(Summary of the sermon:15 Nov 2015)
FILLING THE GAP
I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one.
– Ezekiel 22:30 (The Message version)
I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.
– Ezekiel 22:30 (New International Version)
WHAT IS A GAP?
A gap is defined as a place of weakness, vulnerability and danger. It’s a defenseless location of danger and limitation or a point where people face real threats.
So, what do gaps look like in our community?
It often looks like the prodigal child or the unfaithful spouse or the abusive family member or neighbors who hate each other or the forgotten elderly or just children who grow up unable to attend school or the many women who have been forced into prostitution.
God wants to raise people up who are willing to stand in these gaps and fill them. The Bible uses the word ‘ishabinayam’. It means ‘men or women who place themselves between the gaps and offer themselves in combat’.
BIBLICAL GAP FILLERS
Let’s look at some heroes (and heroines) in the Bible who volunteered to fill the gap and the legacy they left behind.
When the wall of Jerusalem lay in ruins, Nehemiah’s heart broke. After all, the walls were the symbols of protection for a city. He wept over Jerusalem’s condition. Not only was he moved emotionally but he was moved to taking action. He gathered the required resources and some men, and rebuilt the wall in 52 days!
This brave Jewish girl obeyed her uncle Mordecai and risked going into the King’s presence (especially when he hadn’t called for her). Her courage and obedience saved the entire Jewish nation from becoming extinct.
Noah built an ark when there was no rain. His neighbors mocked him! But His obedience meant that he and his family were saved from the flood that destroyed the whole earth. Also, when the waters receded, God blessed Noah and promised to never destroy the world with a flood ever. He sealed His promise with a rainbow.
David was God’s anointed king. But one day while he was still tending sheep, he went to meet his brothers with food from home. He saw the Philistine giant Goliath mocking and abusing the Israelites. Enraged, David took a few stones, flung it straight at Goliath and killed him.
- John the Baptist
By today’s standard, he would probably be a freak and a misfit. He dressed, ate and lived differently because God had called him to be a forerunner for the Messiah. The purpose of his life was to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. What a fine job of that he did!
Gideon thought that he would be in the winepress all his life. But God called him out to be a warrior and a judge of Israel. He equipped Gideon to fight the enemy with just a small troop of 300 men!
Caleb was called a man with a different spirit. Interestingly, God used Caleb to be a blessing in his old age!
Barnabas had a big piece of land in Cyprus. He sold it and gave the entire proceeds of that sale to the apostles for using in God’s ministry. Again it was this same Barnabas who came alongside Saul when he became a believer and vouched for him to the Christian community. Barnabas also encouraged John Mark to accompany Paul in his missionary journeys. As a result of that, today we have about 13 letters in the New Testament written by Paul and John Mark. What an incredible man of God! Now, did you know that Barnabas meant ‘son of encouragement’? Well, applying that to our lives, what can we be called? Would we be bar-selfish or bar-haters or bar-loving or bar-compassionate?
SOME MODERN DAY GAP FILLERS
Often being a gap filler might mean that we are not in the limelight, but our ministry means a huge deal to the world around us. Let me tell you about two women who recognized the gap, stepped into fill it and made a huge difference in life.
- Susanna Wesley – She was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. Every afternoon, she would take time off from her busy schedule to pray for her family. God honored her commitment and used her sons to be two of the most powerful preachers of the Christian faith.
- Mother Teresa – A simple, unassuming social sciences teacher who came to India many years ago. One day she went up to a mountain and felt God asking her this – ‘You are not qualified and have no talents, but would you give yourself up for me?’ She agreed to and God used her to start an orphanage and a home to take care of dying people. In the early days, her landlord threw her out because she was looking after a leper in the house. But she persisted in her calling and by the time she died, Missionaries of Charity had 4000 staff and 600 foundations in 123 countries.
- William Tyndale – He was a man who knew both Greek and English. He used to teach English and Greek to many Englishmen during his day. His text book was the Bible. He filled the gap of ‘language’ and ‘Salvation through the Word of God’, and many of his students started following Jesus. But one day the King of England arrested him and burnt him alive on the stake for his faith. His dying prayer was that the eyes of the Kings of England would open to the see the gaps in the nation! God answered his prayer and 100 years later, England started officially translating the Bible.
What gaps do we see in our community? Maybe God is calling us to step in to fill some gaps. Let us obey God’s call however small that might be.
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