For this series of articles, we owe a debt of sincere thanks to Mr. Ken Prince of Ottawa, Canada, and Mr. Richard Lawford of the Fountain Green assembly in Maryland for taping and transcribing them.
Reading: "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" (Ezek 22:30).
This article is the first in a series dealing with the subject of hedges. God has placed many hedges around His people for their protection. However, there are adversaries who seek to break through these hedges to rob the Lord's people of their joy and blessing in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this article we shall consider the importance of these hedges for the Lord's people and the importance to God of men and women who maintain these hedges and stand in the gaps when they occur.
Gaps in The Hedges
The Children of Israel were exposed to many dangers throughout their history. When they were surrounded by God's protection, the forces of their adversaries could not affect them. However, when the protective hedge had been broken down or a gap in the hedge had developed, God's people experienced failure and defeat. In Ezekiel's day, a man was needed to come forward and stand in the breach to avert God's judgment. This man would defend the people of God by standing in the gap and raising the protective hedge once again. The Lord God was poised to judge the land because of its wickedness. However, in His mercy He searched for someone who would come forward to stand in the gap so He would not have to act in judgment. However, He looked in vain, for no one was qualified to undertake this task. It is touching to see God's love causing Him to seek every avenue for turning aside His righteous judgment, if some righteous basis for doing so could be found. God places great value on a qualified man who will come forward to stand in the gap so He can deal kindly with His people.
God has many hedges around His people today that He desires to see maintained so that judgment will not be necessary. Although by nature we resist anything that restricts our movements or our perceived freedoms, God has placed hedges around us for our protection. Without these hedges our lives would be in chaos and disorder, and we would reap the results of self-will. The Lord desires to see hedges maintained in our personal lives, as well as hedges kept around our families and around His assemblies. Unfortunately, in may cases, He finds that there are gaps in these protective hedges. He is looking for men and women that will stand in those gaps so that our lives, homes and assemblies will be for His glory and our blessing.
In this reading, the Lord God identified three separate problems. First, the hedge was broken down. Secondly, there was a gap that needed to be filled. Finally, God wanted to find a basis for showing mercy but none existed because no one was qualified to stand in the gap.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments there were those who came forward at different times to fill a gap. However, the prophet saw that the situation in Israel was so bad that even if one of the patriarchs could come forward, they would not be able to fill the gap. Accordingly, the Lord God repeats, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezek 14:14). Their righteousness could only suffice for themselves, it could never fill the grievous gap created by Israel's sin at that time.
Men Who Stood in The Gap
However, Noah, Job and Daniel had filled gaps in their respective generations. Furthermore, they had to stand alone as they filled those gaps. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, who walked with God (Gen 6:9). He had filled the gap in his generation's righteousness by living in obedience to God, preaching righteousness and building an ark whereby he and his family were saved (2 Pet 2:5).
Daniel also filled a gap in his generation. During his day, the Children of Israel were in captivity in Babylon. They had become complacent and, even in their captivity, they failed to cry to God for forgiveness. However, Daniel stood before God and pleaded for God's mercy and forgiveness for this rebellious people (Dan 9:3-17).
Job had stood for God in the intimate setting of his home. He did so even though He was going through intense physical suffering; even when his children had been killed, and even when his life advised him to curse God and die. He did so even when his friends, who had come to comfort him, troubled him with their accusations.
Although the Lord referred only to these three names, many others had also sought to fill gaps in the hedges during their generations. When sin was in the camp because the people had worshipped a golden calf, Moses had sought God's forgiveness for the sinful people. He put his life on the line and asked God to take him if He would not forgive His people (Ex 32:32).
Samuel had stood at Mizpah when there was weakness and fear amongst the Children of Israel because of the Philistines. Samuel had offered a suckling lamb to God. As a result of his intervention, God gave Israel the victory. Samuel took a nearby stone which he called "Ebenezer" for he said "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Sam 7:12).
Phinehas was ready to stand in a day of moral evil when others wouldn't. He zealously stood and defended his inheritance in the land. The Lord witnessed Phinehas' courage and his noble act was counted by God as an atonement for Israel (Num 25:13).
Nehemiah surveyed the ruins of Jerusalem (Neh 2:13) and saw many gaps where the city's walls were broken down. He had a deep love for the place of God's choosing and a vision for what things could be with God's help. In dependence on God, he organized and oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the midst of hostile neighbors.
In 1 Samuel 17:45, David stood in the gap. No soldier in Israel's army was ready to go down into the valley of Elah to fight against Goliath. If a member of the camp of Israel could go into the battle and be victorious, he would save the Israelites from bondage to the Philistines and, most importantly, preserve the honor of God's Name. David knew the evil that Goliath intended to bring upon God's people, and he alone was prepared to confront Israel's enemy. Although the giant Goliath stood before David breathing oaths and curses, David did not hesitate in his walk towards the giant because he was depending on God. He had proven God when he had been attacked by the wild beasts in the wilderness, and now he was ready to prove God's faithfulness in this crisis. God honored David for his faith and gave him a glorious victory over the giant.
In each of these cases, God had men who would stand in the breech and thus bring blessing to God's people. However, no man could ever have stood in the gap that the Lord Jesus Christ stepped into. As Paul wrote, "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5). At the cross, He stood between God and man. He bore in His body the punishment that our sins deserved and gave Himself a ransom for all. Throughout eternity we will praise our Lord Jesus Christ because He stood in the gap and exhausted God's wrath against our sin.
There are many gaps that need to be filled today. However, before any brother or sister can effectively fill a gap, they must know the full meaning of Paul's statement, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom 12:1). No one ever successfully filled a gap without being ready to sacrifice their lives that the will of God might be carried out.
Brethren and sisters, as we look around in our neighborhoods and places of business, in our homes and even in the assemblies, we can see where the hedges have been broken down, and there are gaps needing to be filled. May God give us the courage to fill these gaps for His glory!
Worldliness intrudes into our homes in many ways. Hedges need to be raised and gaps filled to keep out its insidious influences, or it will rob us of our joy in the Lord. Families are under a great deal of stress today because husbands, wives and children are exposed to the world's low standards, values and permissiveness. If scriptural order and values are not maintained, families can break apart or become dysfunctional.
Hedges in the moral sphere must also be maintained. There is an ever present danger that we will be affected by the immorality that surrounds us causing our thoughts and, possibly even our speech and actions to become corrupted. We need to stand and speak for what is morally right to maintain the hedge of righteousness in our lives.
Gaps can also occur in the protective hedges around assemblies. Young people need to learn the Word of God and be encouraged to live out their lives in accordance with the simple truths of New Testament church gathering. They need to be grounded in the truths of God so they will be equipped to stand against modern influences and give the Lord His rightful place in the gatherings of His people. We who are older, should fill the gaps through our example and our teaching thereby strengthening young people so they will do the same in a future day if the Lord tarries. The Psalmist wrote, "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever" (Psa 93:5). There is often a personal sacrifice involved in standing for God's holiness. The Lord will ensure that those who stand for Him will be blessed, for the Lord is no man's debtor.
Other important hedges that need maintenance are obedience to the Word of God and separation from the world. Whether it is in our personal lives or in the assembly, it is essential to make a clear demarcation between what is of the world and what is the Lord's. The Lord has called us to be a distinct people for His glory. If we follow the fashions and traditions of the world, our distinctiveness as the people of God will be lost, our testimony for the Lord will be ineffective and the Lord will judge us just as He judged Israel (Isa 65:1-7). To maintain the hedge of separation from the world, we need to be exercised before the Lord and act to fill gaps wherever they exist.
When there are gaps in the hedges around the Lord's people, the enemy can get in and wreak havoc amongst us. Those who lead the people of God need to have tender, shepherd hearts. They need to be ready to stand in the gap and to warn the people of God of the devices of Satan, who tries to destroy the effectiveness of assembly testimonies. Successful shepherds will have a love for the people of God and a concern for their welfare. Furthermore, they will spend much time in the presence of God on behalf of the Lord's people.
In days of darkness, God has had men and women who would reestablish the hedges and would stand in the gap. These people saw the need around them as God saw it, and it caused them to set aside all thought of self and to act for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and for the blessing of His people. The Lord needs men and women who will do the same today. May we be responsive to the Lord's call and act to meet the needs around us by building up the protective hedges in our lives, around our families and around the people of God!