He Stood in the Breach

The daily Bible reading plan doesn’t arrange the Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament readings by similarity of topic, but there are times like in yesterday’s reading when the texts in different sections of the Bible inform one another.

They made a calf in Horeb

and worshiped a metal image.

They exchanged the glory of God

for the image of an ox that eats grass.

They forgot God, their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

wondrous works in the land of Ham,

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Therefore he said he would destroy them—

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him,

to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

(Psalm 106:19-23 ESV)

Psalm 106 recapitulates in poetic form the goodness and justice of God in His dealings with Israel, even when the people had been rebellious against Him.  Verses 19-23 above retell the incident of the golden idol at Horeb, while Moses was on the mountain.  But God had already proclaimed the law that would govern the people of Israel under the covenant.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

The proverbial ink on the covenant was barely dry, but it was already broken.  For this rebellion, God could have destroyed the people, and would have if Moses had not “stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” (Psalm 106:23 ESV)

But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

(Exodus 32:11-14 ESV)

Moses could not plead the people’s righteousness, and ultimately could not plead his own.  Instead, he pleaded God’s glory among the nations and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to rescue the people from God’s holy wrath.

Much later, another would stand in the gap between a sinful people and God’s justice.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Moses’ righteousness failed at Meribah (Exodus 20:10-13), but Jesus’ unfailing righteousness, the righteousness of God Himself, was transferred to us through His sacrifice of Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).  At the cross, Jesus stood in the breach for us, to turn away God’s wrath from destroying unworthy sinners and to obtain the church of God with His own blood (Acts 20:28).


  1. Steve Ward

    Wed 27th Apr 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Wonderful thoughts Matt! It made me think that just as Moses found out that he could not offer himself for Israel’s sin (Exodus 32:30-33), so too Paul knew that he could not do so as well (Romans 9:1-4). But thanks be to God that “The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob” and that the Deliverer’s work will extend to all those who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 11:26-36).

  2. Chris Carmichael

    Fri 29th Apr 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I thank my Lord Jesus for standing in the breach for me and all His people!

  3. Devin

    Wed 07th Nov 2012 at 10:47 am

    I love poetry with a purpose! Though we miss out on the metrical beauty of the original Hebrew there is a holy imagery which transcends language.

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