Standing in the Gap
Updated: Apr 4
No matter how self-sufficient or independent an individual claims to be, God simply never intended for His creation to live in isolation, human beings and animals included! This claim is supported by the fact that God created living creatures, not just one. He created living creatures of all different kinds and distinctions, and commanded them to multiply and fill the seas, sky, and the earth (cf. Genesis 1:20-25). This claim is also substantiated by God's creation of both man and woman, whom He also commanded to multiply and fill the earth, thus creating a universal community of image-bearers made in His image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-28). The Hebrew writer also encourages us as believers and followers of Jesus Christ to engage and remain in community with one another: "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).
One of the amazing benefits of living in community with other like-minded believers, especially through the God-ordained vehicle of the local church, is the ministry of intercession! Not only does Jesus intercede on our behalf as He sits at the right hand of the Father, but we as members of His body are also commanded to intercede on behalf of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord through prayer and supplication (cf. Ephesians 6:18). Admittedly, it can be difficult to pray in certain seasons, especially ones that are marked by grief, tragedy, and disappointment. Even still, the struggling believer can find encouragement within a community of saints who are boldly approaching the throne of grace to intercede on their behalf!
While the author of Psalm 106 is unknown, we can strongly conclude that he or she is an Israelite, or Jewish, due to their acknowledgement of their relation to the Israelites whom God delivered from Egypt ("We have sinned like our fathers"..."Our fathers in Egypt did not understand nor appreciate Your miracles"). In verses 19-23, the psalmist recounts the events of Exodus 32. In this account, Aaron, Moses' brother, and the Israelites partner together to create a golden calf to represent the invisible God of their nation, and they worship the idol as such. Even though God was speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai during this time, He was fully aware of what the Israelites were doing! God informs Moses of the Israelites' idolatrous actions and calls them a "stiff-necked", or stubborn people (cf. Exodus 32:7-9)
Due to the Israelites' rebellious behavior, God tells Moses to leave Him alone, or to let Him be, so that His righteous anger can burn against the Israelites to destroy them! In His anger, God did not sin, but He expresses to Moses the just and appropriate punishment for the Israelites' disobedience: their destruction (cf. Exodus 32:10)! Just as God threatens to destroy the Israelites, Moses pleads with Him to turn away from His anger and hold back from destroying the Israelites! Despite their rebellion, Moses pleads with God to remember that the Israelites are still His people, the nation He chose to be the recipients of His Covenant and the Promised Land! He continues to plead with the Lord, saying that if God destroys Israel, He would be giving the Egyptians an unnecessary opportunity to say that He brought His people out of Egypt only to kill them! Moses pleads with God to remember the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning their descendants, the very ones who were worshipping a golden calf down the mountain (cf. Exodus 32:11-13).
At the conclusion of Moses' plea, the Bible records that "the Lord relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people" (cf. Exodus 32:14 ESV). In this context, the word "relented" means that God held back from destroying the Israelites as He threatened to do. It would be easy to assume that Moses' plea in and of itself caused God to change His mind about destroying the Israelites. Some translations even read in this verse that "...the Lord changed His mind...". However, as human beings, we do not have the power or the influence to truly change the infinite, unsearchable mind of the one and only true, living God! David Guzik shares this profound thought: "Moses described the actions of God as they appeared to him".
From a limited, human perspective, it appears as if God changed His mind because He did not follow through in destroying the Israelites after hearing Moses' plea. In actuality, God's plan from the beginning of this account was not to destroy the Israelites, but to show them the abundance of His mercy! By telling Moses that He was going to destroy the Israelites, God opened up an opportunity for Moses to step in and stand in the gap for the Israelites, who were so consumed with idolatry that they couldn't even pray for themselves ("Therefore He said He would destroy them, [And He would have done so] had not Moses, His chosen one, stepped into the gap before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them.") God honored Moses' plea and answered his prayer in accordance with His sovereign will, which was to spare the Israelites from their well-deserved destruction!
God's extension of mercy to the Israelites through Moses mirrors how He extended mercy to us through Jesus Christ, His Son! With sin entering into the world due to the disobedience of both Adam and Eve, God opened up an opportunity for Jesus to step in and stand in the gap for us; to pay for the penalty of our sins and save us from God's ultimate judgment of sin! When Jesus died on the cross, He took on the full punishment, penalty, and payment for our sins so that we wouldn't have to do so ourselves! Through Jesus' atoning sacrifice, God showered us with mercy; He spared us from the punishment we deserved! God also showered us with His grace in that He blessed us the gift of eternal life through Jesus' sacrifice, a tremendous gift that we did not deserve!
As you reflect on how Moses stood in the gap on behalf of the Israelites and how Jesus stood in the gap to both redeem and transfer you from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light, consider how you can stand in the gap, or intercede for someone that you know! Perhaps someone that you know is experiencing an extremely difficult season right now, or maybe a loved one hasn't yet entered into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, or a friend or family member is currently living in rebellion against God! They may not have the strength or even the desire to pray for themselves! Go boldly to the throne of grace, God's holy throne, and intercede on their behalf! James 5:16 proclaims that "The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) is able to accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]." Do not doubt in the power of your prayers; only believe!