So I Sought for a Man
The prophet Ezekiel is a contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah warns of coming calamity from inside Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks similar messages among those already taken captive. Ezekiel 22 is a summary indictment of Judah and clearly displays the reason for God’s punitive actions.
* “Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his power to shed blood in you” (22:6).
* “In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you are those who eat on the mountains; in your midst they commit lewdness” (22:9).
* “In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness … One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter” (22:10-11).
* “In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me” (22:12).
* “The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst” (22:25).
* “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy … they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (22:26).
* “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain” (22:17).
* “Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken” (22:28).
* “The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger” (22:29).
Because wickedness permeates the whole nation, “the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver … Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem … I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst …” (22:18-19, 21).
This last observation reflects God’s futile attempt to avert the disaster. Isn’t there someone – anyone – who will stand for what is right, confront evil, defend the innocent and honor Jehovah’s laws? God laments: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (22:30). Not literally no one, for Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, were holding steady. But that’s it?! God is saying that there is not enough righteousness in Judah to spare the nation; the leaven is too weak to make the dough rise. This is why God earlier noted: “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness” (Ezk 14:14).
Those words should make every one of us sit up and take notice because, we too, live in a decadent, treacherous and godless society. As God examines our nation, does He identity me – you – as someone with enough courage to “stand in the gap”?
One of the main threads running throughout the tapestry of Scripture is the “remnant principle.” Regardless of the covenant, regardless of the time in history, only a sliver of humanity will choose to be on God’s side. And God has chosen to preserve the world (or a nation) and act benevolently for the sake of the few that seek righteousness.
Thus long ago when “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5), and he sought a man to save the human race, He found only Noah.
And when God sought a man to lead His oppressed people out of Egyptian bondage, he found Moses.
And when God sought a cadre of men in a faithless age who would honor His Son, leave the comfort of their homes and careers and risk their lives to preach a despised and rejected message, He found a few unsophisticated Galileans who changed the face of the whole world.
Being recognized by God as a light in the world is an honor, and being selected by Him to be a force for good is a privilege, but be warned: It is also a terrible burden to bear. Noah was sentenced to 120 years of hard labor for his exemplary faith; Moses was stuck with a rebellious, ungrateful multitude for 40 years; the apostles were hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten and homeless, “reviled … persecuted … defamed … made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Cor 4:11-13). Being part of God’s remnant is not for the fainthearted, for by definition we are choosing to side with the minority. Noah, Moses and the apostles – and many others besides them – made such a choice.
What a legacy! Do we have the right stuff to follow in their footsteps? Can God depend on us to be true and faithful when so few others are?