Scriptural Basis for Standing in the Gap
The Lord looks for a man who will stand in the gap. He told Ezekiel, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (Eze 22:30). There have been times when the Lord could find no man to stand in the gap.
"And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him." (Isa 59:16).
Nobody went up into the breaches in the wall, and stood there on behalf of the nation. "You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the LORD. (Eze 13:5). Nobody would intercede for the nation to create a spiritual wall of protection around the house of Israel. Therefore, the enemy was free to come right to steal, kill, and destroy.
If a wall becomes broken down at certain points, these are breaches or gaps. In Nehemiah's day, they had to stand in those gaps, as they did the work of rebuilding the wall, many with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other (Neh 4:15-23). They were rebuilding and guarding at the same time. They were standing in the gap and building up the wall. These gaps require someone to stand in them to keep out the enemy, and the wall must be rebuilt, as well.
First there is the natural, and then the spiritual (1 Co 15:46). The Lord prophesied that there would come a time when He Himself would raise up David’s fallen tent and wall up its breaches: "In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; (Amo 9:11). The apostle Peter says that the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles is David’s fallen tent that God is rebuilding (Ac 15:16).
The Lord spoke through Isaiah saying that if we do the kind of fasting that pleases Him, then He will hear our cries, and repair the breach in response to our prayers: "Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. (Isa 58:12)
The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1Ti 2:1-2). This teaches that we must carry the needs of others before the throne of God. This includes all men, especially kings and those in authority, such as your employer, landlord, pastor, or elders.
Lastly, the apostle John taught that we should intercede for any brother we see committing a sin that does not lead to death. "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this." (1Jo 5:16)
Biblical Examples of Those Who Stood in the Gap
There are some great examples in God’s Word of those who stood in the gap for others.
Our greatest example is the Lord Jesus Himself. We know that He stood in the gap for Peter. When the devil asked to sift him like wheat, the Lord was aware of it and prayed that Peter’s strength would not fail. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luk 22:31-32)
Following the Lord's Supper, when He celebrated the Passover meal the night He was betrayed, He prayed what has now become known as His high priestly prayer. He stood in the gap and prayed for His disciples to be sanctified and protected. And He prayed for all those who would believe through their message (John 17).
He interceded for those who crucified Him. “When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luk 23:33-34)
As I have written about in a previous post, called "Who Intercedes for Us?" the Lord Jesus always lives to make intercession for us! “The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:23-25). A prophet is one who speaks to man on behalf of God, but a priest is one who represents the people before God. He speaks to God on behalf of the people. Jesus was certainly a Prophet, but in this passage we find that He is also a priest. In fact, He is the Great High Priest, who holds His priesthood permanently.
As the apostle John wrote: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1Jo 2:1). Jesus is the One anointed by the Father to the whole office of mediation. The very one who has the power to condemn us is our Supreme Defense before the Father in heaven. “Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Rom 8:34)
The Holy Spirit
It’s important to know that, in addition to the intercession of Christ, believers also enjoy the intercession of the Holy Spirit, too! “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27). What a tremendous blessing we enjoy from the Perfect Intercessor, the Holy Spirit.
One of the greatest intercessors the world has ever known was Moses. When he went up on the mountain to receive the commandments from the Lord, and remained there for forty days, he said he was standing between the Lord and the Israelites.
He said, “…I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, (Deu 5:5) He added, "These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. (Deu 5:22)
He repeated this to the Israelites again later, explaining that because of their rebellion, the Lord was angry enough to destroy them: "Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you. When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.” (Deu 9:8-9)
What provoked the Lord was that while Moses was standing in the gap for them on the mountain, they were engaging in idolatry and pagan revelry. But Moses did not stand back and allow the Lord to destroy the rebellious Israelites. Instead, he went back up the mountain and humbly stood in the gap for them and Aaron for another forty days.
Moses said, "I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the LORD listened to me that time also. The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time. (Deu 9:18-20)
In another place, Moses said, "I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the LORD listened to me that time also; the LORD was not willing to destroy you.” (Deu 10:10). The psalmist says, “Therefore He [God] said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them. (Psa 106:23)
Moses described how he prayed to God, as he stood in the gap for Israel: "So I fell down before the LORD the forty days and nights, which I did because the LORD had said He would destroy you. "I prayed to the LORD and said, 'O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 'Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. 'Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say, "Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness." 'Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.' (Deu 9:25-29)
In order to appreciate this, you have to understand that Moses had just finished interceding for the Israelites for forty days without food or water. And when he came down and saw their rebellion, he went back up for another forty days of intercession. He fell on his face once again and stood in the gap for them, which brought the combined total to eighty days of consecutive fasting and intercession before the Lord.
Daniel was another great intercessor. In fact, in my opinion, he is one of the top three intercessors in the whole Bible. He had searched the Scriptures and found in Jeremiah’s prophecies that Israel would be in captivity for seventy years. This led him to intercede for his nation. He said, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” (Dan 9:3) In order to really get a clearer picture of what it was like when Daniel stood in the gap, it’s best to read the entire ninth chapter of Daniel.
Another intercessor I would like to mention is Phinehas. The psalmist says, “Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, And so the plague was stayed.” (Psa 106:30). Moses gives us the full story of what happened (Num 25:3-13).
Because of the immorality of Israel and their pagan idolatry, the Lord was ready to destroy Israel once again. This was a sin unto death! People were falling dead from a plague that had already killed 24,000 of them. So the Lord instructed Moses to gather the judges and execute everyone that was involved in this sin. Now there was an Israelite man, who didn’t know what the Lord had just said. So at that very moment, he brought home to his family a pagan woman in the sight of Moses and all the judges. Understanding the seriousness of this sin, which made God so angry, Phinehas rose to the occasion. Being jealous for the Lord, he arose and ran a spear through the man and his girlfriend. This was a type of standing in the gap, which pleased the Lord very much, and turned away His wrath. This is how the plague was stopped through the valiant action of Phinehas that day, and because of this, he was written up with an honorable commendation in the Scriptures. The Lord gave him and his descendants a perpetual covenant of peace for that.
Abraham also interceded for Sodom, where his nephew Lot lived (Gen 18:16-33), and for King Abimelech, after he returned his wife Sarah to him (Gen 20:7,17-18).
Job is another good example of an intercessor. He interceded for his children daily (Job 1:4-5). Then after all his trials, he interceded for his three counselors, and God did not treat them according to their folly (Job 42:7-9).
According to the apostle Paul, Epaphras stood in the gap for the Colossians. He wrote to them, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Col 4:12)
In terms of modern examples, I think Rees Howells was one of the greatest intercessors of the last century. I highly recommend reading his biography by Norman Grubb, called Rees Howells Intercessor.
One other that stands out to me from our own times is Henry Gruver, who has prayer walked in 70 nations over the decades. I highly recommend his book, called “A Prayer Walker’s Handbook”, which is available on his website.
Putting it All Together
Standing in the gap means that we go before the Lord in prayer and entreat Him on behalf of others. We should be very encouraged to know that Jesus always lives to make intercession for the saints, and that even the Holy Spirit makes perfect intercession for us according to God’s will.
But this doesn’t eliminate the need for human intercessors on earth to stand in the gap. God searches for someone to stand in the gap, yet there have been times when He found nobody that would do so. It’s not a popular job. Moses, Daniel, Abraham, Job, and Epaphras were good examples of intercessors in the Bible. They laid down their lives in prayer for God’s people. Rees Howells and Henry Gruver are excellent examples from our modern day.
The spirit of intercession is usually praying for mercy and forgiveness for others. But there are times when gross sins are being committed openly in the house of God. There are sins that lead to death. And at those times, like Phinehas we need to be jealous for the Lord, and pray in such a way that darkness will be exposed. Those in spiritual oversight need to judge those within, bring discipline, and remove the wicked man from among the church (1 Cor 5:12-13).
When there is no intercessor, breaches can develop in the wall around the Lord’s people, allowing the enemy to come in. When there is sin in the camp, we become vulnerable to attack. These attacks always bring trouble, which can be very serious for the Body of Christ. The spiritual wall of protection is restored through intercession. Is God calling you to stand in the gap?
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Author's Note: If you enjoyed this message, you may also like "Who Intercedes for Us?" and my daughter's poem, "Our Intercessor." I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master." "Prayer Warrior" painting © 2012 by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. Now let me ask you a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.