Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in the twenty-second chapter of the book. This particular passage of Scripture is most noted for the concluding verses that are found at the very end of it. As I sit here and read this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but think of the concept of a crescendo and what a crescendo means in the midst of a song. How many times have you listened to a particular song and you have been waiting for that one single moment when all the lyrics, all the notes, all the beats lead up to a particular moment within the song? How many times have you listened to a particular song knowing that there is coming a moment—a magical moment if you will—when that song reaches the climactic point when a particular note or series of notes is hit that seems to drive the home within our hearts, spirits and minds? How many times have you sat listening to a song and you couldn’t wait until that moment when the song reached the place that you have been waiting for, and the minute it arrives you are filled with goosebumps and a flood of emotion? There are certain timeless classics that have been written and sung by countless individuals throughout the years that are know for how they progress and build up to the moment within the song when everything else seems to fade into the distance, and you completely get lost in the moment of that point within the song? Perhaps it’s the bridge, or perhaps it’s the chorus sung in a different key or to a different beat. Perhaps it’s a particular set of lyrics that are found within the song that forms the crescendo that is present within the song. Regardless of what may be found within the song, you listen to the song knowing, expecting and anticipating that moment when the song will take a dramatic turn, and you are consumed and swept away in a broad stroke of emotion, thoughts and feelings. The same reality is found within books and movies, for how many times will you sit and read a book and the entire book seems to build up to that climactic moment when everything you have been waiting for, everything you have been hoping for, everything you have been anticipating finally arrives, and a scene and event unfolds before your eyes that completely captures you. Perhaps it’s a moment and event that has been built up to which you did not expect, or perhaps it was a moment you had a feeling was coming, yet you simply didn’t know when it would come. This reality is seen time and time again within movies that Hollywood produces, for there are a number of movies that may start off in a manner that we would perceive as being slow, and perhaps even dry and boring, yet the producer, the director and the writer of the movie sought to set the stage and set the scene in order that they might eventually build up to that moment in the movie that completely takes your breath away as an event, or a series of events unfold that cause you to take a step back and simply sit in astonishment.
When I read this particular chapter within the twenty-second chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, I can’t help but view this chapter in the same light. How many times have I directed my attention to the final two verses of this chapter, yet have completely missed, and perhaps even ignored everything that leads up to that moment. Consider if you will the words and language that are found in the final two verses of this chapter—“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31). We read these words, and perhaps quote them regularly, frequently, and often, and yet we completely miss the spirit and message that is not only behind these words, but also leads up to them. We focus on the reality that the Lord sought for a many to stand in the gap and make up the hedge before Him on behalf of the land, that He should and might not destroy yet, and yet we read how the Lord found none. WHEN THE LORD FINDS NONE! WHEN THERE IS NONE TO BE FOUND! This particular passage of Scripture is one that is incredibly tragic—as well as dangerous and treacherous—for through the prophet Ezekiel we read how the Lord sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Him on behalf of the land, that He should not destroy it, yet He found none. Before turning our attention to the text of this chapter that leads and build up to this climactic moment within the text, it’s both necessary and imperative that we understand the concept of man that is found within the passage. When you read the thirtieth verse of this particular chapter you will notice that the Lord wasn’t looking for an angel, nor was He looking for a seraphim, nor was He even looking for a cherubim to make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Him for the land. When you read this particular verse, you will discover that it was a man which the Lord sought for and desired within the land. A similar reality is confirmed in the sixteenth verse of the fifty-ninth chapter of the prophetic book of Isiah. “And He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor: Therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness it sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:16). This reality is further confirmed in the fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah when we read these words spoken by and through the prophet—“Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there by any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jeremiah 5:1).
I SOUGHT FOR A MAN! I FOUND NONE! What an incredibly dangerous and tragic indictment is presented against the house and land of Israel within this particular verse, for within this verse we find that the Lord was looking for a man. This is rather unique and interesting, for this particular statement and declaration can essentially have two distinct meanings. On the one hand we can read these words and consider how the Lord was looking for a man as it actually sounds—a man who is made up of flesh and blood and is a son of Adam who was formed of the dust of the ground at the beginning of creation. On the one hand we read this particular verse and we uncover the fact that the Lord looked and sought for a man who was numbered and found among the inhabitants of the land during that day. On the other hand, however, this particular statement may not necessarily refer to a man as it pertains to flesh and blood, but rather in terms of the actually number and size the Lord was looking for. What I mean by this, is that the Lord was looking for a single man within the land who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Him for the land. The fact that the Lord spoke of a single man within the land suggests that the Lord was looking for a single individual within the land, and didn’t even necessarily need a number of men within the land. There is an Old Testament passage of Scripture that I feel best illustrates and confirms the reality of this particular thought—a passage that is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis. In the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find the Lord speaking within and unto Himself concerning hiding that thing which He was about to do from Abraham. The Lord concluded that He could and would not hide and conceal from Abraham that which He was about to do, and He therefore revealed unto Abraham that He was going to bring judgment upon the cities of the plain, and specifically, Sodom and Gomorrah. When you come to the twenty-third verse of this chapter, however, you will find Abraham responding to the Lord’s declaration of judgment in a very specific response—a response that perhaps wasn’t even expected. In fact, when you read this chapter, you don’t even get the sense that Abraham would respond in such a way, so when it actually takes place, you might even be completely and utterly shocked. I have to admit that there is a part of me that isn’t shocked or surprised by Abraham’s response to the Lord’s declaration of judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, for Abraham rose up and engaged the kings of the plain who had taken captive his nephew Lot. Abraham could have easily chosen not to risk his servants to enter into and engage multiple kings in battle, yet He deemed the sacrifice is being necessary and worth the risk, so he proceeded to move forth. Abraham—this same man who risked the lives of his servants in order to engage kings in battle and rescue his nephew—was the same man who would plead with the Lord concerning the fate and destiny of Sodom and Gomorrah. When we come to the twenty-third verse of this particular chapter we find Abraham standing before the Lord and essentially interceding on behalf of the cities of the plain which the Lord had vowed to destroy.
Consider if you will the words which Abraham dared speak in the presence of the Lord before whom He stood: “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, I firmly find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto Him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And He said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORd be angry, and I will speak: peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And He said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, OH let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the Lord went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place” (Genesis 18:23-33). Taking a step back and presenting a side note, I am convinced the sole reason and purpose the Lord revealed unto Abraham what He was about to do within and upon the five cities of the plain was because He wanted to inquire of Abraham whether or not he would intercede on behalf of the city and would stand in the gap. The Lord undoubtedly was aware of how Abraham risked the lives of his servants in order to engage the kings of the plain in battle in order to rescue his nephew Lot, and the Lord wanted to see if the same spirit of intercession that would place him directly in harm’s way before the kings of the plain would stand in the gap on behalf of the cities of the plain. The Lord would and could not hide and conceal from Abraham that which He was about to do within and upon the cities of the plain, for Abraham was the Lord’s sole representative within and upon the earth at that particular moment in time. I believe the Lord revealed unto Abraham that which He was about to do within and upon the cities of the plain—not only because Abraham was His representative within and upon the earth, but I also believe that He knew Abraham would respond the way He did and begin to intercede on behalf of the cities of the plain. I believe the Lord’s revelation may very well have been a test of Abraham in a way, for the Lord wanted to see if Abraham was sensitive enough to intercede on behalf of cities. Pause for a moment if you will and consider if you will the reality that Abraham was even in a position to intercede on behalf of five cities within the plain. There are many of us who would be fortunate enough to intercede on behalf of a single city, yet here we find Abraham interceding on behalf of five cities within the plain—five cities which the Lord had revealed He was going to release His judgment upon.
The reason I present and mention this particular passage within the Old Testament book of Genesis is essentially for two distinct reasons. On the one hand we find one man—Abraham—who was willing to essentially stand in the gap and make intercession on behalf of the five cities of the plain. What is so incredibly unique about this particular reality is that I believe this is in all reality a second attempt of Abraham to make intercession on behalf of His nephew Lot. If you read the account of Abraham and his nephew Lot, you will notice that eventually they reached the point where they separated from each other, and Lot chose the cities of the plain—the cities of the plain which would include the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Eventually Lot would find himself sitting in the gate of the city of Sodom after he originally pitched his tent toward Sodom. If you read the Old Testament book of Genesis, you will not only find Lot being captured and taken hostage by the kings of the plain during that day, but you will also find Lot in danger of being swept away within and by the judgment of the Lord upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When you read the account of Lot, you not only find him captured by the enemy and adversary, but you also find him in danger of being swept away in and by the judgment of the Lord. I believe with all my heart and spirit there is a powerful prophetic picture that is found in this passage of Scripture, for there are countless men and women who have found, or perhaps even find themselves in this very place right now. There are men and women who not only find themselves being captured by the enemy and adversary, but perhaps they even find themselves in danger of being swept away by the judgment of the Lord. ON the one hand, Abraham’s intercession on behalf of his nephew Lot took place in the physical and natural realm, as Abraham actively engaged in war, conflict and battle with kings which were perhaps greater, stronger, mightier and more than he and his servants were. On the one hand Abraham’s intercession took place in the natural realm, as he was willing to engage in physical battle against enemies and adversaries which were undoubtedly greater and stronger than he was. On the other hand, however, the intercession of Abraham took place in the unseen and spiritual realm, as Abraham’s intercession was found in the place of prayer before the Lord. Abraham not only positioned himself in a place of intercession in physical warfare, conflict and battle, but Abraham positioned himself in a place of intercession in spiritual warfare, conflict and battle, as He prayed and pleaded for the five cities of the plain. On both occasions, Abraham’s nephew Lot was found there in the thick of all the action which was taking place. In all reality, I am convinced that the account of Abraham and Lot not only reveals that intercession contains within it warfare, conflict and battle, but intercession contains within it prayer before and unto the Lord. We would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to this reality, for if we are going to truly understand the nature of intercession, we must understand that it takes place on the battlefront, as well as the closet.
INTERCESSION: THE BATTLE FRONT AND THE CLOSET! If you and I are going to truly comprehend intercession the way we were created and intended to, we will recognize and understand that it takes place in both realms and both arenas. If you are truly going to stand before the Lord as an intercessor, you must understand that you will do so—both on the battlefield, as well as within the closet. There are those among us who would limit intercession strictly and completely to the secret closet, and never even acknowledge the fact that intercession takes place on the battlefield as the enemy and adversary is before us. There are men and women who may have no issue or quarrel with interceding before the Lord on behalf of others, so long as it is within the comfort and convenience of their secret closet of prayer. There are countless men and women who may very well agree to intercede on behalf of others in the secret closet of prayer, but the minute it requires actual conflict, battle and warfare, they shrink back and even balk at the idea. Such men and women recognize that intercession may very well require them to take up the sword and the shield, and to actively engage the enemy in conflict and battle, and they are completely and totally unwilling to do any such thing. These men and women are okay with intercession so long as it only touches the arena of prayer and talking with the Lord of hosts, but the minute intercession actually requires them to take up the sword and step out on to the battlefield, they are completely and totally unwilling to do so. Such men and women relegate intercession to prayer and communing with the Lord, yet they don’t understand the fact that intercession may very well carry with it the call to take up the sword and to take up arms. INTERCESSION DEMANDS PRAYER, BUT INTERCESSION ALSO DEMANDS A SWORD! INTERCESSION DEMANDS A PRESENCE ON THE BATTLEFIELD! Consider the intercession which Esther presented on behalf of the Jewish people within the Persian empire, as she took a great risk in appearing before the king unsummoned. It was law in and during that day that to appear before the king unannounced and without being summoned was certain death unless the king extended his scepter before you, thus granting you a pardon. Despite the fact that Esther was the wife of the king of Persia, her appearing before the king in his presence unannounced and without being summoned was to take and place her life in great risk, for there was no guarantee she would have walked out of that throne room alive. If and unless the king extended the scepter unto her, she would most certainly be a woman who faced certain and imminent death. For Esther, intercession for and on behalf of her people would be a great risk for her, as she was taking her life in her hands not knowing whether or not she would be granted a pardon. One of the things we must recognize and understand concerning intercession is that more often than not it can and will require great risk to ourselves, as we may very well position ourselves in a place that is neither comfortable or convenient. INTERCESSION: THE THRONE ROOM, THE CLOSET AND THE BATTLEFIELD! In order to truly understand intercession, we must understand that intercession may take place within the throne room, it may take place in the closet, or it may very well take place on the battlefield. With that being said, we must also understand that intercession may begin in the closet, may progress to the battlefield, yet may end within the throne room.Furthermore, there may indeed and may in fact be a progression of intercession, as intercession touches the closet, the throne room and the battlefield.
I present the passage in the Old Testament book of Genesis, for not only do we find a man who was willing to stand in the gap on behalf of the five cities of the plain, and even his own nephew Lot who was present within those cities, but we also find before us the concept of the cities of the plain being spared on account of five righteous in the midst of them. I believe it is this concept of “five righteous” that we must direct our attention to, for in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the Lord seeking for a man—a single man—to make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land that He might not destroy it. The Lord didn’t state or declare that He was looking for fifty men, or forty-five men, or forty men, or thirty-five men, or thirty men, or twenty men, or even five men. The Lord declared that He was looking for a single man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land that He might not destroy it. When it came to the five cities of the plain, the Lord declared that He would not destroy them if He found five righteous in the midst thereof. During the days and generation of the prophet Ezekiel, we discover that the Lord sought for a single man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land that He might not destroy it, and as a result of His finding none, He poured out His indignation upon them and consumed them with the fire of His wrath. All it took was one single man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land in order for the judgment of the Lord to be averted, yet the Lord did not and could not find even one single man within the land in order that He might not destroy it. How incredibly tragic it is that the Lord could not find five righteous within the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in order to avert releasing and pouring out His judgment upon them, and the Lord could not find one man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land of Judah that He might not destroy it. All it would and could have taken in order to avert the judgment of the Lord from being poured out upon the land was one man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the land, and yet the Lord couldn’t even find one. All it took was one during the days of the Persian Empire—and a Jewish woman at that—to make up the hedge and stand in the gap on behalf of the Jews within and throughout the Persian Empire. Abraham was a single man, and yet as a result of Abraham’s willingness to intercede on behalf of the cities of the plain, the Lord would not have destroyed the cities on account of five righteous. WHEN THE LORD HAS DIFFICULTY FINDING FIVE RIGHTEOUS WITHIN A CITY AND HAS DIFFICULTY FINDING ONE MAN TO MAKE UP THE HEDGE AND STAND IN THE GAP! Oh that we would allow ourselves to be completely captivated and gripped by the accounts of Abraham and Esther, and even the prophetic words of the prophet Ezekiel, for these three realities help shine a great deal of light upon the concept of intercession before and in the presence of the Lord.
I wrote concerning the concept of a crescendo and climax, and the reason I spoke of and made mention of these concepts is because in order to truly understand the final two verses of this particular chapter within the prophetic book of Ezekiel, it is necessary that we understand the entire chapter and the text that is found within it. This particular chapter opens up with the word of the Lord coming unto Ezekiel, saying, “Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? Yea thou shalt shew her all her abominations” (Ezekiel 22:2). As you continue to read this particular passage of Scripture, you will find a tremendous list of indictments that were brought against the land of Judah, and against the city of Jerusalem. One thing that marks this chapter as a tragic indictment against the heritage of the Lord is the use of the words “in thee” or “in the midst of thee.” If you take the time to read this chapter from beginning to end, you will find these words continually and repeatedly used by the Lord concerning the land, for the Lord was directing the attention of the prophet to all that was found within the city. The city of Jerusalem was the city which shed blood in the midst of it, and defiled herself with the idols within it. What’s more, is the fact that the princes of Israel rose up within the land and used the power given unto them to shed innocent blood. Those within the city dealt by oppression with the stranger, and vexed the fatherless and the widow. As if all of this weren’t enough, those within the city despised the holy things of the Lord, and profaned His Sabbath. Those within the city committed lewdness and men committed adultery and abomination with their neighbour’s wives. It is absolutely and totally unmistakable when reading these verses that Jerusalem was completely and totally saturated with wickedness, abomination and evil before the Lord of hosts. This entire chapter—while it concludes with a declaration concerning that which could and would have averted the judgment of the Lord—builds up to the fact that the entire city of Jerusalem was completely filled and consumed with wickedness, immorality, idolatry, evil, rebellion and transgression before the Lord. We cannot truly understand the final two verses of this chapter if, until and unless we are first willing to confront everything that is found before them. The entire reason the Lord sought for a man to stand in the gap and make up the hedge on behalf of the land was because of the wickedness, transgression, rebellion and iniquity that was found in the land. The Lord sought for a man who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap for despite popular opinion and belief, the Lord did not want to destroy the land and sweep it away in judgment. The Lord sought for one who would stand before Him in intercession in order that He might not release and pour out His judgment upon the land. Oh that we would get this within the very depths of our spirits, and that we would agree to stand before the Lord as those who would make intercession on behalf of nations, cities, churches, homes, marriages, families, children, and the like.
The question that we must be confronted with does not necessarily begin with our willingness to make up the hedge and stand in the gap. The question that we must ask ourselves and allow ourselves to be confronted with is whether or not we truly see the wickedness that is found within the land. One cannot truly make up the hedge and stand in the gap if, unless and until they are willing to look upon the land and confront and face the wickedness that is present therein. What’s more, is that men and women cannot truly engage themselves in intercession—whether it be in the closet, in the throne room, or even on the battlefield unless and until they are willing to confront the reality of hats taking place within their lives, or within the lives of others. The Lord may very well be calling you to a position and place of intercession, yet until and unless you are willing to confront and fact that which is before you, your intercession can and will be completely and totally useless. Abraham risked the lives of his servants because he saw the danger his nephew Lot faced when he was captured by the kings of the plain. Abraham stood before the Lord and made intercession on behalf of the cities of the plain because he was aware of the tremendous wickedness that was found within it. Abraham was willing to believe that there was indeed and there was in fact righteousness that was found within the cities of the plain. Please don’t miss this, for I believe that intercession may very well look for and believe that there is righteousness and goodness within that for which we are directing our intercession, prayers and petitions. Oh that we would this day recognize and understand what goes into intercession and where and what the Lord is calling us to. OH that we would be willing to not limit intercession to the closet, or even the throne room, but that we would recognize that intercession may also require us to step out on to the battlefield, and to engage the enemy and adversary in conflict and battle. Oh that we would this day make the conscious, deliberate and willful decision that we are going to stand before the Lord as His passionate Intercessory who are willing to enter and remain in the throne room, and even enter into and remain upon the battlefield until the battle has been won and deliverance has been made.