I Looked For A Man To Stand In The Gap
- story about the little Dutch boy who held his finger in a dike
- Hans Brinker was made famous in the USA by Mary Mapes Dodge’s children’s novel Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, dating from 1865. In the chapter called ‘Friends in Need’ there is this story read out in class called 'The Hero of Haarlem'.
The story goes like this:
The Hero of Haarlem
“Many years ago, there lived in Haarlem, one of the principal cities of Holland, a sunny-haired boy of gentle disposition. His father was a sluicer, that is, a man whose business it was to open and close the sluices, or large oaken gates, that are placed at regular distances across the entrances of the canals, to regulate the amount of water that shall flow into them.
The sluicer raises the gates more or less according to the quantity of water required, and closes them carefully at night, in order to avoid all possible danger of an oversupply running into the canal, or the water would soon overflow it and inundate the surrounding country. As a great portion of Holland is lower than the level of the sea, the waters are kept from flooding the land only by means of strong dikes, or barriers, and by means of these sluices, which are often strained to the utmost by the pressure of the rising tides. Even the little children in Holland know that constant watchfulness is required to keep the rivers and ocean from flooding the country, and that a moment's neglect of the sluicer's duty may bring ruin and death to all.
One lovely autumn afternoon, when the boy was about eight years old, he obtained his parents' consent to carry some cakes to a blind man who lived out in the country, on the other side of the dike. The little fellow started on his errand with a light heart, and having spent an hour with his grateful old friend, he bade him farewell and started on his homeward walk.
Trudging stoutly along the canal, he noticed how the autumn rains had swollen the waters. Even while humming his careless, childish song, he thought of his father's brave old gates and felt glad of their strength, for, thought he, 'If they gave way, where would Father and Mother be? These pretty fields would all be covered with the angry waters - Father always calls them the angry waters. I suppose he thinks they are mad at him for keeping them out so long.' And with these thoughts just flitting across his brain, the little fellow stooped to pick the pretty flowers that grew along his way. Sometimes he stopped to throw some feathery seed ball in the air and watch it as it floated away; sometimes he listened to the stealthy rustling of a rabbit, speeding through the grass, but oftener he smiled as he recalled the happy light he had seen arise on the weary, listening face of his blind old friend.
Suddenly the boy looked around him in dismay. He had not noticed that the sun was setting. Now he saw that his long shadow on the grass had vanished. It was growing dark, he was still some distance from home, and in a lonely ravine, where even the blue flowers had turned to gray. He quickened his footsteps and, with a beating heart recalled many a nursery tale of children belated in dreary forests. Just as he was bracing himself for a run, he was startled by the sound of trickling water. Whence did it come? He looked up and saw a small hole in the dike through which a tiny stream was flowing. Any child in Holland will shudder at the thought of a leak in the dike! The boy understood the danger at a glance. That little hole, if the water were allowed to trickle through, would soon be a large one, and a terrible inundation would be the result.
Quick as a flash, he saw his duty. Throwing away his flowers, the boy clambered up the heights until he reached the hole. His chubby little finger was thrust in, almost before he knew it. The flowing was stopped! Ah! he thought, with a chuckle of boyish delight, the angry waters must stay back now! Haarlem shall not be drowned while I am here!
This was all very well at first, but the night was falling rapidly. Chill vapours filled the air. Our little hero began to tremble with cold and dread. He shouted loudly; he screamed, 'Come here! come here!' but no one came. The cold grew more intense, a numbness, commencing in the tired little finger, crept over his hand and arm, and soon his whole body was filled with pain. He shouted again, 'Will no one come? Mother! Mother!' Alas, his mother, good, practical soul, had already locked the doors and had fully resolved to scold him on the morrow for spending the night with blind Jansen without her permission. He tried to whistle. Perhaps some straggling boy might heed the signal, but his teeth chattered so, it was impossible. Then he called on God for help. And the answer came, through a holy resolution: 'I will stay here till morning.'
The midnight moon looked down upon that small, solitary form, sitting upon a stone, halfway up the dike. His head was bent but he was not asleep, for every now and then one restless hand rubbed feebly the outstretched arm that seemed fastened to the dike - and often the pale, tearful face turned quickly at some real or fancied sounds.
How can we know the sufferings of that long and fearful watch - what falterings of purpose, what childish terrors came over the boy as he thought of the warm little bed at home, of his parents, his brothers and sisters, then looked into the cold, dreary night! If he drew away that tiny finger, the angry waters, grown angrier still, would rush forth, and never stop until they had swept over the town. No, he would hold it there till daylight - if he lived! He was not very sure of living. What did this strange buzzing mean? And then the knives that seemed pricking and piercing him from head to foot? He was not certain now that he could draw his finger away, even if he wished to.
At daybreak a clergyman, returning from the bedside of a sick parishioner, thought he heard groans as he walked along on the top of the dike. Bending, he saw, far down on the side, a child apparently writhing with pain.
'In the name of wonder, boy,' he exclaimed, 'what are you doing there?'
'I am keeping the water from running out,' was the simple answer of the little hero. 'Tell them to come quick.'
It is needless to add that they did come quickly.”
I. There Are Breaches In The Wall!
A. The Sins Of Jerusalem
- Like the dangerous hole in the dike,
- a terrible hole in the wall that protected the city of Jerusalem.
- “Jerusalem is the pot.”
o well built
o an army
o the temple was there.
o walls of Jerusalem would save them from Babylonians,
- there was a breach, a hole in the wall.
o not bricks and mortar
o not a gate that would not close.
o moral and spiritual.
o enemy would be allowed by God to come into the city and destroy it because of the sins of the people.
- Ezekiel 22.
o three prophetic speeches
o 1,17 and 23.
o “The Word of the Lord came to me…”
- verses 1- 16,
o sins were in two primary areas.
§ moral failure - bloodshed
§ spiritual failure - idols
o will be
o 6-16 - princes, - specific sins.
§ treating “father and mother with contempt,”
§ mistreating “the fatherless and the widow,”
§ forgetting God
o smelting metal.
o Jerusalem will experience the hot fury of God’s wrath.
o princes, the priests, the officials, the prophets and the people.
o “I will pour out my wrath on them…”
- end of a trial
- judge reads the sentence and the reason for the sentence.
- That is what God was doing
B. The World We Live In
- Has anything changed?
- the world
o caricature of the prophet Muhammad
o violent reaction of Muslims
o Since February 2003 the genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people.
o no law protecting unborn children
o ignored treaties
- Rosenort and area?
o materialism our consumerism?
o treatment of people who are not from our background?
- our own church,
o the violence of gossip
o spiritual laziness?
- the circle that extends 1 foot around each one of us.
o purity and love
o self centeredness?
o cultural Christianity?
- Ezekiel 22:28.
o prophets of Jerusalem, not Jeremiah
o “Her prophets whitewash these deeds…”
o paint over a wall that had termite damage.
o “everything is OK!”
o But it wasn’t.
o sentence had been read and it meant judgement
- a hole in the dike,
- a breach in the wall
- wrath of God is poised to descend on all evil.
- Romans 6:23 - “For the wages of sin is death…”
- Revelation depicts the judgment that is to come
II. I Looked For Someone
- doesn’t need to be like that.
- verse 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 I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”
- someone to put his finger in the dike,
- close the breach in the wall.
- two things
o “build up the wall”
o “stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land.”
A. To Build Up The Wall
- God was not looking for someone - make sure the physical walls were solid.
- higher walls or a stronger army.
- homeland security
- “I looked for someone to build up the wall?”
- the breach was caused by sin,
- therefore: people who would live and act differently.
o compassion and purity.
o walk in righteousness.
- God is still looking for those kind of people today.
- Three months - Christian Peace Maker Teams - in Iraq.
- Why were they there?
- build up the wall by being a voice of non-violence in a very violent situation.
- Boxing Day - Jane Creba,
- Faith Alliance, - 60 churches
- Rev. Eugene Rivers - Boston to Toronto
- "The violence we see is a result of the sins of the Church, and the blood outside that door, the blood in the streets, is blood that drips from our hands, the hands of indifference, the hands of self-centred comfort, hands of religious tradition that elevates the created above the creator, hands that preoccupy ourselves with big stadiums we call churches, wealth and more wealth at the expense of the poor.”
- At the gathering, they sang, prayed and promised to make a difference.
- They were committing themselves to building up the wall.
- Crisis Pregnancy Center
o counsel - unwanted pregnancy.
o support those who have carried a child to term
o comfort those who have had an abortion.
o they are building up the wall.
o determine not to have sex before they are married,
o refuse to succumb to every whim to purchase the newest toy,
o forgive what has been done against
o are building up the wall.
- When God comes and looks for someone to build up the wall, will we be found with our hands up volunteering to live and act in a different way?
B. To Stand Before Me
- “stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land.”
o only place in the Bible
o powerful invitation.
o What does it mean?”
- Biblical images
o Abraham, - Sodom, -10 righteous - (Genesis 18:28)
o Moses prayed – after golden calf. - Exodus 32:32, “but now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written…”
o Daniel, - 70 years later - prayed on behalf of the people that God would restore them once again in spite of the fact that they were a sinful people.
o Jesus - Hebrews 7:25 - “…always lives to intercede for them.”
- To stand in the gap before God is to pray, to intercede for others.
- Promise Keepers - “Stand in the Gap.”
o “An estimated one million men participated in Stand in the Gap, a day of personal repentance and prayer. The event gathered men from every race, nationality, and most Christian denominations as well as from many countries around the world. The program was six hours of standing and kneeling in prayer, worship, confession, repentance, and declarations.
o this verse as their motto
o things will not change unless we get on our knees, confess our sins and pray that God will change our hearts and lives.
o things will not change unless we seek God and pray, as Jesus taught us, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Ezekiel 22:30 - “so I would not have to destroy it.”
o actions of people on earth have an impact on what God does.
o Our prayers make a difference
o commit ourselves to pray
§ for the lost, - Franklin Graham Festival
§ those caught in the bonds of sin,
§ for our church,
§ for our nation
§ those who persecute Christians.
- little boy saw the hole in the dike
- put his finger in it
- didn’t look around wondering if there was a bigger hole that might need plugging.
- didn’t look around for someone else to put his finger in the hole.
- He saw the danger and he did what needed to be done.
- God is looking for someone to build up the wall and to stand in the gap.
- Ezekiel 22:30 - “but I found none.”
- wrath of God was poised to descend
o no one was found who was prepared to live differently
o no one was found who would pray for God’s people.
- Will God find those among us who will rebuild the wall by living and acting differently?
- Will God find among us those who will stand in the gap by praying?
- Will He find you ready, willing and able when He looks for someone?