“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” (Ezekiel 22:30).
Not all men are true men—at least not in the eyes of God. True men lead, speak out, and stand firm. They “stand in the gap” in times of crisis. They build great cities and organizations, but at their best, they build up the Church. In the counsels of heaven, a search committee of One looks for those who have the courage and moral fiber to do what is right. Because God is God, He does not need experts, technicians, or skilled orators to accomplish His work. He simply needs men.
During the time of the rise of Babylonian empire, God looked for a man to warn the wicked people of Judah and its leaders of their impending doom. Judah’s breathtaking wickedness prompted God’s swift and righteous judgment on the inhabitants of Zion. The many dark deeds of Judah included bloodshed and murder (vv. 22:1-5), government corruption (v. 6), a hatred of parents (vv. 7a, 10), extortion (vv. 7, 12), sexual immorality (vv. 10-11), and greed (v. 13). For these and like actions, God promised decisive punishment. Although the Babylonian captivity certainly involved physical removal from Jerusalem, the penalty in full meant the complete undoing of an unfaithful people—“I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it” (v. 21).
Religious leaders led the parade of infidelity and hatred of God. The Lord described the prophets as co-conspirators with evil (v. 25). By approving the sin of Judah’s princes or staying silent, the prophets themselves betrayed the innocent. By refusing to speak out against the immorality of their day and by covering up for sins of political leaders, the prophets “smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them” (v. 28). In doing so, these supposed servants of God dipped their hands in blood unjustly shed. Those responsible for leading worship did the same. By failing to distinguish between “the holy and the common” (e.g., corrupting reverence toward God in worship), the priests made the sovereign God into a public laughingstock.
In the midst of such abomination, God “sought a man to build up a wall and stand in the breach” (v. 30). Such a man preaches sin and judgment—and the blessings of repentance—without fear or favor. But in all of Israel, God could not find this man. It takes courage, after all, to stand alone for God. Due to the shortage, God called Ezekiel, who informed Judah that they had not been forgiven. For this message, Ezekiel was mocked (cf. vv. 20:49; 33:30-32). Those who follow Ezekiel’s model should expect the same.
Could the Lord find a man in today’s multitude of preachers and teachers? Could He find a prophet who spoke the truth to cultural power and a priest who resolved to keep the holy things of God holy? Men act upon conviction and virtue. Cowards wait for poll results and position themselves in the middle. Godly men act out of confidence in the Word of God. False prophets say what people want to hear. True prophets embark upon a narrow way, a path not for the faint of heart.