God inspired Ezekiel to write, "I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." Quite a statement from God. What meaning does this have for the people of God today?
[Rick Shabi] Well, good afternoon, everyone. Certainly good to see all of you here today. Let me add my welcome to Mr. Welch's to welcome, I guess, those from the north that are here with us. We have a lot of visitors with us here today, and certainly those on the web, good to have you with us here today. It is kind of a nice day in Cincinnati, a little cloudy outside, but the weather is very nice. But it's always good to be at Sabbath services with everyone. It does make the day very special. Let me thank Jane and Duncan. I already don't remember the name of the song, but they performed it very well, right? I mean, you can see the years of effort and practice that they put into it, both very talented. So we really appreciate you performing that for us. Very, very nice.
You know, probably sometimes you, in your Bible study, have read through some verses and something just sticks in your mind for weeks on end, catches your attention, and you just kind of just go over and over and over it again. And that's happened to me the last few weeks as we've been going through the Book of Isaiah. There has been a verse that we've hit on a couple times in the last chapters of Isaiah that kind of make us understand God and what He is feeling about us.
So I want to start today in Isaiah 63. As you go through the Book of Isaiah, you see God talking about the time of the millennium. As you come to the end of the book, it has a nice crescendo that's building up to as God proves to the world that He is God, Jesus Christ is the only Savior. And in chapter 63, and beginning in verse...let's begin in verse 3, he talks about a time that clearly is at the time of the time that Jesus Christ returns here, a time just ahead of us.
Isaiah 63:3 He says, "I have trodden the winepress alone." Alone. I did this alone. "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples, no one was with me." There was God who created the Earth, who gave us all the things that we have, the things that we've enjoyed. And as He looked around, there was no one, He says. He was going to do it alone. "And from the peoples, no one was with me for I have trodden them in my anger and trampled them in my fury. Their blood is sprinkled upon my garments and I have stained my robes."
As He comes back in the day of vengeance, as He says in verse 4 here, to get the people aware of who He is, to save the world from itself and to usher in the time of peace, joy, harmony that He always wanted mankind to have. He says in verse 4.
Isaiah 63:4 "For the day of vengeance is in my heart and the year of my redeemed has come."
The people that He has called, the people who He has redeemed from the Earth who have been waiting for that time to come.
Isaiah 63:5 He says, "I looked, but there was no one to help. There was no one to help and I wondered that there was no one to uphold. Therefore, my own arm brought salvation for me."
No one there. Mankind, a disappointment to God. He gave everything. He prepared the Earth from time before we could ever even imagine. Jesus Christ came to Earth, gave His life, and yet mankind had turned totally against Him. No one was there. As He faced that night when He was going to be crucified in John 16:32, He said He was alone. He was alone but He turned to God and said, "But you're always with me." But you're always with me. How disappointing it must be and maybe we've experienced some of those times in our life when everything has been done and we just kind of feel alone. No one is there to support. No one seems to see things the same way. Everyone just seems to have abandoned or caved in or is afraid to stand up for anything because of whatever reason it might be. Just a couple chapters back in Isaiah 59, we see God saying the very same thing as this book comes to a conclusion.
Isaiah 59:15-16 He says, "So truth fails." Certainly a time that we live in today when he talks about what is going on in the verses leading up to this. “So truth fails and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” If you stand for what's right in a world that doesn't want to hear those things, you make yourself a prey. “And the Lord saw it and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man and wondered that there was no intercessor.”
Who is standing up for truth? What is going on? Who can muster up the courage to say, "This is right?" And not allow the world and the evils in it and the influence in it to take us away from everything that God has taught us and that He has made clear and has been available to mankind through the ages. We know that the world is under the sway of Satan. We know where it's going, and we know, those of us who have God's Spirit, that He has given us that. And it is our job. It is our job to be people who would stand there with Him. He saw it and it displeased Him. He wondered that there was no man. No intercessor on His part. And as Jesus Christ died that day, He was alone. Peter, if you recall, denied Him three times. He wasn't there at His side when He was crucified. The apostles all fled. John was there, the Apostle John, but the rest of them all just disappeared. They weren't ready to stand with Him. How disappointing must that have been?
Now, they learned their lesson and later on in life as they saw where their weakness was and they knew they had to stand for the truth and stand with Christ, they did develop the courage that no matter what came their way, they would die for the truth and many of them did. But they learned a lesson in that, that they disappointed God. With the calling that He had given them and everything that He had done, they failed Him at that time. Turn over to Ezekiel 22. Doubtless, probably, you've thought of a verse that has been on my mind as well that talks about this very thing again in the major prophet here of Ezekiel in verse 22 and verse 30, he talks about a time when people... Where are they?
Ezekiel 22:30 Says, "So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it, but I found no one."
I found no one. That's where Christ was when He was on Earth. He was looking for someone who will stand here, who would intervene for the land, who will stand up for what's going on and what's right, who will stand in that gap, who will make a wall and stand in the gap for truth, for salvation. There was no one. And this verse, I think it's a time for us to be looking at it because we are people who need to stand up for the truth. We need to be people who are here, pictured in verse 30, so that when God looks around, He doesn't say, "In the next time, there was no one. Even the people I called, there was no one. They all kind of caved, they all kind of gave in, they all kind of disappeared when times got tough."
It's an interesting verse. I think it's a very dramatic statement by God that we should be aware of. But let's go back and let's look at this verse in the context of chapter 22 because we do learn a lot about the time that God is talking about, and what He means when He gives this in verse 30. So let's go back to the beginning of chapter 22 and just look at a few things here that He is talking about. In chapter 22, as he begins.
Ezekiel 22:2 He says, "The word of the Lord came to me," that's Ezekiel, "Saying, 'Now, son of man, will you judge the bloody city?'"
Bloody city being Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been a place where there has been bloodshed. In the years ahead, it will be the same way. Will you judge the bloody city? Yes, show her all her abominations. Cry aloud, spare not, Isaiah 58, "Show her what she's doing wrong." There's a reason that city is bloody. There's a reason things are going on the way they are.
Ezekiel 22:3 Then say, "Thus says the Lord God, the city sheds blood in her own midst, that her time may come, and she makes idols within herself to defile herself."
So God begins to show there's reasons for these things that are going on in Jerusalem. There's reasons for these things that are happening in the world around you. If we go drop down to verse 6 or to verse 7, you see things that remind us of what is going on in the world around us today. In they, as God begins to recount some of the sins, some of the abominations that are going on.
Ezekiel 22:7 He says, "In you they have made light of father and mother."
Oh, the respect for mom and dad is disappearing. They're no longer the ones who you look up to and who call the shots. Reminds us of Isaiah when they say children rule over them. And we certainly live in a world today where we see society trying to change the way things go that children make the decisions over father or mother, and in some states, even with these transgender and gender identity things that are going on, that the state would even say if you don't agree with your child, we'll take him or her away from you.
Ezekiel 22:7-8 "In you they have made light of father and mother. In your midst, they have oppressed the stranger. In you, they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow." And He goes on, "You have despised my Holy things and profaned my Sabbaths."
Well, that's universal, right? Except for the people of God. You've profaned my Sabbaths. Maybe that's one thing we need to look at on, how do we keep the Sabbath? What is it that we do when God says, "Keep this day Holy?" You know, in the council meetings, you've seen in what was sent out to you, to review a Holy convocation paper that's being reviewed. As the council and as we all need to look at, what do we do with this Holy time that God gives us? How are we keeping it? Have we let other things creep into it or are we keeping it the way that God wants it kept? We know the world around us discounts the Sabbath, they have no use for it. But what about God's people? What about us? You've despised my Holy things. You've profaned my Sabbaths.
Ezekiel 22:9 "In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed."
People accuse each other, people do things just to kind of rile people up against each other, using whatever means are possible. In this day and age, internet can be used to just kind of drop things about people without any opportunity to respond. Things that just go out there and that are there in the internet. As we see, as we watch the world around us and we see in the news people just being slandered and that makes you wonder who's who.
Ezekiel 22:9 "In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed. In you are those who eat on the mountains." That means you go to the pagan situations and see, what are they doing there? "In your midst, they commit lewdness."
Verses 10 and 11, he talks about the complete immorality of the society that's there. And certainly, we look at a time where we have the immorality all around us.
Ezekiel 22:12 "In you they take bribes to shed blood."
It's all about money. How many things get done just for money? The people do whatever it takes, forget all the morality, forget whatever they were growing up just because they want the money. And money rules. "You take usury and increase, you've made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and you've forgotten me," says God. You do all these things. You've forgotten all those things, and you do all these things like the world does, and as we see around us today. And God doesn't like what He sees. He knows that this doesn't lead to anything good.
Ezekiel 22:13-16 "Behold, therefore, I beat my fists at the dishonest profit which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst. Can your heart endure, or can your hands remain strong in the days when I deal with you? I've spoken, and I will do it," says God. And He says, "I'll scatter you." I'll scatter you around the nations. And verse 16, He says, "Then you will know when you've received the just reward for what you've done, that I am God."
So let's drop down to verse 24.
Ezekiel 22:24-26 "Son of man, say to her, 'You are a land that is not cleansed, or rained on in the day of indignation.'" You're a filthy land. What you do is a filthy way of life. "The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion taking or tearing the prey. They've devoured people. They've taken treasure and precious things. They've made many widows in her midst." People are just being used for whatever purpose it is that satisfies someone else's need. "Her priests have violated my law. They've profaned my Holy things. They haven't distinguished between the Holy and unholy." They haven't distinguished between the Holy and unholy. We know that's the world around us. We need to distinguish between the Holy and the unholy. And remember what all that means, or refresh our minds on what it means. "They haven't distinguished between the Holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean. And they've hidden their eyes from my Sabbaths so that I am profaned among them."
Verse 27, he talks about using people for dishonest gain. It's all about, what can I get from them? What can I get from them because money is the thing that everyone is interested in. Verse 28, her prophets, the people that teach you, "Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar." We'll talk about untempered mortar here in a bit.
Ezekiel 22:28-30 "Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when the Lord had not spoken. The people of the land have used oppression, they've committed robbery, they've mistreated the poor and needy, and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So looking at all this, I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it but I found no one."
When you see God using words that are unusual to us, usually He's used it before in a way to kind of draw our attention to something. And so He's done that in chapter 22. If we go back to chapter 13 of Ezekiel, we see this concept of untempered mortar and making a wall showing up in chapter 13 as well. So let's go back and look at chapter 13 for a few moments, and we'll look at the world around us as we read these chapters and set the stage for what Ezekiel is talking about. Remember, when Ezekiel prophesied, the nation of Israel had already gone into captivity more than a century before. He was in exile in Babylon as Judah was about to completely fall to the Babylonians. And so when these prophecies are written, they're written for a time when he talks about Israel about a time that is yet to come.
Ezekiel 13:3 "Thus says the Lord God, 'Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing.'"
They will tell you whatever you want to hear. And so we live in a land that claims to be Christian less and less as time goes on, but we see the prophets in the world around us telling us everything's okay. As society changes their morals that completely contrast to the Bible, we see the prophets of the world saying, "Well, that's okay. It makes sense as long as you love each other. Hey, same sex, whatever you want to do is okay with us." We even see the pope moving in that direction when you look at things around us. They tell us false things and they say things are okay. Even our prognosticators in the world tell us, "Well, you know what? I mean, our economy may be looking like it's about to fall. We may be at war. We may not have all our act together, but everything will be okay. Don't worry about it."
Ezekiel 13:3-5 "Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing. Oh, Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You haven't gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord."
You're not ready. You haven't done the things that you can stand in the day of the Lord. You haven't filled those gaps. You haven't made a wall. You haven't gotten yourself ready that you can stand in that day.
Ezekiel 13:6 “They've envisioned futility and false divination saying, "Thus says the Lord," but the Lord hasn't sent them, yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.”
What they say isn't true. I hope God's not talking about any of us. I hope he's not talking about anyone in the church who may water down truth and who may look to the world for some answers and things that we may want to do because when God talks about a wall, He's talking about something that divides us from the world, as in, "Come out of her, my people."
Ezekiel 13:8-10 "Therefore, thus says the Lord God, because you've spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you," says the Lord God. Verse 10, "Because, indeed, because they have seduced my people saying peace when there is no peace."
And sometimes we hear that. Things are peaceful when we look around and we think, "Well, no, it's not the peace that God would have us have. It's not the peace that will be when Jesus Christ returns. It's not the peace that we experience when the Holy Spirit is in us and we feel peace even in times of trouble because we know who's in charge. We have our eyes fixed on God. We know that all things will work together for good, that those that trust Him, even though there are times of trouble that we may come upon."
Because they have seduced my people saying, "Peace." And there's not the real peace of God when there is no peace. “And one builds a wall and they plaster it with untempered mortar.” They build a wall, but it's not a strong wall because they plastered it with untempered mortar. Untempered mortar is...I'm going to just read what I got off of the internet here because I'm not a construction guy. Untempered mortar means that mortar which held the bricks of the city walls together, hadn't been brought to a proper consistency and hardness when the wall had been erected. Such mortar would not harden correctly and keep the wall held together properly. It wouldn't take much force before the wall came crumbling down.
So those of you who are contractors would know. You've got to have the right stuff in there so that when the wind blows, when the storms come, when the rains descend, that that wall will stand. If it's not done correctly, if it's done with the wrong mortar, when the winds come, when the storms come, down comes the wall.
Ezekiel 13:10-11 “They say, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. And one builds a wall, but they plaster it with untempered mortar. Say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar that it will fall.”
What's the untempered mortar? What's the tempered mortar? Spiritually speaking, it would be the Word of God, the truth, the absolute truth from the Bible. What we build our walls on, what we build our lives on, is the untarnished Word of God, direct from the Bible, every word that He says. Not looking at the world for interpretations here, not looking for outside to see how we may interpret this or interpret that, but letting the Bible interpret itself and living by every Word of God just as Jesus Christ said and just as He lived. That's the strength.
You can keep your finger there in Ezekiel 13. We'll turn over to Matthew 7 for a moment. Jesus Christ talked about this when He was giving the Sermon on the Mount when He talked about how our houses should be built. Matthew 7, and we'll begin in verse 21.
Matthew 7:21-24 "So it's not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." Who does things the way He says to do it, not filtered through our own ideas or the ideas of someone else, but the way God says. "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, haven't we prophesied in your name? Didn't we cast out demons in your name and do many wonders in your name?' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'" God's law, that's the law to follow His way of life. Verse 24, "Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock."
That word rock is the same word that Jesus Christ uses in Matthew 16:18 when He talks about His church. That upon this rock, I will build my church.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock, on the bedrock, the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. But everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does not do them exactly like God says, learning to live by every Word of God, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.
So God, back in Ezekiel 13, is talking about the untempered mortar, the walls that we built, the wall that He's talking about in Ezekiel 22 as well. If we drop down, we were just in verse 11, or let's pick it up again in Ezekiel 13:12.
Ezekiel 13:12-14 And he says there, "Surely when the wall has fallen," because you built it with untempered mortar, it wasn't the stuff that was made of that's going to hold the wall together when the winds come and the rain descends. "When the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, 'Where's the mortar with which you plastered it? What did you do? What did you build it on or with?' Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in my fury, and there will be a flooding rain in my anger, and great hailstones and fury to consume it. So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar and bring it down to the ground so that its foundation will be uncovered. It will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then, then you will know that I am the Lord."
Then you will know when you see it fall, and you didn't stand. You weren't able to stand because you didn't take the time to do it during that time. Let's go back to Ezekiel 22:30. Let's deconstruct verse 30 and see what God is talking about because He does talk about a lot of, in this case, physical things, but they have spiritual applications to us that we should be aware of as we live in the times that we live in as we see them. We had a council meeting last week and I didn't take the time to ever even look at the news, and finally on Thursday evening, I looked at the news and I thought, "Wow, it seems like so much has happened even in the four or five days since I last paid any attention to it," because things in the world just keep moving so, so quickly and something just happens, it seems like, every day.
Ezekiel 22:30 God says, "I sought for a man."
I was looking for someone, I was looking for people, looking for someone who would do this, who would intercede for the land, right? “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall.” Let's talk about a wall for a moment. What is God talking about? You know, the ancient times were well aware of the walls that protected cities. We know about Jericho and the walls that surrounded Jericho. They were so tall and they were so strong that no one, it was thought, could bring down the walls of Jericho but God brought them down as we remember.
And so back in those days, walls around the city, and interestingly enough, even in today's world, we hear about walls every now and then and the protection that comes from them as they're used to separate one area from another. And so they had these walls that were there for protection. They had to be secure to keep the enemy out. They had to be secure to keep the enemy out and protect those that were the inside. That was the purpose for them because that city had one meaning, it had one way of life. It was the thing, it was protecting everyone on the inside because as you've watched TV and read through history, you see there was always and seems like in the Middle Ages and all those ages, there's always someone who's looking to break into your city and take it over. Especially if it was profitable and prosperous.
And so these walls were very, very important. They're important to God, too, because he talks about walls with his people, Israel. If we go back to Isaiah 5, we talk about God comparing His people to a vineyard that he Has constructed. And as God talks about His people, He does everything right. Everything right in that vineyard. He did it exactly the way it needed to be done. If you ever plant a vineyard, go back and look at what God said in chapter 5 of Isaiah and He'll tell you exactly what you need to do in order to make your vineyard profitable or productive.
But here in Isaiah 5, as we come down to it, we see that Israel has disappointed God. They're no longer the people that He wanted them to be. He did everything right for them. He gave them everything, and yet they turned against Him. They didn't pay any attention to it. They looked at the world around them and they became more and more like them.
Isaiah 5:4 He says, "One more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then when I expected it to bring forth good grapes did it bring forth wild grapes?"
Why did it turn out that way? I did everything right. It's the people. The people didn't do what they were supposed to do.
Isaiah 5:5 "Tell me what I will do. Let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I'll take away its hedge." That's the same word, wall, that we read in Ezekiel 22:33. Well, no, actually it's down here again. "I will take away its hedge and it'll be burned."
So when God built the vineyard, He put a protective wall around it because there are animals who want to come in and eat those grapes. And so there was a thing that would be put around it to keep people from coming in to that vineyard and taking away from it. Because it hasn't produced anything, I'll take away the hedge. And I will break down, verse 5, its wall. The same wall that we read about in Ezekiel 22:30. I'll break down that wall. It didn't do any good because inside the wall, it didn't perform. It didn't keep the evil out. It didn't keep the bad things that took my people away from me. So what good is the wall? It didn't protect, it should have protected.
That's physically what protects us from the world. Well, God's Holy Spirit, certainly. The truth of God, certainly. The relationship with God, certainly. The watching of what's going on, certainly. The awareness, certainly. The bonding together with God and with each other in fellowship, certainly. And the vision of the kingdom to come and the realization of what is going on as God tells us, "Come out of the world. Put a hedge between you and the world. You live in it, but don't let it into you. Don't let the world into you. You keep that wall because you are the people of God." They didn't do that in ancient Israel. Of course, they didn't have the Holy Spirit like we do.
Isaiah 5:6-7 So God goes on and says, "Nothing happened the way that it should have. I did everything right, so I will lay the vineyard waste. It won't be pruned or dug but there shall come up briers and thorns and I will command the clouds that they rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel." Is the house of Israel, "And the men of Judah are his pleasant plant."
He looked for justice. That's what He expected. But what He saw was oppression. He looked for righteousness, behold just to cry. How sad is that? That God does everything right. And He doesn't get, He doesn't able to reap what He sowed. The fault isn't His. The fault is ours. The fault is His people's. The wall was an important thing. God does put a wall around us. He does protect us. Let's turn back to Job for a moment. Job 1. We see Job. In the introductory chapter here, we learn that Job was a righteous man, blameless, God calls Him. Now, there was sin that was later revealed in him, but he did things the way that God said to do. In verse 8, Satan comes to challenge or ask God to challenge Job.
Job 1:8-10 “The Lord said to Satan, have you considered my servant, Job? There is none like him on the Earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.” Have you looked at him? He pays attention to me. He's living the life that I've called him to. “And so Satan answered God and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven't you made a hedge around him?’” He's blameless. Look what you've done for him. You've put a wall around him. You've protected him. Haven't you made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? “You've blessed the work of his hands and his possessions have increased in the land.”
But you know what? If you stretch out your hand, if you break down that hedge around him, let's see what he does then. God does watch over us. Let me see, we're in Isaiah. One book forward in Isaiah and Jeremiah. Jeremiah is called to a life that is really difficult. He's living in a land of Judah that is just rejecting God on every way. They're becoming more and more like the nations around them. They're forgetting who God is, and God calls him to be a prophet. His life was consumed with just crying aloud, sparing not, telling Judah about their sins. He wasn't popular. People wanted him dead. They didn't want him around. And God said, you know, "This is your job. You do it. You're going to be the one standing in the gap here for what God is." But let's pick it up in Jeremiah 1:15, as He's revealing to Jeremiah that the nation is going to fall.
Jeremiah 1:15 He says, "Behold, I'm calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord. They'll come, and each one set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem against all its walls all around."
Now, you have these walls all around you that you think are protecting you, but, you know, you haven't been obeying me. You haven't been following me. You've been moving further and further away from me.
Jeremiah 1:16 “So these enemies are going to come against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. I will utter my judgments against them concerning all their weaknesses or wickedness because they've forsaken me.”
They've forgotten me. They've kind of looked around at the world around them and allowed things to come in that they shouldn't have. And once it starts, when you have that little gap in a wall, all of a sudden, if it's not closed, it gets a little bigger and a little bigger and a little bigger and more and more things come in until it's no longer the protected area. It's no longer the wall, the division between world and church because they've forsaken me.
Jeremiah 1:17-19 “They've burned incense to other gods, they've worshiped the works of their own hands,” God said. "Can you imagine that the people that I have blessed would do this," He says. It didn't happen overnight, but little by little. So He tells Jeremiah, "Therefore, prepare yourself." Get ready because there's a job that you are going to do. "Therefore, prepare yourself and arise and speak to them all that I command you. Whatever I say, you tell them." Cry aloud, spare not. Let them know the sins. They need to be warned. "Don't be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold I have made you this day a fortified city, and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land." I am putting my protection around you, Jeremiah. The walls are around you. You go forth and do what I say or tell you to do. Verse 19, "They'll fight against you." They're going to resist what you have to do. They're going to want to shut you up. They're going to want to bring you down, “but they will not prevail against you for I am with you to deliver you.”
A promise that God made. A promise God made to Jeremiah, a promise He makes to His people, "You do what I tell you to do," He says to us. Don't worry about the world. I'll take care of them. You just do what I ask you to do. God is our fortress. He is our rock. We've turned back to Psalm 18, I guess. May as well turn back to Psalm 18 here. Psalm 18, when you find yourself in trials or trouble, Psalm 18 is always a good one to look back at, as well as so many psalms because, you know, as David found himself in so many situations in his life, he always looked to God and he always came back and he thought, you know, "Whatever I go through, God, it's okay, because I know that you're with me." Let's look at verses 1 through 3 here in Psalm 18. Always remember, God is our fortress. He is our wall. He is our rock.
Psalm 18:1-3 “I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The eternal is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon Him who is worthy to be praised so shall I be saved from my enemies."
Him, look to Him. Never doubt. Never doubt. Don't let the things that can occur in our lives or the doubt that can come into our lives that begin to make a crack in that wall. The wall needs to be solid, solidly looking to God, solidly focused on Him, solidly believing everything He said and learning and preparing ourselves as we go through life, taking every opportunity to develop that trust, to look the world straight in the eyes, and to say, "This is what I believe and I will not deter from it. I will look to the Bible, I will look in the Word of God, and that is the thing that will lead me and guide me as God's Spirit in us leads us." Because the day is coming, the day is coming when we will need that trust and that strength that God will give us. Now is the time to be building it.
And so if we go back to Ezekiel 22, we see the wall and the spiritual wall and where our wall is. It's the strength of God. It's the tempered mortar that we would put, tried and true, based in the Word of God, which is unbreakable, which is the strength in God and His Holy Spirit in us and the faith that we have in Him. I sought for a man among them who would make a wall. We need to be people who are making a wall, individually, yes, we'll talk a little bit about the collective wall that God is building in us.
Ezekiel 22:30 “I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me.”
As I mentioned, when a wall begins to have a little crack, or if there's a hole that develops in it because it's untempered in a place, if we were in ancient Israel or in ancient times, that hole was a danger to the entire city. People could enter in. The enemy would always be looking for a way. How can we get into that city? Here's the weakness. Here's how we can enter in. God says when you see that gap, when there's a gap there, who's going to stand up and stand in that gap? Who will be there to say, "No, the enemy is not entering in, this is how it must be? We'll stand strong against that and get that weakness tempered up with the right type of mortar." Who will stand in that gap because that gap is a danger to the city? How that would happen in physical walls? People could do whatever they need to do to interrupt it.
Spiritually, what would be the gap in our wall? What would do that? Well, Satan has a lot of stones that he could throw at our walls. He can weaken them. He can do things to create doubt among us. Is God really there? Will He really protect us? Is this really what He wants? He could use compromise. Well, you know, I don't know that God really would be that upset if we did this and whatever and look at the world around us and say, "Well, as long as we're better than they, then we're okay with God."
No, God says exactly what our standard is. We could become fearful. We could become afraid of the world and cave into it because it does take time to develop the strength and the bravery and the courage to stand up in those times. We could believe things that the accuser, Satan, would say about people to create doubt. We could become lax and comfortable in our city walls and thinking, "Well, nothing can get to us. We are good people. We are God's people."
God says pride comes before a fall. When we get to be a little lax, a gap could appear. There could be bitterness that sets in over something that happened. Hebrews 12:15 talks about bitterness and what happens when people don't let those things go. There could be that Laodicean attitude. We are rich and increased with goods and we have need of nothing. We're okay. We come here every Sabbath. We come here on the Holy days. We pay our tithes. Isn't that what God's looking for? Well, we know that He's looking for more than just the physical adherence to His laws, the heart. The heart is what He's looking for.
So there's a whole lot of things that could happen in life that could create those gaps in that wall if we're not paying attention. It happened to ancient Judah. There was a gap in wall, they had God's Word. Even in Christ's time, they kept the Sabbaths and they kept the Holy days, yet when Christ came to Earth, he really didn't have a whole lot of good things to say about the Jewish religion. He took them to chide and he showed them, "You might have the word, you're not applying it correctly. You're not keeping the Sabbaths. They're not a delight to you the way God intended that they were going to be a delight. You're doing things and you've allowed your own thoughts and your own ideas to come in and you've written your own script as far as how you will do this and how you do that and you're teaching men to do the same things."
And so Christ told them, "Well, here's the real tempered mortar. Here's what God said. Here's the truth. Here's the church He built that wasn't the Jewish church." It wasn't the Jews that had it then. He said, "This is the way, this is the truth, this is the life." And He would tell us, "Don't look back at other religions, don't look at the Christian religions in the world around us today, don't look at others. Here's the truth, here's the way, here's the life. Do it the way He says."
When we start looking around at the world and let that gap in, not a healthy thing. We have to keep the gaps. We have to keep the gaps closed. Now, when we see a little gap, we have to go to God and say, "Help us heal that gap. We have sinned against you. We have departed from you. Let's get back to what you want us to be because you've called us to a purpose that every single one of us sitting here today, everyone listening, knows what that purpose is." We all came into the church knowing what the vision is, willing to give up the life we were giving before or living before to do what God said. We need to just keep doing that and making sure that we're committed to that way going forward.
So God said, "Where's the man that's going to build the wall and stand in the gap before me?" And going on in Ezekiel 22:30, he said He wondered if there was no man. There wasn't anyone that did it. They weren't willing to stand up. They weren't willing to come back and do the things and take the shots they might take from the world based on the things that the world would say, to stand in the gap before Him.
Christ did. When He was on Earth, he took the shots. He stood firmly in God. He didn't allow the anger of the people. He didn't allow the disappointment of people just not paying attention to Him. Or even when He was alone thinking, "Is it all worth it? I mean, Peter's not here. He denied me three times. The apostles have run from me." He didn't let it deter him. He went through because he knew what His calling was, and he completed the task.
Over the years, we can look back in the bible and we can see that there were people, there were men who stood in the gaps in certain times in Israel's history. Abraham was one of those men. If you remember when God was ready to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham stood up to God and said, "Really? Will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?" And of course, it went from 50 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10. He didn't spare a lot, but he stood up to God and he interceded for the land and for the righteous that were there. Moses stood in the gap when he came down, and where is it? In Exodus 32, and they had built this golden calf.
Moses was gone for 40 days, and here they end, they went back to their old ways. They built a golden calf. God was angry with the people, rightly so. Moses stood in the gap. God said, "I'll just destroy them." Moses could have said, "Yes, destroy them." But Moses interceded and said, "God, don't forget your plan. Don't forget your plan. This is what you do. Don't let the nations around you say that you couldn't deliver your plan. Deliver them." And the people turned back to God.
David stood in the gap when Israel lost their faith just because a giant was out there and he taunted Israel every day. And everyone lost their faith. They just kind of quivered every time Goliath showed up. But there's young David who came and said, "No, no, no, who is this who's defying the armies of the living God?" And he showed the faith. He closed that gap and he defeated Goliath based on the faith of God, not because of anything he was, but because of the faith that he had. And he stood in the gap.
There's an interesting story in the account back in Numbers, Numbers 22, where we see another incident where this time, the angel, Christ, stands in the gap. It's a story of Balaam and Balak. And Balaam, I'll make the story short, and he's being encouraged by Balak to have the children of Israel sin. You know, they can lure him into sin and he offers Balaam money, so Balaam is entranced by that, so he's willing to do it for money. And if we pick it up in chapter 22 of Numbers 22:20, God's watching over all this and Balaam is ready to go to Balak and do what work he's going to do.
Numbers 22:20-22 It says, “And God came to Balaam at night and said to him,” and there's the word if, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them, but only the Word which I speak to you that you shall do.”Okay. If they come and ask you, Balaam, go with them, but you don't say anything other than the words I give you. “So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab, and then God's anger was aroused because he went.” So why was God mad? Because he wasn't asked by Balak to come, he just went on his way. Disregarded. Every detail that God gives us is what we have to learn in life. “God's anger was aroused because he went, and the angel the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.”
There he was to stand in the gap. Balaam was not going to go forward with it as. So then you have the story of the donkey and the donkey stops once he sees the angel of the Lord standing in the way, standing in the gap if you will as Balaam was going to do this thing that God didn't want him to do. And three times, the donkey wouldn't do that. And so when we drop down to verse 31.
Numbers 22:31-32 "Then the Eternal opened Balaam's eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way or standing in the gap with his drawn sword in His hand and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face." When he saw, "This is what I must do." "And the angel of the Lord said, 'Why did you strike your donkey these three times?' Behold, I have come out to stand against you because your way is perverse before me."
And so, you know, Balaam then repents. He ends up doing what Balak wants in the long run, but God will stand in the way, He'll stand in the gap. Christ says He will. We have to kind of pay attention to what He is doing. Breaches and gaps will occur, but we need to stand tall.
There is a man. There is a man in the Bible who did stand in the gap when a wall was breached. Let's go back to Ezra, or forward to Ezra. Ezra 9. After Judah fell and God allowed them to come back to start rebuilding the temple, Ezra went back, and he was building the temple. And in Ezra 9, he says this, "We were slaves."
Ezra 9:9 "We were slaves yet our God didn't forsake us in our bondage." We were slaves in Babylon, but God didn't forsake us, “but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.”
A wall. The wall of Jerusalem had not been built. And so we come forward to the next book in Nehemiah. God might have asked, "Who will stand in the gap? Who will be the one who will make the wall?" And it turns out to be Nehemiah. As we pick it up in verse 3, as Nehemiah is asking, how are things going in Jerusalem? In verse 3, who he's talking to says to Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 1:3 "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire."
The walls are still broken. The wall needs to be built. It needs that wall. And so what does Nehemiah do? He prays. He prays an intercessory prayer. And I won't take the time. I wish I had the time to read it all. I'll read just a few verses, though, I think, because I hope you go home and read this later. In verse 5, Nehemiah...well, verse 4.
Nehemiah 1:4-6 He says, "When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. The wall is broken down. And I mourned for many days. I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, 'I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love you and observe your commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open that you may hear the prayer of your servant, which I pray before you now, day and night, for the children of Israel, your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against you.'"
And so he prays this prayer, and he sees the need for the wall to be built. The very next chapter, he has the opportunity. He's the cupbearer for the king. The king would have the right to just kill any of his servants. And when Nehemiah comes before him the next day, he's got a sad countenance on his face. And kings don't typically want to see someone with a sad countenance. And so Nehemiah is sad because he realizes what needs to be done. And he's distressed that this wall hasn't been built. And so he says...tells the king what it is. He stood in the gap. The wall needs to be built. I need to go to Jerusalem. I need to get this done. And so the king lets him. God allowed that to happen.
We go forward in the book of Nehemiah, we see what he did. In Nehemiah 6, we learn... Now as you go through the Book of Nehemiah, you see that he had a lot of opposition. There were a lot of people around who didn't want that wall built. They will fight against you as we read earlier, as God says. They'll fight against you. They'll try to stop whatever you're doing. They'll try to do it through any kind of way they can to get you off of the track that God has set you on. And as you read through the Book of Nehemiah, you see, you know, every single attempt that they made to get Nehemiah to divert from the path that he was on, but he never did. He saw through it all. And so, you know, well, just in verse 16, it says...or verse 15, that wall was built in 52 days. They'd been there for years doing it, and Nehemiah comes, and he is there, and in 52 days, 52 days, the wall is built. And so Jerusalem has a wall around it, a physical wall. But as you look at Nehemiah, he's building a spiritual wall as well. In Nehemiah 8, we see them reading from the Book of the Law.
Nehemiah 8:2-3 Says, "So Ezra, the priest, brought the law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month." That would be the Feast of Trumpets. "Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday." Just reading from the Book of the Law, "Before the men and women and those who could understand, and the ears of the people were attentive."
They paid attention to the Bible. This is the Word of God. This is what should excite us. This is what should inspire us. This is what we need to do. These are the words of life.
Nehemiah 8:5 “So he stood on a platform of wood, and he opened the book.” Just like we do every week in Sabbath services when whoever's teaching you up here opens the book “in the sight of the people, for he was standing above the people, and when he opened it, all the people stood up.”
They had respect for the Word of God. They trembled at His Word. This is the Word of God that we're hearing. This is the way to life. This is what you need to do.
Nehemiah 8:8 "So they read distinctly from the book in the Law of God, and they gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading."
This is what God is saying. This is what this means. This is what you need to do. And you see the people, they were crying. We haven't done this. This is what we need to do. This is our life. This is our strength. This is who we are. This is what it is to be people that are building, that God is building the wall in, who will stand in the gap when the time comes because the Word has become part of them. And so you see in this chapter, very much like the services we have at Holy convocations when God calls us together. In chapter 13, as we see the walls, the life inside the city, the life inside the walls that have been built in Jerusalem, we see Nehemiah beginning to apply it. On that day, verse 1, they read from the Book of Moses. I'm in chapter 13.
Nehemiah 13:1 "In the hearing of the people, was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God."
And because he says there they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water. And so it was that they did. They did what the book said. They just did it, applying the Word of God. You see that in verses 4 through 7, there was this man, Tobiah, he was a man who was against the building of the temple or the wall, and yet they had given him a place in the temple of God. Why would they do that? Why would they let an enemy in to the temple of God?
So they got rid of that. It's for the people of God. In verse 15, we see complete merchandising going on. We have people coming from the outside selling all sorts of wares and things that are going on. And Nehemiah sees this and says, "This shouldn't be happening on the Sabbath day. You don't go to Walmart on the Sabbath day. You don't go to Costco on the Sabbath day. You don't go out to the neighborhood farm market on the Sabbath day and do these things." And so he said, "No, no, no, it's not going to happen anymore. Close the gates. Those people do not belong in here on God's Sabbath day." You see him applying the law because inside the walls, you do the things that God said.
It should remind us of 2 John. Let's turn to 2 John as he's talking, you know, here in the 90s A.D. And he's talking to an elect lady who has stayed with the truth all those years. He says something in verse 5 that we could take note of today as well. In verse 5 of 2 John, it's only one chapter.
2 John 1:5-6 He says, "I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it."
Let's drop down to verse 10.
2 John 1:10-11 "If anyone comes to you and doesn't bring this doctrine," if someone comes in and gives you a different doctrine than what's in the Bible, "Don't receive him into your house. Don't greet him for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds."
Now, we have a religion who may knock on our doors every once in a while and we probably just kind of let them disappear. But in today's day and age, how many of us might allow other thoughts to come in through the internet? How might we look at other things and say, "Well, what are they doing? How do they think? What are they saying about the Word of God? Do they bring the same doctrine that the Church brings? Do they bring the same doctrine that you have been taught?" Because if we pay attention, little gaps can create in that wall. Little gaps that can get bigger and bigger that might cause us to allow our walls to be broken down and our house would fall.
Let's turn to 1 Peter. 1 Peter. We've talked about walls. Who will build a wall? We all need to be building a wall. We all need to be building that wall in our lives that separate us from the world. Not that we look down on them, not that we ignore them, not that we dislike them. Christ died for all mankind. He loves them all and that's why we did it. But we need a wall around us and make sure there are no gaps in our walls. But we're building a collective wall as well.
1 Peter 2:4-5 "Come to him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen by God and precious. You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a Holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. He is the chief cornerstone." Stones, part of the wall that God is building, part of the wall that He is perfecting in each of us.
Revelation 21:9-12 "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me." This is, of course, John as he is in the vision, "And talked with me saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the lamb's wife.' And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the great city, the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. And she had a great and high wall with 12 gates, 12 angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the 12 tribes of the children of Israel."
And so he talks about, in verse 15, the wall, the city, verse 16, is laid out as a square. Its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed, 144 cubits, verse 17, according to the measure of a man. God is building a house. He's building a wall. We're part of that wall. And as we live our lives, and as we look at what God is doing and where He is taking all of us because we all have a part in the work that He's doing, every single one of us, the wall needs to be built. The wall needs to be made, as it said in Ezekiel 22. And people need to be willing to stand in the gap. And as we look at the world around us and we see what's going around on it, only God can change it if He decides to, but what is our job, Isaiah 58:1? Cry aloud, spare not. Let's turn back to Isaiah 58. See, in Isaiah 58, he's got two groups of people he talks about in Isaiah 58.
Isaiah 58:1 "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet," verse one, "Tell my people their transgression and the house of Jacob, their sins."
So tell my people, that would be me, that would be you, that would be everyone listening, tell my people their sins. Close up those gaps. Become more and more like Jesus Christ. But tell the house of Jacob, the world around us, this is what's happening. This is where you departed from God. This is what's going to happen if you don't turn back to God. Do that loudly, do that clearly, do that directly, do that boldly. We all have a part of that. Let's all pray that God will deliver that message. Down in verse 12, for those of us who are here, that God is working with, who look forward to the time when Christ returns, the time that we are born into the kingdom of God.
Isaiah 58:12 Notice what He says, "Those from among you," that's people that are listening here, "Those from among you shall build the old waste places. You shall raise up the foundations of many generations. You shall be called the repairer of the breach."
You're going to plug up that gap. You're going to be the ones who fill that gap and teach the world what it is to be people of God. You're going to teach them the way to life, peace, goodness, harmony, everything that man has always wanted but has always rejected the only one who could bring that to the Earth. Time is now to be learning that. Are we up for the job? I think we're all up for the job. Let's pray to God. Let's ask Him to purpose in our hearts that we become people who will build that wall, who when the time comes and as we have the opportunity, stand in the gap so Christ doesn't feel alone and never says about us, "I was there and there was no one." We are all there with Him. Let's purpose to be with Him and to build that wall and stand in the gap whenever the opportunity arises.