He had rescued them with spectacular miracles from Egyptian slavery and was feeding them daily with ‘manna’ from heaven on what should have been a short trip to the ‘promised land’. But they quickly opted for the alternative spirituality of the ‘golden calf’ combined with their own self-indulgent immorality. (Exodus 32)
V23 of Psalm 106 states dramatically:
‘So [God] said he would destroy them – had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to keep His wrath from destroying them.’
The picture is of a city under siege. The attackers have succeeded in making a narrow ‘breach’ through the wall. Is there a volunteer who will sacrifice their life to stand in this gap and defend his loved ones to the death?
The ‘city’ here is the crowd of freed slaves that is ancient Israel, guilty of idolatry and helpless before the impending judgement of the Almighty, Who is portrayed here initially in terrifying purity and wrath against all sin. Only one man, Moses, stands between them and certain destruction. One man in the ‘breach’, the slim margin of desperate opportunity, holding back the punishment they deserve, gaining mercy for his people through earnest, pleading prayer.
Exodus speaks of God relenting, not begrudgingly but willingly, for while in purity He hates sin, in love He grieves for lost sinners and breathes a sigh as in relief that a basis for mercy has been found.
This picture finds its richest fulfilment in Jesus, chosen Son of God Who came before God offering His perfect life at Calvary and pleading, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!’ (Luke 23 v 34)
Part of following Jesus is to share in this responsibility of ‘intercession’, standing ‘in the breach’ and praying God’s grace for others.
The Church cannot afford to be complacent in this!
It makes sad and solemn reading when this imagery is repeated centuries later in Ezekiel 22 v 30:
‘I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.’
Oh Lord, our people are so lost.
Our brothers, children, friends, neighbours, communities,
This whole generation has lost the plot.
People worship anything but the living God, idolising
Pop stars, sports personalities, TV celebrities.
People run desperately after shallow things that don’t last,
Selfishly twisting everything, ruining everything,
Blind to the reason for their sadness.
Lord have mercy!
Hear the prayers of your servants for Jesus’ sake,
For we plead not our merit or vain promises,
But His powerful name and precious blood!
Lord, on account of all that was achieved at Calvary
Look with compassion on this place and people
Where we have gone along with popular evil,
Show us our sin and break its hold on us.
Grant us courage and strength to reject it,
To be different where necessary, joyfully, refreshingly so!
Where we have chosen darkness, shine your light of truth.
Liberate minds and hearts to recognize and choose
All that is right and good,
That your favour may rest on our land.