Stand in the Gap - Part 1
Stand In The Gap
"And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I would not destroy it; but I found no one" (Ezekiel 22:30).
In the context that surrounds the above verse, God describes the moral condition of the Jewish nation. The prophets had entered into a conspiracy of not preaching the truth, they would only preach what was popular and positive for the sake of material gain (22:25). The priests weren’t any better, they failed to make a clear distinction between the clean and the unclean, or the holy and the common. In other words, they permitted a state of moral ambiguity where everything was a shade a gray. They had failed to teach the people God’s regulations (22:26). The rulers over God’s people, those in positions of civil and political power, were in the habit of destroying the lives of others for the sake of material and social gains (22:27). The people of the land, i.e., the wealthy landowners, were exploiting the less fortunate, greed and the bottom line was the overriding policy (22:29). God had searched, but He couldn’t find any man, who would arise as a moral leader to stand in the gap in the moral wall that protected Judah from judgment. Morality is like a wall that shields people from divine wrath. But where that wall breaks down, judgment enters. Basically, God had said the same thing through Jeremiah,"Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now, and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her" (5:1).
When I read the above description of God’s people during the time of Ezekiel, it sounds like the moral condition of our nation. More and more religious groups are conforming to the prevailing culture, the modern "prophets and priests" are preaching what is popular. It seems like there is a deliberate conspiracy to avoid preaching God’s truth or to keep His truth hidden (Romans 1:18). Many political leaders seem bent to holding on to power even at the expense of destroying the reputations of good men. And many corporations seem fueled by greed, especially when you have to pay for a warranty!
"And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell" (Isaiah 58:12).
Every generation needs men to form a spiritual remnant, who will rebuilt the moral and spiritual foundations and walls which popular culture and the unfaithful have tried to dismantle. We always need men who will roll up their sleeves and get busy in restoring the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16).
Male Leadership In Practice
As with the above passages there are others which talk about men being the spiritual leader of their families, congregations, and the nations in which they live (Joshua 24:15; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Peter 5:1-3). But I was recently asked, "What does male leadership look like on a very practical level?" In this lesson I want to pursue very practical ways in which a man can rebuild or strengthen the moral foundations and walls of his family, this congregation, and our nation (Proverbs 14:34).
- Dad Is Accessible: Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Colossians 3:21
Some of us grew up with fathers that were simply too busy. Men must learn to resist the temptation to place work and hobbies ahead of the spiritual needs of their families. No job has the moral right to ask you to sacrifice your marriage or the spiritual growth of your children for its sake. Time out for family, includes leading the family in some sort of family devotion. Talking with your children about God and your relationship with God. Children need to hear their fathers telling them how good God has been to their father, what God has done for their father, how God had taken care of their father, how God’s ways are pleasant, and how God can always be trusted(Psalm 37:25). Our children need to hear about our spiritual success stories! Children also need to hear their father praying for them (and be specific) and the other members of the family.
- Dad Must Have Self-Control: Ephesians 4:26
Frustrating situations can be used by a wise father to be one of the best teaching aids and environments. When the car breaks down, money is tight, or when Dad is confronting a salesperson about a faulty product, children need to see how a Christian man handles adversity. We need to have a controlled anger, we need to reassure the family that everything will work out (Romans 8:28), that other people are going through things that are far more difficult (Hebrews 12:4), and that the adversities of this life help to encourage us to set our minds on things above. Adversity simply says, "Aren’t you thankful that this world isn’t your eternal home!" (Romans 8:18) During stressful times, children also need to hear Dad talking, thinking through the situation, asking mom for advice, looking at the alternatives and coming up with a plan. Unfortunately, often in our culture when things get stressful, the family has to tiptoe around Dad or it is the job of wife and children to plead with father to come out of his pit of self-pity, depression and rage.
- Dad Needs To Be Hopeful: Philippians 4:4-8 Our children cannot afford for a father who is a pessimist. Too many fathers fall into the trap of anger, bitterness and complaining. Yes, the world is in a mess, which simply means that as Christians we have a lot of work to do! Dad needs to watch his complaining, for God isn’t impressed with those who murmur (1 Corinthians 10:10; Colossians 3:13).
- Dad Is Excited And Happy To Serve God: Psalm 122:1; 42:1-2
Dad needs to be leading his family to services, rather than being led. Dad needs to make it clear that God comes first, even when the playoffs are on or when on vacation. As a Dad I cannot give the impression that services, doing good deeds, or other spiritual things are an inconvenience. My children need to see my reading me Bible and talking about what I am learning.
- Dad Is Unselfish: Ephesians 5:25; Matthew 20:26-27
The order is, God, wife, children, others, then self. Dad can have a hobby, but this hobby is something that is done after everything else has been done. Money can be spent on this hobby, but only after all other responsibilities have been met. Children cannot afford for their fathers to act like children, when it comes to time management and financial priorities.
- Dad Defends/Protects His Children: Deuteronomy 7:3-4
If a teacher is trying to push evolution or some other false idea upon my children, then Dad will calmly talk to them. Sadly, often fathers take the attitude, "Well, they need to learn to stand on their own two feet". But, a junior high or even a high school kid going up against a teacher who has been teaching such things for twenty years is a mismatch. Dad also needs to talk to those who coach their children. Often the conflict with Wednesday night services arises. Dad needs to take the lead and calmly inform the coach that services play a vital role in informing his child about God and putting God first. Dad needs to be able to explain that he is trying to teach his children that sacrifices often need to be made, and God needs to come first even before our other commitments. For, our children are going to face far more serious temptations as they move from little league or soccer to high school, dating relationships, college, the business world, marriage, etc…We need to explain to others that we are trying to instill in our children character, courage, and the ability to resist peer pressure, selfishness and the easy way out. That even when they are recreating, they still need to do what is right, and would we appreciate if their teacher, band teacher, summer employer, cub scout leader, or coach would help us in this effort.
- Dad Needs To Communicate: Ephesians 6:4
Too often children hear as the answers to their questions, "Because, that’s the way it is", "Fair? Who said life was supposed to be fair?", or "Because I said so, that’s why". Children need to hear why they can or can’t do certain things, why certain tough decisions must be made, and why we often suffer, even when we do the right thing. Our children need to hear the reasoning behind why certain things are forbidden (Deuteronomy 6:24; 1 Peter 3:8-12). Often we tell others why we believe in God, but we fail to give detailed explanations to our children (1 Peter 3:15). Standing in the gap means that you must have time for your children’s questions and you must have the patience to answer the same question a hundred different times.
- Dad Talks About Moral Integrity: Ephesians 6:4
That is, Dad doesn’t leave questions about morality and sexuality to be mom’s exclusive domain. Standing in the gap means teaching our boys how to treat girls with respect and honor. It means talking about the dangers of lust and pornography. It also means that Dad doesn’t glorify and revel in violence (Genesis 6:11). Standing in the gap also means protecting our daughters from predators and men who have eyes full of adultery (2 Peter 2:14). This will demand that we talk to those who are dating our daughters about what is expected of them.
- Dad And Mom Are A Team: Proverbs 10:1
Unfortunately, even in some Christian families, Dad too often plays the role of another child, instead of a parent. Dad is just as concerned about what the children are watching in the TV as is mom, Dad is just as observant concerning language, attitudes and behavior, as mom. Dad is able to tell the difference between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Standing in the gap doesn’t mean seeing how close we can get to sin without sinning, or how much filth we can handle without turning off the set. Standing in the gap meansrestoring the walls of godliness and morality. As a father are you trying to restore God’s standards or are you trying to see how far you can stretch them. I really liked Berry’s comments during the meeting that some people seem only concerned with one thing when it comes to right and wrong, "Are you saying this might send me to hell?" Men that stand in the gap ask an even more important question, "Does this manifest a hunger and passion for God? Or, does it manifest apathy towards His holiness and His will?"
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/644-9017