Ezekiel 22:29-30 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
In Ezekiel 22, Ezekiel is confronting Jerusalem for their detestable practices. There are three messages in this little chapter that God delivers to the prophet, and each of them are discussing the pending judgement that is coming on the Israelite people for their sins against God. Verses one through 16 outline the first message that God delivers, and explains the cause of judgment. In verses one through five Ezekiel is called to be the prosecuting attorney against Jerusalem. God, when he speaks to Ezekiel says, “will you judge the bloody city” talking about Jerusalem (22:2)? He’s calling Ezekiel to be the prosecuting attorney to declare the facts of the case, and in these first five verses God outlines his two main charges against the city of Jerusalem. These two charges are the innocent bloodshed of men and Spiritual idolatry.
Ezekiel mentions bloodshed seven times in this chapter alone and that is done in order to drive home just how blood thirsty, just how violent the people had become; just how much of a culture of death they had created in Jerusalem. The Israelites were once again involved in major idolatry, worshiping false gods like Molech and Ashera and Baal. They were constantly involved in this pagan idolatrous worship, and so these were the two charges: innocent blood shed and the idolatry of false gods. Now I find that interesting because we see a few verses later in verses 6 through 12, a list of sins that are given, but God in the first five verses says the ultimate charges are against innocent bloodshed and idolatry, and I think there’s a reason for that.
In those two sins, innocent bloodshed of man and idolatry against God, the whole law is consumed. What I mean by that is, Jesus said that all of the law hinges on these two commandments, “Love the Lord God with all your heart and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-40). All of the law hinges upon that. Rather than loving God, the Israelites had turned to idolatry and rather than loving man they had turned to innocent blood shed. They would come under calamity because of their great sins. Now in in verses 6 through 12, Ezekiel starts outlining some of the specific things to show how they had broken the commandments of God. In verse seven, the issue of social injustice. In verse eight, it’s apostasy and verse nine, it is idolatry and greed and Sabbath breaking, but the list ends in verse 12, with the greatest sin that anyone could ever commit. Verse 12 ends, “but you have forgotten me, declares the Lord.” That is the essence and the epitome of sin, forgetting the Lord. Every sin ultimately falls under that umbrella. That is the sin that will destroy not only nations, but the souls of men.
In verses 17 through 19, God gives a second message and he tells of the means of judgment, how he plans on judging Israel, and there we see that he says that Jerusalem would become a furnace of affliction, a smelting furnace of judgment that would melt those who remained in it. You see, Israel had become worthless to God because of their sin. What I mean by worthless is this. Israel was meant to be a light unto the nations. They were meant to be the set apart holy nation to which all the world would see Yahweh proclaimed and see his glory through the Israelites and their worship. They got away from that because of their sin and their idolatry, and instead of reflecting the light of Yahweh’s glory, Israel had begun to reflect the very world she was supposed to witness to. God says that they were like dross, and what is that? That’s the scum that is left in a furnace when iron and Tin and other metals are left in there after they have been smelted. This prophecy God gave to Ezekiel would be fulfilled when the Babylonians came and they ransacked Jerusalem, nearly burning it all to the ground.
The third message that God gives outlines the recipients of judgment. You see this, this sinful corruption, this forgetting of God had corrupted every level of Israelite society. You see when individuals in a certain society forget the Lord, it plagues every facet of that society because it’s a lot easier to follow along with a sinful act or sinful practices or to go along and champion those practices when they’re supported by your government and leaders. In verse 25, it was the princes who use their power for material gain ravaging people like lions taking treasure and precious things because of their greed. Instead of being examples to their people, the leaders had become corrupt despots. In verses 26 through 27, we see it also affected the priests who did violence to the law of God and profaned his holy things. They were not instructing God’s people in the ways of God’s law. It says that they even shut their eyes to keeping the sabbath, and by abandoning God’s precepts themselves the priests had blasted open the gates of depravity for the people to follow. In verse 28, it was the prophets. The prophets should have been God’s spokesmen and denounced these wicked deeds and with the exception of Ezekiel and Jeremiah who were contemporaries of one another, the prophets had ignored these sins and gave false visions and lying divinations.
Then lastly, the final group was identified. The princes had fallen, the priests had fallen, the prophets had fallen, and now the people had received their indictment. The people like the sheep that they were, were led astray by the corrupt leaders. They followed right along suit. They too were involved in extortion and robbery and the oppression of the needy. It had become a society built upon yourself, doing whatever it takes to get ahead at the expense of whoever you need to cut to get there, everybody do whatever it takes as long as you find pleasure for yourself, and then God adds this little bit profound indictment to kind of bookend this entire indictment. God says, “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me in the land. That I should not destroy it, but I found none” (22:30).
God searched for a man who would stem the tide of destruction. Someone who would intercede on behalf of the people, someone who would stand up and call them out against their sins, “Building up the wall” That’s a term that means to call to repentance, to lead to repentance and to stand in the breach between men of God. He was looking for a man to stand up, to lead the charge of calling people back to God and he said, “I found none.”
Now you may say, “what do you mean He didn’t find a man?” There had to be tons of men around. There was hundreds of thousands of them, maybe millions of men that you he could have called. You see, and I don’t mean this as a scientific point. There is a difference in being a male and being a man. Gentlemen, when you were born you had an X,Y chromosome and that X,Y chromosome made you a male. You were and are a male. We are born males, but we must become men.
Israel was a nation that was characterized by innocent bloodshed, idolatry, greed, injustice, sexual immorality, political, religious and social corruption. Sound familiar?And God ends the indictment “with I looked for a man and I found no man, no man to stand for me.”God reveals to us in this passage that there is something directly correlated with a lack of godly men and the increase in the rebellion of a nation. In many ways we can ask ourselves the same today. Where are the men of God?
The physical absence of fathers is now considered the most significant and social problem in America. The one common thread among prisoners, drug users, dropouts, runaways, rapists, all of the above. You want to throw them in a pot. The one common thread among all of them is the overwhelming majority of them come from fatherless homes.People that are from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to end up in jail, fatherless homes produce more than half of the youth suicides as well as the overwhelming majority of the children with behavioral issues. That’s just the home and just to give you some details of the home, there are 18 million children tonight who will go to bed without a father in their home. That’s 43 percent of the children in the U.S.
What about society? Abortion is rampant because of the rise of single pregnant young women. Crime is at an all time high. Pornography is a $10,000,000,000 industry where 64 percent of Christian man admit to viewing it regularly. Seventy one percent of high school dropouts are attributed to not having a father in their home. Seventy five percent of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers do not have a father in their home. Seventy one percent of pregnant teenagers do not have a father in their home. There are 64.3 million estimated fathers in America and there was only 26.5 million that are in a married relationship with their own children. That’s less than half. There are a hundred and 13 million men in America. 90 million of which are not involved in any active form of Christian faith or discipleship. That means only one out of every 18 men is directly involved in a form of Christian discipleship. This Sunday there are 13 million more adult women in churches than there are men.
Today in Churches, a quarter of all married women will worship without their husband, over 70 percent of the young men in the church will abandon the church by their late teens and early twenties. Women are 57 percent more likely to hold a leadership position in the church. Fifty four percent more likely to be in a small group. Thirty nine percent more likely to have a devotional time. Twenty nine percent more likely to read their Bible, 29 percent more likely to share their faith and 16 percent more likely to pray regularly. We have to ask the question, where are the men?
Where are the men? Let it not be so that when God judges our generation, he once again declares, “I looked for a man to stand in the breach and behold, I didn’t find any.” Let us stand for God! Men, we must rise up. We must be the men who God is calling us to be. We must be the leaders that he has called us to be. We must be the Men who stand in the breach. Wherever it may be, if it’s in the college place, if it’s in apologetics, if it’s in relationships, if it is within counseling, if it’s within mentorship, if it’s going door to door, if it’s standing outside abortion clinics, we must rise up and be the men who will stand in the breach for God.
So what must we be in order to be men who stand in the breach for God? I believe these four things are the most important:
First, men who stand in the breach for God are men of conviction.
To be convicted means the state of being convinced or a fixed strong belief. It refers to the state of being totally confident that something is true. Men, we must first and totally be convinced that we are to love and live for our God. God is to be the supreme devotion of our life. If we are totally convicted that God is our Lord and that we are to live for him, we must be totally convicted that his Word is true and that it governs our lives in every matter. We are to be convicted leaders in our homes. First Timothy 3:4, “he must manage his household well.” Ephesians 5:25, “he must love his wife like Christ, loved the church.” 1Timothy 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives and the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Men, we are called to be the leaders in our home, and this leadership is not dictatorial or authoritative, it is sacrificial servant leadership. We are called to lead from the front by our examples. We are not called to lead with a cattle prod, we are called to lead with a shepherd staff from the front, and that means doing things like leading our homes in prayer, leading our homes in Bible Study, leading our children in mentorship, leading our wives when they need us to step up and lend a hand. We need to lead in the home and that leadership is servant like and sacrificial. I don’t care how tired we are, men. I don’t care how hard we worked that 40 hour week, I don’t care how much the world dogs us and puts us down and tells us that you’re the problem for everything. We need to get off our tails and help our wives.
We are to be convicted that we are to serve our church. Galatians 5:13, “for you were called to freedom. Brothers, not to use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love to serve one another.” Brothers, we’ve been given gifts and talents and strengths in order to serve this body of believers, the ones that we have covenanted to be together with. We are called to serve the body. We should be leading the charge when it comes to active service in the church. When it comes to weekly services the number is not even remotely proportionate to the number of women who are actively involved in weekly ministries compared to men in the church. It’s not even close. The statistic was unbelievable. We need to be better. I need to be better. We need to be convicted that we are to serve our church. Our churches will never be what God is calling it to be until the men stand up and be who God is calling us to be. We must be convicted to be missionaries to our communities. 2 Corinthians 5:20, “we are Christ ambassadors as though God were making an appeal through us.” We’re called to be missionaries, men, Missionaries, in your place of work, missionaries in your groups of friends, missionaries in your local neighborhood. We are called to be lights in this world. We are called to stand for what is true, so many issues. I’m sorry, but when the world looks at us and says, don’t talk to us about homosexuality. Don’t talk to us about that. When 70 percent of your men are staring at porn, when their wives aren’t home. We have lost our voice men! We must be doers of the word, not merely speakers of it.
Secondly, men who stand in the breach must be men of courage.
We’re told from scripture that we are to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, to act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). That word that translates as act like men is the Greek word andrizomai and it literally means “to be brave.” I love how the translators do that. Like Paul was saying, to act like men and uses a word that is directly synonymous with being courageous. Courage is not necessarily about doing crazy things. It’s not about not being afraid of heights. It’s not about not liking rollercoasters. It’s not about whether or not you charge off and fight a war. The greatest display of courage is doing what is right when it might cost you everything. It may cost you your reputation, it may cost you your job, it may cost you your friends, and at some point it may even cost you your life. Martin Luther, as he stood at the Diet of worms, was asked to recant of his 95 theses that he had written against the church practice of papal indulgences and he knew like the pre-reformers that had come before him, that it was highly likely that by not recanting he was going to be burned at the stake. His final words before the council were this, he said, “I cannot and will not recant anything that I have said. For to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God, Help me. Amen.”
Now, by the grace of God, Luther was not killed. They tried to, but there was a lot of events that occured through God’s sovereign hand that kept him alive, but that’s what it means to be a man of courage. To stand for what is right when death stares you in the face. It’s being Daniel, who in the fear and the knowledge of going to the den of lions says, “I cannot go a day without praying to my Lord.” It’s Shadrach, Mishach and Abendigo who will not bow the knee to the Nebuchadnezzar. We must be men of courage. We must stand for the things of God, unwavering in our resolve. Regardless of what men may do to us, it is better for us to die a thousand deaths for the cause of Christ than to live a single life for the praise of men. Men take courage and stand in the breach.
Thirdly, men who stand in the breach are to be men of chivalry.
Biblical chivalry starts with a humble spirit and a willingness to put the needs of others before our own needs. While God created men and women in equal value, spirit and intelligence, God placed specifically within men an innate desire to guard the woman in his care. You can try to argue with about that all you want, but we want to protect the women in our care. God created men and women differently, and there’s beauty in our differences. We compliment, not compete. Part of a man’s innate bent towards the beauty of a woman and her value is reflected in chivalrous acts. 1 Peter 3:7 instructs husbands to treat their wives as a weaker vessel and a joint heir to the things of Christ. Now what did he mean by weaker vessel? Everybody hears that and I just see the skin crawl through my empowered women. Weaker vessel does not mean inferior as Peter immediately follows it up by a statement of spiritual equality. What he means about weak vessel is he means that, as a woman you are delicate and valuable, but not frail. It’s kind of like this, think about it as a highly valued piece of treasure or an antique. Maybe a piece of highly valued China. Now I know a lot of men reading this change their oil and you would not use your wife’s high prized China or vase to drip your dirty oil into. You would use a sturdy old tin can because its strong, yet not very valuable. You see that is what Peter is talking about there, a piece of high valued pottery or China or something to that extent. Men, your wives are to be adored, they’re to be cared for, they’re to be nurtured and they’re to be highly valued.
Why is porn so big? Why is it a $10,000,000,000 industry? Why is there so much sexual human trafficking in this world? Why have the standards of what is beautiful been so radically altered? The reason is because there’s a demand for it? The reason the supply exist is because there’s a demand for it. We live in light of the “me too” movement and regardless of what you think about that, the truth of it is this, millions of women in this country have been hurt by men, abused by men, and on the other side of that, there are many women who have capitulated their standards and values in order to entertain what they think will make them attractive and better looking. And the reason that is, is because men we haven’t stood up and said, “that’s not attractive to me.” “I am more attracted by your love for Christ, by the strength of your heart, by the size of your mind than I am by any physical measurements you may ever have.” We need to be better, men. The reason this all exists is because we’ve allowed it. We created the demand and in doing so, we have altered our society for many, many years. Chivalry is a choice men of God should make. It stands as a radical change from the direction and expectation that men are called to bear. Today, we have to be men of chivalry, men who do what is right. Men of respect, respecting the women that we have been called to protect, to honor and to cherish.
Fourthly, Men who Stand in the breach are men of compassion.
The Bible says something fascinating to me about Christ. He is the lion of Judah: strong, powerful, Lord of Lords, King of kings, the great ruler, the mighty one. There is nothing that can stay his hand, nothing that can stand against him. He has all power, and yet he is also the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. The gentle, meek, compassionate lamb. The Lion and the Lamb, and the greatest display of what we as men can be is to follow the example of our Lord. We are to be strong and courageous, convicted men who stand for what is right, who fight for what is right. The lions bold in our proclamation for what is right and what is true. We’re also called to be lambs in how we love and are gentle with our wives and our children, compassionate for the suffering and the hurting and the needy. Matthew 9, Jesus looking over the crowd and it said he he had compassion over them. He was moved by compassion upon them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. I can’t tell you how many older men primarily have spent all of their time cursing this millennial and snowflake generation, and I thought about that a lot because I’m one of those millennials. I think at looking at the statistics that we looked at earlier, you have to understand older men, most of those young men that are doing these crazy things and espousing these crazy beliefs are coming from very broken homes, and we can do one of two things. We can just ridicule them, tell them how dumb they are, how worthless they are, how useless they are, or we can seek to reach them. We can seek to mentor them. We can seek to raise them up. We can listen to them. I believe it was Aristotle who said that “it is the sign of an educated man who can entertain a thought without having to accept it.” The crazy thing is just listening to someone you might actually find more common ground then you might have ever thought. You will never reach anyone for Christ if you’re not willing to listen to what they have to say. It may be wrong as the day is long, but you will now know where to weave Christ into their arguments, where to reach to them, where they need to be reached. We can sit here all day and complain and talk about how bad this generation is messing everything up because trust me your generations before you did the same thing. But I don’t believe ever before has there been a generation where there were less fathers in the home than there is today. Where there were less men who were considered great role models? Whether it’s our sports, our movies, our music, the role models that are put forth for young men today are not the ones that we would want. We have allowed people to enter through our television and our radios and our computer screens that we would never allow to enter the front door.
So we can say how dumb they are, stupid they are, hopeless they are, or we can be compassionate. We can reach out. We can be mentors. We can shape them. We can pursue them, and stop it with the “well they don’t want to hear what I have to say.” You’d be amazed. You’d be amazed at how much we want to hear what you have to say. We’re just tired of you writing us off. There’s a lot of wisdom there. A lot of us young men have had to learn on our own. We’ve grown up in single parent households where their mother or father was working two jobs and our greatest teacher was Youtube and Google. Some of these young millennials are brilliant young men. They just have wrong ideals. They have no direction. As men of God we need to be compassionate and caring men. We need to pursue them. One of the things you see about the apostle Paul is that he was never alone. Though his main missionary partners were Barnabas or Silas, he’s always got another lot of tag alongs, a lot of these young, crazy men, Timothy’s and Luke’s, John Marks, and so many more young men. He’s always got them around them because here’s the thing, if you want to lead men, do something worth following. Let’s be men of compassion and reach the next generation who’s hurting and broken.
STAND IN THE BREACH!
Like the Israelites, we too are guilty of innocent bloodshed. There are millions of babies in this nation who have been slaughtered on the altar of choice and convenience. And we’ve turned to idolatry either making ourselves God, worshiping our convenience, worshiping our vacation packages, worshiping our retirement plans. You name it, we’ve created idols. John Calvin said, “the heart is a factory for creating idols.” We’re guilty of innocent blood shed. We are guilty of idolatry, but here’s our promise. Here’s God’s promise to us. There was one man, who was actually able to stand in the breach and he was sent from heaven. God incarnate, God took upon humanity because there was no man who was capable of doing it.
He is our only hope and as we stand behind our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we follow his example and we don’t just sit on our hands because we say, well, he did it so we’re good. No, he did do it, So now we go and follow. We follow the God man who did stand in the breach. And if there is any hope of revival in this nation. It must begin with us. Men, it must Begin with us. We must stand up, rise up for what is true. Stand for Christ. That is our only hope. Let’s lead the charge by standing in the breach for our great God! Stand in the breach.