrupt people of the land then He would not have brought forth His indignation on them. Just one man, God said. That’s all it would’ve taken to change everything. One man, on his knees before God, praying on behalf of his people, pleading with God for mercy and not wrath. One man could’ve changed everything. But God could not find that one man.
Intercessory Prayer Withholds God’s Wrath
Final point: Without intercession for the corrupt people of our land “our way” will be brought upon our heads. The language of verse 31 above is very similar to that of Romans 1 where Paul states three times that because of people’s unwillingness to worship God He “gave them over” to:
- The lust of their hearts (v.24);
- Degrading passions (v.26);
- And a depraved mind (v.28).
In that passage in Romans 1:18-33 Paul says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven in the fact that God has given the people over to exactly what they wanted.
And in almost identical language God tells Ezekiel here that He has poured out His indignation on the people and consumed them with the fire of His wrath by bringing “their way” upon their heads. Translation? He simply gave them over to the things they wanted and they got what is those things bring. Destruction.
We have many doomsday preachers and Christians running around today. They love to talk about how bad things have gotten. How corrupt people are. How corrupt the government is. How corrupt society and culture is.
I must admit I can be one of these people at times. I’ve found that it’s much easier to complain about the degradation of society and preach against it than it is to get on my knees and intercede on behalf of those responsible. I’ve also learned that this approach tends to create more problems than solutions. It has a tendency to incite hate against a world I claim to love and want to share the love of God with.
What if… what if all us doomsday Christians decided we were going to abandon the approach we have taken and be that one man God is looking for to build up the wall and stand in the gap before Him for our land?