Generally speaking, the role of a prophet is to speak to people on behalf of God, and the role of a priest is to speak to God on behalf of people. When we read through the Bible we discover certain people are identified as prophets and others are identified as priests. But when we look closely at them we find priests who spoke with powerful prophetic voices (e.g. Samuel) and prophets who earnestly interceded for their people. In my opinion the two ministries (prophet and priest) are actually interconnected. True prophecy is the fruit of earnest prayer on behalf of others. It's when we pray for others that God speaks to us about them. And God's main purpose in giving us prophetic insight is to guide us more accurately in our prayers.
We have just finished our study through chapters 28 and 29 of Exodus where we saw the priests clothed in their calling and given the assignment to pray morning and evening for God's people. Today we'll examine more closely a phrase we read last week in Ezekiel 22:30. There the Lord said He was looking for people who would "stand in the gap" before Him. We'll begin by trying to see the spiritual principle behind those words, next we'll sample a few great prayers by people who stood in the gap for others, then we will recognize that as followers of Christ each of us has been called to stand in that gap and given great authority to do so. And finally, we'll let God challenge us to believe Him to change the hardest heart and transform situations we thought were hopeless. As we obey Him we'll discover ourselves not only becoming priests but prophets in the process.
1. A proposition about prayer
- The more we pray the more we will see God do (save, heal, change attitudes)
- R.A. Torrey, How to Pray, p. 9
- "You do not have because you do not ask" (Jas 4:2)
- Tom Ferguson: "Have you prayed about it? Well, let's pray."
2. What does it mean to "stand in the gap"?
- "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." (Eze 22:30)
- "Therefore He said that He would destroy them had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them." (Psa 106:23)
- Read: Nehemiah 1:1-3; 4:7-17
- Sin and unbelief break down a person's spiritual defenses and leave him/her vulnerable to attack from the enemy and invite God's judgment.
- It may seem reasonable to say people are just getting what they deserve but God doesn't want to give people what they deserve. He wants to draw them to repentance.
- "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of...." (Lk 9:51-56)
3. Who models "standing in the gap"?
- Nehemiah 1:4-11
- Jeremiah 15:1 ("Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, my heart would not be with this people...")
- Moses (Ex 32:11-14, 30-35; 33:12-17)
- Samuel (1Sa 7:3-9) (Mizpah)
- Daniel (Da 9:1-19)
- Jesus: ("Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" Lk 23:34)
4. How do we "stand in the gap"?
- We are to call on God to give mercy to those who deserve judgment.
- We are to call on God to discipline those who are deceived and headed for destruction.
- "If you forgive the sins of any their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (Jn 20:23)
- Forgive (Thursday Prayer Meeting)
- Retain: "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1Co 5:1-5)
- "If your brother sins..." (Mt 18:12-18): go one (v 15); go two or three (v 16); everybody go (v 17); "stand in the gap" (v 18)
5. What will God do when we "stand in the gap"?
The Holy Spirit will come upon them afresh to draw them to repentance so they can be healed and blessed. Without this ministry by the Holy Spirit people are hopelessly trapped. But God does not want to give people justice. He wants to save them, even those most deserving of judgment.
1) "Standing in the gap" can be hard work and Jesus seems to be saying we should be partnering with others in this prayer (Mt 18:18-20). Name two people you could partner with in prayer. 2) Has God ever given you prophetic insights when you're praying for people? What does He want you to do with that information? 3) "Standing in the gap" can take years. What's the longest you've ever prayed for someone?