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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Gates

Psalm 24:7-8 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

The City of Jerusalem was surrounded by a wall with 10-12 gates. During the time of Nehemiah, there were 10 gates mentioned in Nehemiah 3.

Nehemiah lived some 400 years before Christ during the reign of King Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes, the first of that name, commonly called Longimanus, ruled over Persia from 464 to 424 BC. He was with the King in Shushan, the winter palace of the King of Persia. He was a Jew who was in exile. Nehemiah was called the King's Cupbearer. It was one of his chief duties to taste the wine for the king to see that it was not poisoned. Nehemiah may have been a Jewish priest.

Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah, and other men of Judah came to visit Nehemiah in the 9th month of the 20th year of Artaxerxes. They reported that the Jews in Jerusalem were suffering great affliction and that the city wall was broken and its gates burned with fire. Nehemiah grieved, fasted and prayed. The king could see he was upset about something. When he asked Nehemiah what was wrong, Nehemiah told him about Jerusalem. So in 444 BC, he was granted permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. He was also appointed governor of the province of which Jerusalem was the capital. When he got there he organized the people and began rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem (for their protection). While they worked, he was hindered and harassed by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and Tobiah. Out of jealousy and insecurity, they tried to stop Nehemiah and ruin the work. They tried attacks, assassination, and accusations to King Artaxerxes. But Nehemiah had God on his side and he successfully completed the project and then rebuilt the Temple.

Our pastor has been preaching on the gates of Jerusalem in chapter 3 of the book of Nehemiah. I found it interesting and decided to work on it some more to solidify it in my mind.

The gate and gateways of ancient eastern cities were the only legal entrance and exit. Towns were surrounded by walls with gates for protection. The gates were huge double wooden doors but usually covered with iron because wooden gates could be set on fire. In many cases everyone in the area would have their homes inside the walls of the city so they would be able to sleep in security. But then they went thru the gates to their farms outside the city. Most of the men passed through the gate every day, and the gate was the place for meeting others and for assemblages. There were open spaces around the gates for these gatherings and these became like our town squares. The gates were for business, converse, bargaining, and news, for addresses and reading the law, or administering justice,a place of justice, settling lawsuits, redeeming of slaves, markets. The gates represent the ministries of the church as well as the ministries in our own heart.

Nehemiah 3:1 These are the people who helped rebuild the wall and gates of Jerusalem: The high priest Eliashib and the other priests rebuilt Sheep Gate and hung its doors. Then they dedicated Sheep Gate and the section of the wall as far as Hundred Tower and Hananel Tower.(Contemporary English Version)

Nehemiah even goes into the detail of what group of people were assigned to the parts of the walls and the gates. Everyone was involved in restoring the walls and gates. It didn't matter where they came from, how much money they had or didn't have, their gender, their age. Everyone was involved according to their ability.

"What is to be done for the public good every one should assist in, and further, to the utmost of his place and power. United force will conquer that which no individual dares venture on. Many hands will make light work." - Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible

It was right that the priests should be first in this holy work. This gate is supposed to have immediately communicated with the temple, and to have been called the sheep gate, because the sheep intended for sacrifice passed through it. Since the sacrificial lambs used in the worship at the Temple used this gate, it was right that the first High Priest, after Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and started the work, should be in charge of restoring and then consecrating the Sheep Gate. Near it was the sheep market, where the sheep were sold, and the sheep pool, where the sacrifices were washed.

Jesus Christ was our sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb that was slain, the Lamb that was without spot or blemish. He voluntarily gave Himself to be sacrificed to pay for our sins just as the sheep were sacrificed at the Temple. The sheep that were sacrificed could have no blemish. They couldn't be sick, hurt, injured, diseased or defective. They had to be perfect. They had to be the best. You see, we are sinners. We are damaged goods because of the sin in our lives. We can never be perfect enough to pay for our own sins. So we are lost and would spend eternity in hell. But God loved us so much that He gave His Son. His Son was fully human, from Mary, but fully God, from Father God. Therefore He was the only perfect human and was without the damage of sin. Then, this perfect divine human gave His life to pay for our sins. We were slaves to sin with no hope. But Jesus redeemed us, paid the price, for our sins so we could have the hope of eternity with God!

Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God. But He is also the Sheep Gate. The entrance to God is only through Jesus Christ. We can't get to God in any other way. We can't be good enough on our own; we can't trust in other gods. There is only one way.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. " (Modern King James Version)

John 10:1-15 Jesus said: "I tell you for certain that only thieves and robbers climb over the fence instead of going in through the gate to the sheep pen. (2) But the gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and he goes in through it. The sheep know their shepherd's voice. He calls each of them by name and leads them out. (4) When he has led out all of his sheep, he walks in front of them, and they follow, because they know his voice. (5) The sheep will not follow strangers. They don't recognize a stranger's voice, and they run away. " (6) Jesus told the people this story. But they did not understand what he was talking about. (7) Jesus said: "I tell you for certain that I am the gate for the sheep. (8) Everyone who came before me was a thief or a robber, and the sheep did not listen to any of them. (9) I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pasture. (10) A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. (11) I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. (12) Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don't own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. (13) Hired workers run away because they don't care about the sheep. (14) I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. (15) Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. " (Contemporary English Version)

Jesus is not only the perfect sacrificial Lamb and the sheep gate, but He is also the Shepherd who cares for His sheep. The shepherd's job was to lead the sheep to safe places to graze and drink; to protect the sheep from harm; to administer healing when the sheep is hurt; etc. Jesus saved us and loves us. He makes sure we are spiritually fed and watered, nourished and nurtured. He restores and heals our hurt hearts and our wounded souls. He is the most perfect shepherd to the sheep called by His Name!

Now, we look again at the Sheep Gate. The only way to enter God's presence is through the Sheep Gate. This means only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. As His child, how do we practise the presence of God? We must enter His presence with praise, worship and thanksgiving. What ministries of the church are represented by this Gate into God's presence? Worship and caring for the sheep. Those who are called to lead in worship, those who true worshippers. Also those who care about the congregation, the church.

The Pool of Bethesda was located just outside the Sheep Gate. It was at the Pool of Bethesda that those who were crippled, diseased, injured would lay around the porches waiting for the waters to ripple and stir. They believed that the first persons to get in the pool when it was stirred would be healed. Jesus once healed a man who had been waiting by the Pool of Bethesda for healing.

John 5:2-9 Now there is a pool at the Sheep Gate at Jerusalem, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, of blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. (4) For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and troubled the water. Then whoever first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had. (5) And a certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, "Do you desire to be made whole? "  (7) The infirm man answered Him, Sir, when the water is troubled, I have no one to put me into the pool. But while I am coming, another steps down before me. (8) Jesus says to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk. "  (9) And immediately the man was made whole and took up his bed and walked. And it was a sabbath on that day.(Modern King James version)

Water symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The Presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit stirs and draws those of us who are dying of the horrible disease of sin. We have a birth defect that cripples us and we are dying from it... sin! We are in disgrace but we recieve grace and are restored to the wholeness God intended for us.

One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sin and draw us to Jesus. Once we accept Jesus and are saved, we can practise the presence of our God, our Father, through praise and worship.

The Fish Gate faces the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilea. Fishermen used that gate to bring fish in to sell at the Fish Market inside the gate.

Matthew 4:18-20 And walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. For they were fishermen. (19) And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. "  (20) And they immediately left their nets and followed him. (Modern King James version)

We are all called to witness and testify to salvation through Jesus Christ but some are called to the ministry of evangelism, to fishing for me. They have a passion for reaching the lost. They have a gift for bringing in the fishes.

The sons of Hassenaah were responsible for restoring this gate. Hassenah means to prick as in thorns. They were from a difficult, bitter, thorny place while in exile but this didn't disqualify them from this ministry. In fact, it qualifies them to reach those who are the same place.

The Old Gate was where people gathered to discuss and debate doctrines and spiritual matters. Elders met there to settle disputes and answer questions. It was a place of importance and counsel. Jesus was called "the Word".

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (King James Version)

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (King James Version)

Jesus is the whole counsel of God. His life presented the revelation of God to man. He was the open book in flesh. And God revealed Himself to us through Jesus. We also have God's Word, the Bible, so we can learn about God through the Bible. He wrote the Bible so that we can read and study and learn about our Father God.

This gate represents learning and studying God's Word. The ministry of this gate is the teaching and preaching of God's Word. Learning and teaching about God's truths, foundational principles.

The Valley Gate was the entrance from a valley, a low place, a place of need. For those who are in difficulties; in need; are low in spirit, who are walking through a hard time; a valley of sorrow they can enter into God's Kingdom for help. As Christians we should be kind, generous and encouraging to those in a valley of despair. Jesus is kind and merciful to us in our times of need. And the ministry of the church should include help and mercy to those in need. There are those who go beyond helping outhers and have a downright passion for the ministry of merciful help. These are the ones who start soup kitchens, crises pregnancy centers, job programs, etc. It is their ministry to reach out to those who are walking through the low places of life.

The Dung Gate led out to the Valley of Hinnom where the city's residents took their garbage and burned it. The valley of the sons of Hinnom (Gehenna) was a deep, narrow valley to the south of Jerusalem, where the idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:2-6). They burned their children to death to worship the idol of Molech.

Jeremiah 7:31 The people of Judah built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom where they killed their own sons and daughters and burned them as sacrifices. This is something I never commanded. Something like this never even entered my mind! (Easy To Read Version)

Godly King Josiah deliberately defiled it by polluting it with unclean things such as human remains and filth. It later became the common place for all the refuse of the city. Here the dead bodies of animals, criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast and consumed by a fire that always burned. It's our version of the dump. It was the cesspool of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:40 ...The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown...

The fires and smoke from this valley of garbage symbolized the eternal punishment of the wicked in the final judgment. It is associated with fire as a source of torment. Both body and soul are cast into it.

Mark 9:43-48 If your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to lose part of your body and have eternal life than to have two hands and go to hell. There the fire never stops. (45) If your foot makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to lose part of your body and have eternal life than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. (47) If your eye makes you sin, take it out. It is better for you to have only one eye and enter God's kingdom than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. (48) The worms that eat the people in hell never die. The fire there is never stopped. (Easy To Read Version)

The word for this burning hell is "Gehenna". In English, Gehenna is translated as Hell.

"the word “hell” is used in the New Testament in the King James Version as the equivalent of Gehenna" -International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

The lake of fire that burns for eternity is the place where satan, his false prophet and all those unbelievers who did not accept Jesus free gift of salvation and forgiveness.

Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who did the signs before him, by which they were turned from the true way who had the mark of the beast, and who gave worship to his image: these two were put living into the sea of ever-burning fire. (Bible In Basic English Version)

Revelation 20:10, 14-15 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever...And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The Dung Gate represents where all the unclean people who refuse Jesus Christ as their Savior end up. They are outside the city suffering the eternal flames of the Lake of Fire. But for those of us who are saved through Jesus Christ, the Dung Gate represents the place where we can cleanse our life, our heart, and get rid of the garbage that holds us back from being all we can be in Christ Jesus. We can dump old hurts that have kept us hurting. We can repent and be cleansed from unforgiveness towards others, bitterness, addictions, etc. All the things that hold us in bondage and prevent us from being free in Christ. There are many things that distract and hurt us and we don't have to carry that stuff around and be in bondage to it. Jesus set us free and we can claim the blood of Jesus and repent of our sins and be free! We can release our shame, our pasts, our weaknesses, our hurts and get rid of them so they don't control our lives.

Within the church this indicates ministering deliverance, rescue, cleansing to those Christians who are overwhelmed by these things. The shepherd often groomed the sheep. He would comb his hands through the sheep's wool to help untangle it. He would pour oil on the sheep's head because the oil would repel the flies and gnats. Then he would massage the oil through the wool. This process meant he removed the burrs, picked the ticks and untangled the wool. The oil went down to the skin and soothed the irritations and healed. Our Great Shepherd has anointed us with oil and it flows to the hem of our garment of praise. He can untangle our lives and bring healing to the hurts and irritations in our heart. He can remove the things that hurt us and suck the life out of us. And the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit can repel the enemy who tries to distract us.

Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we are His sheep. We should be teaching and encouraging others to repent, to dump and to be set free from the garbage of this world. Our churches should have ministries that address the clutter in our lives, a ministry of rescue and deliverance.

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