In the book of Ezekiel, the children of Israel were not following God's commands, failing to carry out the work that God had given them to do. It was a time when everything seemed to be corrupt. In the midst of the corruption, God comes directly to the prophet Ezekiel to give him a strong message for his people.
The Lord revealed to Ezekiel in chapter twenty-two how filthy the land of Israel had become. God told Israel, “Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation” (22:24). In this verse, the word “cleansed“ means to be purged or purified. Because they had not been cleansed of their sin, God’s indignation and displeasure was building against His chosen people. The withholding of rain was a sign of their mounting sin against God. They had allowed the wickedness of the world to affect them, and they had not repented and turn from their wickedness.
The first area of failure was with the worship leaders. When God gave Israel the Law, He set up a system of prophets and priests to help lead the people in His word and by His truth. The prophets were the ones God used to communicate His word and will to the people. Yet, the prophets had turned from God to the desire for “treasure and precious things“ (22:25). We could say they were in it for the money and not for service to the Lord. Their message had become controlled by self-interest, and they did not give the children of Israel the truth. The priests were men who were to mediate between man and God through sacrifices. God had set up the whole system of sacrifices to point man to God. They were to picture the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work, but instead, the priests “violated [God's] law“ and “put no difference between the holy and the profane“ (22:26). They were not set apart to God, and their worship-leading ceased to point Israel to God.
The second area of failure was with government leaders. In Ezekiel 22:27, God explains, “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood and destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.“ The princes who were supposed to be responsible for running the country were worried only with making money. The results of their practices were devastating on the people. God describes them as ravening, meaning to tear into pieces. The leaders shed blood and destroyed souls. The things that they did were only for their benefit and the benefit of a small group. Not only were their motives wrong, but they blamed what they were doing on God (22:28). They made God a part of their wicked disobedience.
The third area of failure was with the people. Ezekiel 22:29 shows the downward spiral of society. The people had “used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and the needy.“ Unclean spiritual leadership and unclean political leadership produced an unclean populace. If the priests and prophets are out for their own gain, and the rulers are out for their own gain, then the people will be out for what they can get. They have robbed and exercised violence against people who were less fortunate.
In the midst of all the corruption in the land of Israel, God told Ezekiel, “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“ (22:30). God found no one. How sad! In all of the land there was not one person willing to stand up, speak God's truth, and obey his commandments.
Doesn’t this sound a little bit like the world in which we live? For you and me, God’s search is the same as it was in Ezekiel’s day. We must “stand in the gap“ for God in a world that is daily more corrupt. We must pray for, support financially, and even go ourselves as missionary gap-standers. I pray you can say as Isaiah did, “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).