Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Someone to stand in the gap!"

August 22nd, Day #235

Ezekiel 19 - 24 …

Ezekiel was in Babylon with other people who had been taken into captivity in Babylon.  Meanwhile, a puppet king and some Jews remained in Jerusalem, but not for long.  God would soon send the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and the temple and the people would face His wrath.  As God speaks to Ezekiel with a message for the exiles He says, "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 …" (22:30-31).

Chapter 24 records to the very day the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem and the ultimate destruction of the temple.  Again God says, "Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided. … The time has come for me to act.  I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent" (24:13-14).  God then uses Ezekiel and his wife as a sign to Israel.  Ezekiel's wife dies and God tells him not to mourn in the usual way because in the same way, God's "wife" is going to "die" … the "delight of His eyes."  God says, "Ezekiel will be a sign to you … When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD" (24:24).

As noted before, this refrain is repeated throughout Ezekiel's writing:  "Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord,"  … "Then they will know that I am the LORD" …  Throughout my study of God's Word it has become increasingly clear that the very purpose of creation, of mankind's fall into sin, of God's plan of redemption, of His sending the prophets and finally His own Son was always to make Himself known, to display His glory.  God reveals His perfection in contrast to the "imperfection" or evil of Satan, his demons and sinful mankind.  God alone is HOLY!  He alone is worthy to be praised, to be worshiped, to be honored, glorified and adored.

Judah existed for one purpose:  to make God known; and when the kings and priests and prophets and people failed to fulfill that purpose, God no longer withheld His wrath.  Yet, God had promised that the Savior, the Messiah, the Anointed One would come from Judah, from the line of David. Therefore, God would not destroy them completely.  He would bring them back, send more prophets and remind them who they were, and in the fullness of time, the Savior would come.  This period of exile was a prelude to the longer exile of the Jews from the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  From the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D. until 1948 the Jews were scattered abroad throughout the nations of the world.  Some remain there to this day.  But God never forgets a promise and His purpose WILL be fulfilled!

Embedded within the pronouncements of judgment and the pouring out of His wrath is a clue to the future restoration of God's chosen people, Israel. Even though He declared that He would no longer withhold His anger, God says, "But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations …" (20:9, 14, 22).  God even points to a future time when He says, "For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord, there in the land the entire house of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. … I will accept you as a fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will show myself holy among you in the sight of the nations" (20:40,41).

And again God says, "Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your fathers" (20:42).  For His Name's sake God will be gracious once again to Israel and Judah, as we will see in the writings of some of the other prophets God sends to the people after their return from exile.  The return from Babylon was only a partial fulfillment of these prophecies, looking ahead toward the time just prior to Jesus' return.  Pointing to the Christ, the Anointed One, God says, " … remove the crown (from the king who was then in Jerusalem) . … It will not be restored until HE comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to HIM I will give it" (21:26-27).

Isn't God's Word amazing?!  Time after time God uses the historical circumstances of His people to teach them and those who would come later the importance of KNOWING HIM!  At the end of Chapter 22, God laments, "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" (22:30). Who could stand in the gap between God's people and His just judgment?  

God HAD to pour out His wrath because there was no one to stand between His people and His just judgment upon their sin.  According to His promise to Abraham that his descendants would be like the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky, God sent Jesus to “stand in the gap,” to bear His wrath against sin so that all who believe in Him would be saved and enter His eternal kingdom.  And when Jesus returns He will gather the tribes of Israel and they will worship at His holy mountain and all the earth will know that the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel, is God!!

As you read His Word do not miss His promises.  Hear His voice and believe in the One whom He sent to "stand in the gap" for YOU!  Believe in Him and serve Him today, for it is by grace through faith in Jesus, the Christ, that we are saved from God's coming wrath.  

"O Lord God, You alone are worthy to be worshiped and praised, for You alone are God.  You have revealed Yourself through Your people of old and through Your people today as the Holy One.  I confess my own sin and my need for someone to stand in the gap for me.  Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to be MY Savior.  I confess that He is Lord and pray that You will continue Your work in me by Your Word and Spirit, that I may be Your instrument to make You known to others.  Help me to fulfill my calling as one who has received Your grace and who knows YOU!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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