“I looked for someone 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 no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30)
There have been some great prayer movements that have started in this nation and some of those prayer movements have resulted in massively effective missions endeavours throughout the world. However, our nation, as many other nations, stands at a crucial point in history. The future is in the balance and the church must rise to the challenge to pray in such a way that we avert the disaster that seems so inevitable if we as a nation continue on the path we’re travelling on.
What are these challenges:
- The first is what the Bible speaks of as “mammon” - because money has become a god to people and has replaced the God in people’s lives.
- The second is the pride of human achievement; the spirit of “I can do it, we can do it ourselves, we don’t need God.” The Lord wants to break the pride of human achievement until people know there is a higher power than themselves.
- The third is the excesses of human freedom where people have demanded their freedom beyond the boundaries of God’s standards.
Because of God’s mercy, his hand is holding back the consequences of people’s choices - what a tragedy it would be if we allow the world to go so far away from God’s standards that he has to expose us to the consequences of the sin in the world and the church. It’s almost as if the sin of the nation touches the Lord as did the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and he’s looking for a person, or a people, who will stand before him, just as Abraham stood before him. He is looking for people to stand and cry out for this nation.
Where is the hope? This is the call of God in this season of time - to set ourselves apart for the Lord so that he can work deeply in our lives and make us into the people whom he can use to change this land.
Back in the days of Daniel, King Belshazzar threw a party for a thousand of his important people and drank from the “golden and silver vessels taken from the house of God in Jerusalem.” They worshipped idols and profaned God’s sacred things at a sacrilegious feast.
Then the hand of God appeared and His finger wrote on the wall, MENE, TEKEL and PERES. “When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote, his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked.”
Then Daniel was brought into the King’s presence to interpret the writing. This is what Daniel said: “These words mean, MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians... The same night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was slain.” (see Daniel 5) The time between the handwriting on the wall and punishment was very short!
Corporate repentance, identificational repentance, associating and identifying yourself with the sins of the nation and the Church, is a foreign notion to many Christians. However it is a very strong biblical theme. In the Old Testament, God looked at the state of his chosen nation and said, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Daniel, a righteous man “stood in the gap” and interceded for his people. Nine times in Daniel chapter 9, Daniel prayed: WE have sinned, WE are rebellious, WE are shamefaced etc. Moses in Exodus 32:32 prayed: “If you would only forgive their sin! If you will not then strike me out of the book that you have written.” really is standing in the gap! Paul prayed in Romans 9: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, the Israelites.” Paul, Daniel and Moses associated themselves with the sins of their people and "stood in the gap" between God’s fiery wrath and their people.
Our condition in our Church and our country is so far gone, that only heartfelt, deep, corporate Church repentance could mediate to some degree our impending punishment. Joel chapter 2 is our only hope: “Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly;Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”
A lot of prayer has gone out from God’s people to the heavens, but we need to be sure that what we pray, and even how we pray, does not come from worldly mindsets and opinions. Our nation has moved so far from God and the church has often been inclined to move the goalposts in the face of challenges from the world. Even though many are crying out with genuine hearts to the Lord and really want to see a move of God in our land we don’t seem to see the breakthrough we so desperately need in our land.
Ezra 10:1 says, “While Ezra was down on his knees in front of God’s temple, praying with tears in his eyes, and confessing the sins of the people of Israel, a large number of men and women and children gathered around him and cried bitterly.”
The prayers and repentance of Ezra opened a well revival. His prayers brought the Spirit of God who convicted their hearts and caused them to repent too. Ezra opened the door for revival. His actions stirred something in the people and in God. The Holy Spirit tangibly transforming, convicting, encouraging, revealing and powerful in their midst. It is he who moves and transforms us and convicts us. He came and did it en masse here with Ezra and his people. He did it revivals in the past. He can do it again.
The way we can know we’re ready to accomplish our mission is that we will have the right assembly. Look at this scene that’s happening around Ezra. Ezra’s heavenly gaze is pointing all the people to God. Ezra prayed. Ezra confessed. What did Ezra have to confess? He hadn’t broken God’s law by marrying a pagan woman. But as part of them and as their spiritual leader, he identified himself with their sin. He identified himself with their sin and he confessed it before God as if it was his own. And when, as Ezra 9:5 says, he fell on his knees and stretched out his hands before God, the people responded. They responded by assembling. They assembled in a great congregation. Everybody came. Men, women, children came and they came together. And when they assembled together, something wonderful happened. Because of the overwhelming sense of the holiness of God in that place, they saw their own sin.
The leaders of the people had seen it for them before. Ezra had seen it for them before. But now they saw it for themselves. This great congregation of men and women and children saw their sin. They saw how far they fell short of God’s glory. And when they saw it, they didn’t ignore it. They didn’t attempt to justify it. They didn’t attempt to deflect it on to other people. They saw their own sin and were broken because of it. They were broken and joined Ezra in his tears. That’s the right kind of assembly.
We have so many different ideas of what church is supposed to look like today. And the sad thing is that most of our ideas about church tend to focus on styles. What does the building look like? It’s too contemporary or it’s too traditional. Is it formal or casual? Is it revivalistic or liturgical? Is it old-time religion or fresh and exciting and new? Guess what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what colour the carpet is if the floor underneath it is rotten. The scripture tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Why? To taste and see and partake of the awesome holiness of God in worship. And when we just begin to catch a glimpse of his holiness, we have no choice but to see our own sin. And when we see our own sin in light of God’s holiness, we will be broken. We’ll be broken just like the remnant was. They knew they were ready to cast aside the barrier of sin and get on with their mission because they had the right assembly.
We know that God has a work for us here on this earth at this time in history. We know what our mission is, it’s Matthew 28:19-20 - the Great Commission. Our mission is to reach a broken world with the gospel. What’s stopping us? We quoted above from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.” That’s where it has to start. If it starts anywhere else, it will crumble and fall. Our prayer is that God will give us an overwhelming sense of his holiness. And as he gives us an overwhelming sense of his holiness, it will break us. Will you join us in that prayer? Will you humble yourself and pray and seek his face? Will you turn from your wicked ways? Will you stand in the gap? If you will, there’s hope for the world Jesus came to save.