Ezekiel 22:30 is no doubt a popular verse of the Bible, and one which has become one of our catch phrases in the Christian community. It’s the verse where God was searching for somebody to “stand in the gap”.
It reads: “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.” Ezekiel 22:30
This may be a popular verse, but only few of us truly knows the background story. For many of us, including me, we often think it’s one of those interesting verses that stick out in a sea of boring texts written by an Old Testament Prophet.
So, what’s the Background Story? What really happened?
Let’s Take Some History Lessons 😀😃
The Nation of Israel consisted of the Northern Kingdom with 10 tribes (Israel, capital Samaria) and the Southern Kingdom with 2 tribes (Judah, capital Jerusalem).
In 722BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the world power known as Assyria. In the next 100 years or so, Assyria itself was conquered by another world power known as Babylon. Led by the ruthless King Nebuchadnezzar.
In the first year of his rule, 605BC, King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Southern Kingdom – Judah which was pretty much an easy target. He took the first group of captive which included basically the royal families and the aristocrats. Daniel and his friends were among this group.
He then came back in 597 BC to take the second group of 10,000 Judah residents into exile. These were more or less the professionals in the middle class. Their skills would be useful in Babylon. In this group was a young guy named Ezekiel. He had a pretty wife whom he loved; he was supposed to be a Levite Priest. But all these were cut short by the captivity.
Nebuchadnezzar meanwhile set up a puppet kingdom in Judah, basically playing a chess-like game, and crowning as Puppet Kings individuals from within the royal family. The last of them was Zedekiah who ruled for like 11 years from Jerusalem. He and his subjects were meant to be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar and pay their taxes. Anyways, they later rebelled and trusted the likes of Egypt to defend them from King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Of course, they were going to suffer bitterly for their rebellion.
Ezekiel in Exile
In exile, this young man Ezekiel began to prophesy. It started when he saw the vision of the Glory of God. And then the revelations and prophecies started to come. He prophesied using models and vivid signs. Perhaps the most traumatic sign for him personally was the loss of the lady he called his “dearest treasure” – his wife.
He began to tell Judah and Jerusalem people who were also in exile in Babylon that Jerusalem will be destroyed. He said it was because of their sins and the judgement of God was coming and the whole nation was definitely going into captivity. He prophesied to the Judah citizens already in exile, he also prophesied to the nation still at the home land. He prophesied against Jerusalem, he prophesied against the Temple – Solomon’s Temple.
What Were The Sins Of The Citizens of Judah?
Ezekiel had a lot to say about their sins in his book, but since we’re focusing on Chapter 22, I will talk about Ezekiel prophecies in this chapter.
590BC. And Ezekiel was prophesying against Jerusalem, the Capital of Judah, where the Temple was. He called Jerusalem “a Bloody City”. He highlighted their sins in categories:
Ezekiel 22:23-29 NASB
“Son of man, say to her, ‘You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.'”
Category 1: Prophets
- There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey.
- They have devoured lives;
- they have taken treasure and precious things;
- they have made many widows in the midst of her.
Category 2: Priests
- Her priests have done violence to My law
- and have profaned My holy things;
- they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane,
- and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean;
- and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths,
- and I am profaned among them.
Category 3: The Princes (The Leaders)
- Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey,
- by shedding blood and
- destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain.
Category 4: Prophets again, influencing the Princes/Leaders
- The prophets have smeared whitewash for them,
- seeing false visions and divining lies for them,
- saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God ,’ when the Lord has not spoken.
Category 5: The People
- 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.
Here Comes The Stand-In-Gap Scenario (vs 30)
“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.”
Let us not forget that at this point Jeremiah was in Jerusalem and was prophesying to the people from within Jerusalem. He was one man. Yet, he could not save the city from the certain doom. Instead he told the the Word of the Lord. That the captivity would surely come. But it would last for 70 years only.
Verdict (vs 31)
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 .
What Happened Next?
Zedekiah was the Last King to sit on the Throne of David, (The Next is and would be Jesus Christ).
One day, God told Ezekiel: “Son of man, write down today’s date, because on this very day the king of Babylon is beginning his attack against Jerusalem”. (Ezekiel 24:2, NLT)
When Zedekiah the King of Judah rebelled, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would have none of that. In 588BC, he set a siege against Jerusalem. This final siege lasted for 2 years. In 586BC, King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, according to the Word of the Lord and predictions of His Prophet Ezekiel, and entire nation was taken into captivity.
It would be years later, at the end of the 70 years in captivity, that interested Jews began to relocate to Jerusalem, and yeah, there were physical defects in the walls, the same walls pulled down and burnt by Nebuchadnezzar. So, the likes of Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and the likes began reconstructing the Walls and the Temple.
What is that to us today?
I know quite often, we believe standing in the gap meant intercession. It definitely does. This in no ways condemn standing in the gap through intercession, it only helps to put the scripture verse in context for better understanding.
Intercession does have its place. Abraham stood in the gap for Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses stood in the gap for the Israelites in the jungle, Noah stood in the gap for the Planet Earth.
All scriptures, unless otherwise stated, are from the Holy Bible NASB.