Standing in the Breach
June 16th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
STANDING IN THE BREACH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-16-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as with us here in this great auditorium, turn in your Bible to Psalm 106, 106, and let us read together verses 13 through 27, verses 13-27. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Standing in the Breach. You will see the text as we read it together, "Standing in the breech," you will see it in verse 23. And everywhere sharing our Bibles, and on the radio, wherever you are, get your Bible, turn to Psalm 106, let us read it out loud together, beginning at verse 13, and reading through verse 27. Everyone now together:
They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel:
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram.
And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.
They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image.
Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
They forgat God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt;
Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea.
Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them.
Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word:
But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.
Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:
To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in to the lands.
This is an inspired account of the breach that the people made in that holy covenant by which they belonged to God. When, as Moses was on top of the mount talking to the Lord face to face [Exodus 31:12-18], the people down in the valley, making them an image of gold, a calf [Exodus 32:1-8], and worshiping and going into all of those indescribable, unnamable, sinful orgies by which those ancient people worshiped at the shrine of their golden gods, and God as He looked, as He looked, the Lord said, "Moses, these people, they are hard-hearted, they are stiff-necked, they are prone to error and given to sin; I am weary of bearing them. Now you stand aside, and I shall destroy them; the wrath of My anger shall consume them." And Moses stood in the breach to turn away the wrath of God, lest the people should be consumed [Exodus 32:9-14]. That breach is a torn place.
All of us growing up, going to school, have read the story of the little Hollander boy, who when he found a breach in the dike, a hole in the dike, he put his hand in the hole in the dike, and kept the water back until help could come, and the gap could be stopped, and the dike could be preserved, and the land could be saved. That little boy put his hand in the breach; he stood in the gap.
Same kind of a thing as we read in Texas history in the story of the Alamo, when the frontier of Texas was being breached by the armies of Santa Anna down there in the Alamo, the captain drew a line across the ground and asked those that would stand in the breach to cross over that line. Remember, Bowie – who was sick – asked that his companions pick up his cot and take it over the line: standing in the breach. You have godly men standing in the breach before God today. You have great strong-hearted committed patriots and men that love our country and our people who stand in the breach in this tragic moment of the life and destiny of our nation in this world. You see it everywhere; men who are consecrated, men who devote to God their names, their fortunes, their life, their blood in order to preserve the blessings and the favor of heaven upon us. That’s what it means to stand in the breach.
Now, in this thing of the wrath and the judgment of God against the sin of a people; there came another time when an exact thing like this is described in the Word of the Lord. "I sought for a man among them," says the Lord to Ezekiel, "that should make up the hedge, that should stand in the breach before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none" [Ezekiel 22:30]. God says that as He describes His judgment upon His people when they were carried away into captivity.
When Jerusalem was destroyed, then the temple was burned down, and when the people were taken away from the land, God said, "I looked through the land, I looked through all of the homes and the houses and families of Israel to find somebody that should make up the hedge and should stand in the breach before Me; but I found none. Therefore the land is destroyed" [Ezekiel 22:30-31]. You know that’s a strange thing about God; but you’ll find it all through the Word. Why was Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? Because of the wickedness of the wicked? Because of the sinfulness of the sinful? Because of the blasphemy of the blasphemers? No! The city was destroyed because God could not find ten righteous in it. For the lack of ten praying, godly men, the city was destroyed [Genesis 18:32].
That is a strange thing, this doctrine of standing in the breach. A nation is not destroyed because of its wicked, nor is a nation consumed because of its unrighteous. But the judgment of God falls upon a people because of the lack of somebody to stand in the breach.
And in the glorious recounting here of God sparing Israel in that day when they worshiped the golden calf, "turning their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass" [Psalm 106:20], as they sing of it here, in that day when the wrath of God burned hot and waxed fierce against His people, why, Moses talked to God and stood in the breach; and for his sake God put away the sin of the people [Exodus 32:11-14]. Now that’s the background of the text. And briefly may I speak of it? Standing in the Breach; a man of God to stand in the breach.
May I speak of it first out of a poignant experience in my own ministry as a pastor and a shepherd of God’s sheep? Standing in the breach for human life, for this human life; onetime, there was a fine, gracious, sweet, young woman in my congregation, who pledged her hand to be married to a young man in the little town where I was pastor. And as the days came for her to be married, she was suddenly found to be stricken with tuberculosis of the throat, and the doctor saying she could not live. Oh, the sorrow of that was so deep!
And you know, upon a day, she sent for me, and asked me to come out to the house. And I went out to the house; and there she was on a couch with a Bible in her hand. And she took the Bible and she read to me from the pages of the New Testament all of those passages of divine and holy healing. And after she read all of those passages, one after another, she had carefully gone through the Word of God finding those passages of divine healing, after she read them all to me, then she said, "I want you to kneel down here by my side, and I want you to ask God to heal me." Oh, oh! The lack and the impotence of that hour will stay with me as long as I live. "Now you kneel down here by my side, and according to the Word of God, ask the Lord to heal me." I am so poor an intercessor, and I am so weak in the faith.
The days passed, and her life was taken away. I had the memorial service. And when I walked out of that country cemetery, I suppose never anybody walked in the world who ever had so heavy a heart. O Lord! If there just could have been that faith, that taking hold of God, that standing in the breach; I believe in divine healing. I believe in importunity with God, asking God in faith, holding on to God until prayer is answered. God just doesn’t have men of faith and of devotion who are able to get answers from heaven, and least of all does He have one in me, standing in the breach.
Now may I speak of that, standing in the breach, may I speak of it in spiritual life, saving souls for God, standing in the breach, making up the hedge, paying the price, pleading with God so that God, for our prayers’ sake and our devotion’s sake, saves these for whom we make intercession? This morning I mentioned Dr. Scarborough. Oh, the impression that man of God made upon me in the days of my youth when I was going to school! He had come down to Baylor and preach; came one time and held a week’s revival meeting there. And I’d visit the seminary over which he presided, and I’d hear him in revival meetings. Oh that man! This is one of the stories that he told that I so well remember:
Preaching in a town, staying in a home, as the revival fires began to glow and to burn, God saving the lost, one day the mother in the home where he was staying said, "I cannot understand it. Other boys are saved but mine are not. I see conviction in the faces and tears in the eyes of other boys, but mine are cold and unburdened and untouched and unsaved. I cannot understand it." And the preacher said, "May I say a plain word and you would not misunderstand?" She said, "Why yes. What is the word?" And he said, "The reason those boys are without burden is because their mother is not burdened. And the reason those boys are dry-eyed is because their mother is dry-eyed. And the reason the boys are not concerned is because their mother is not concerned."
Well, it was a dart. It was an arrow. It was a spear. It was a sword cutting her very heart. And that night she spent the entire night crying and praying before God for those two boys. And the next morning at the breakfast table it was written on her face, her night’s vigil of anxiety and intercession and prayer. And while they were eating breakfast the younger boy asked to be excused. He went outside, came back in a little while, came to his mother, said, "Mother, last night, you thought I was asleep, but I heard you praying and calling my name. And Mother, I have given my heart to Jesus." And he said while he was preaching at the morning service, in the middle of his sermon there stood up the older son, walked to where his mother was, buried his face in her lap and said, "Mother, I can’t wait till that man has done his sermon. Last night I heard you pray for me and call my name. And Mother I’ve been saved, I’ve been saved." And then Dr. Scarborough used that sentence: "Here is an illustration of the doctrine of standing in the breach." Oh, those things moved my soul; they did then, the remembrance of them, does yet.
That’s one of the strange things about God. One man can plead for another man and God listen. One man can pray for another man and God answers. One man can offer his life for another man, and for his sake God moves and convicts and saves; this doctrine of standing in the breach, of paying the price for somebody else.
Now I conclude. This of course is an appeal for our people to pay that price, to make up the hedge, to stand in the breach that God, on our sakes, and listening to our prayers, and seeing our devotion, that God for our sakes might be moved to bear His mighty arm to save. Oh, what the Lord has done for me, for us! It wasn’t an angel that came from heaven, not even one of the archangels, not one of the seraphim or the cherubim, but it was the Lord God of glory who came, became a man, humbled Himself, became obedient unto the death of the cross, all for us [Philippians 2:8]. He did it for us. And for His sake does God forgive us [Ephesians 4:32]. The Lord looks upon His sacrifice, and His tears, and His agony, and His suffering, and His blood poured out for us, and the Lord says for His sake, I am forgiven. That’s the way God does it.
And the Lord does the same thing for us, the same thing with us, the same thing through us. In a devotion and a commitment of our lives, God is moved marvelously to work and to save. It is just for us to commit ourselves to Him, that’s all; that God could use us. When I was a boy I heard the story of a general who came before a large group of his soldiers, and he said, "I have a very important mission; maybe delivered at the cost of a soldier’s life, but I want somebody to volunteer for this mission. Now lest you be embarrassed, I’m going to turn my back; and while I turn my back, I want some soldier to step forward and to volunteer and to offer his life for this mission."
And the general turned his back, then he turned back again; and every man was standing just as he was. And the general said, "I can’t understand. Is there not one man in this army who’ll devote his life to carry this message? I’m going to ask again, going to turn my back, and isn’t there one soldier who’ll step forward?" The general turned his back, turned back again; every man was just as he was in the ranks. And the general said, "I cannot understand. I cannot understand. Is there not one soldier, is there not one who love of country and love of family and love of home and love of his people would offer himself for this all important mission?" And finally, one of the lesser officers spoke up and said, "General, ask your question again, but don’t turn your back. Look at us, look at us." So the general repeated his question: "Is there a soldier here who will offer himself to deliver this message? If he will, let him step forward." And to the amazement of the general, every man in the ranks took a step forward; so they looked exactly as they were before, for all of them had offered themselves, to deliver that message. That’s what we need. That is what we are asking for. That is what God expects.
Lord, here am I, send me [Isaiah 6:8]. Lord, look at this company, look at this great congregation, look at this church, look at these people, look at them, Lord, every man stepping across the line, offering himself to stand in the breach before God. And for their sakes, O Lord, have we not a right to expect great things from Thee? Let us pray.
O blessed God, blessed Lord; we live in such tragic times. Whether we shall exist as a people and as a nation or not lies in the imponderables of Almighty God. O Lord, these days bring back to us the days of Israel’s loss and captivity. How the prophets warned and preached and cried; but there was no turning, no heart to listen, no soul to be moved. Ah, Lord! That God would spare us, give us revival; that our people would turn in great throngs unto Thee; that it might even be an answer to the prayer of Habakkuk when he said, "In the midst of the years send revival, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy" [Habakkuk 3:2]. O Lord, that in our midst God would be moved to bear His arm, to send salvation among our people, do it, Lord, do it, Lord. Let our eyes see it, our souls be moved by it; and in the united praying and consecration of this great host, O God, do a wondrous thing in our midst. Thank Thee, Master, for answered prayer, for Thy presence working with us in saving power, to the glory of Thy precious name, amen.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give his heart to Jesus, come and stand by me. Somebody you put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, come and stand by me. As the Spirit of Jesus shall lead in the way, make it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.