Monday, August 26, 2013

Standing in the Gap

"And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land..." (Ezekiel 22:30)

When I was young, I remember sitting in the church listening to the preacher and he would be railing against sin and sinners, often becoming very animated and excited.  His face would get red and he would be sweating to the point that he would have to wipe his brow and face with a handy towel he kept nearby.  This man perspired a lot so after he finished his gospel workout pacing down the aisles and shouting, he would be so wet you dared not give him a hug lest you be inflicted with his sweat.  He loved to quote from the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  There is a lot of ammunition in those books that can be aimed at modern persons even as they were at the ancient folk for whom they were intended.

One obscure verse that he pulled out now and then was the one quoted above, except he always quoted it from the King James Version because that was the only one he used and he believed it was the one that God intended for us to use.  He railed regularly against the modern versions that those seminaries (except he called them "cemeteries" and said they were full of dead people) and their sort tried to put out to quench out the word of God that is contained in the KJV.  So, when he quoted the Ezekiel verse above, I remember him saying, "Who will stand in the gap and make up the hedge?" as a way of trying to get people more involved in the local church.

I may not agree with his theatrics and his sweaty was of preaching but I do agree with his sentiments from Ezekiel that God needs people to be there to help out in many ways....i.e. "to stand in the gap and make up the hedge."  Ezekiel was using the metaphor of the wall of protection around the ancient cities and if there was a breach in the wall, people were often needed to stand in that broken place and watch for approaching enemies while repair crews got ready to fix the wall.  Often, all that stood between safety and disaster was a good strong wall and it often made all the difference in the lives of ancient people.

We just said goodbye to one more of our older people yesterday, a wonderful man of 88 years who was one of the foundations of our church.  He and several others in their 80s and 90s have gone on to be with God this year and we will miss them terribly.  They were among the most devoted and faithful members of our congregation.  They were almost always present on Sundays and were ready to serve in any way on committees and work groups to get goals accomplished.

So, I began to wonder, as Ezekiel of old did, who will stand in the gap and make up the hedge for our church now that many of those who were so active and supportive of the local church are gone?  Who will step up and take their places so that the mission and ministry of the local church can continue?  It is hard in this modern age to get church members to even attend church on a consistently regular basis much less serve on committees or work groups to accomplish the goals of the church.  Who will carry on in the place of those who have gone on so that we can continue the work that God has called us to do?

There are people in every generation who answer the call to service so we need not fear that it will not get done but we need to continuously pray for God to call and for humans to answer so that God's Will may be done on earth even as it is done in heaven.

The old man Mordecai looked into the face of his niece Esther and said those challenging words, "Who knows if God is not calling you for just such a purpose as this?"  That question goes out to every generation of those in the church.  God is calling you to service.  There is plenty of work to be done.  Willing workers are needed to continue the work until the next generation picks up the mantle and carries it on.  

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