Standing in the Gap: Pleading With God

This post is long-overdue, but the topic has also been on my mind a lot lately. Ezekiel 22:30 says, “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." We have a number of examples in the Bible of men who stood in the gap before God, pleading with Him to have mercy on His people.

One of the best examples is Moses. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai, receiving God's law, the people turned away from God and began to worship a golden calf that they had made. They even claimed that it was the Lord God who brought them out of the land of Egypt. In Exodus 32, God speaks to Moses about their wickedness as follows:

The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

Now consider how you would respond to that. God has just offered to make you into a great nation. If we are self-serving, worrying about our own reputation, and looking for status in the world, this is our opportunity! Carpe Diem! But Moses' response is completely the opposite. He stands in the gap between God and the people, pleading for God to have mercy.

Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

Why does Moses pray for the people? Is it because he wants to lead a large nation (or church)? No. He often hates that work. Is it because they don't deserve to be destroyed? No. They do deserve it.

The reason Moses prays is because he cares about God's glory and honor more than anything else. He wants to see the world turn to the Lord and praise Him for his wondrous deeds. And the beautiful thing is, it works.

So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

If I had to pick which of the three aspects of standing in the gap is most important, it would be a tough call, but I think this is the one I would choose. Why? Because if God is not at work, it doesn't matter how intensely we fight to protect the people, or how often we warn them. As Psalm 127:1 says,

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain." 

So really, this is the start of Standing in the Gap. We must cry out to God to save his people, for the sake of his glory, not our own. We know that the people are stiff-necked and rebellious. We've experienced their whining and complaining. We know that they will not change on their own. But "the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." --James 5:16

Pastoral prayers are a good time to evaluate whether the leadership of a church stand in the gap in this way. Are there ever pleas for God to have mercy on our country despite all the blood we have on our hands? Do you ever hear prayers that God would show his glory by calling people out of their sin and into his church? Is there a confession of sin during the service? You want to be in a church where the pastors pray for your soul. You want to be in a church where the leaders stand between you and God pleading on your behalf.


Thank you Joseph for your

Thank you Joseph for your explication. You have helped me to better understand the role of my leaders and those who care for my soul, and better understand who God is in light of the church. Thank you.

Standing in the Gap

There is a rich tradition of treating this subject in Puritan literature.
Among the best appears in The Puritan Sermons (Richard Owen Roberts, Wheaton), Volume III, Sermon 5, By the Rev. William Jenkin, A.M. - "How Ought We to Bewail the Sins of the Places where we Live?" (page 110ff.)

See also John Preston, The Golden Sceptre. Six sermons on II Chron. 7:14.

Hello Wayne, Thank you very

Hello Wayne,

Thank you very much for this information. I look forward to checking those resources out.

I was sad to see that neither was available on Google Books.

In Christ,

Standing in the Gap

Try for a digital edition of The Golden Sceptre. (download the pdf--it's easier to navigate than their online version). The other is tougher to find.

Another great title on this subject is The Excellency of a Broken Heart, by John Bunyan.

Also, "The Redeemer's Tears Wept Over Lost Souls," by John Howe

I have a list of about 16 entries on this topic available on request to anyone who is interested.