'Repairing the Gates'

Bible Teaching by Nicky (Smith) Eatalapaka

'In Nehemiah Chapter 3 we find a catalogue of people who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and set up and restored the gates. At first glance it may appear to be nothing more than a list, but as we examine the text, we can begin to see some interesting parallels to our entry into the kingdom of God.

 

Only ten gates are mentioned in this chapter, but twelve seems to be the true number. The gate of Ephraim is mentioned in Nehemiah ch.8 v16 and the prison gate in ch.12v39. In scripture ten is the number of responsibility of man to God and God to man. As we look at these gates we begin to see a practical illustration of the things that are there for our security in Christ. They could be seen as the boundaries that enable us to remain within Christ at all times. Our responsibility being to ensure that we come within those boundaries, in the fashion which God has determined.

 

The first gate mentioned is the Sheep Gate in Nehemiah ch.3v1. Interestingly this is the gate for the sacrificial animals to enter into the city. The sheep gate is an essential way into the things that are freely given to us in Christ. If we did not have Jesus as our sacrificial lamb, then the kingdom of God would be unobtainable to us because our sins would bar the way.

The starting point for anyone seeking to enter the kingdom of God will be with a sacrifice for sins. Jesus himself is called, by John the Baptist in John ch.1v29, 'the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world' and so it must by by the sheep gate we enter into the things that are freely ours in Christ.

In Nehemiah ch.3v3 we then find mention of the second gate called the Fish Gate. When Jesus called his disciples, he said they would be 'fishers of men' and we must realize the call in the same way for ourselves today. Our responsibility upon salvation is to lead others the same way. All too often we get caught up with other things as we seek to do the will of God, but in this passage we find directly next to the sheep gate is the fish gate. If we loose sight of our calling to 'fish for souls' then the kingdom is never extended.

Interestingly, the best soul winners are often those newly converted, so full of life and a burning desire to spread the news, that they speak to all they meet. The truth is, that they passed from the sheep gate to the fish gate in a short space of time. If we wander too far, or allow the gate to become derelict or closed, we loose sight of those perishing in sin and become more concerned with ourselves.

The third gate is called the Old Gate and it is mentioned is in Neh ch.3v6. The Old Gate literally means 'the place of the old routes'. Jeremiah ch.6v16 says "Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls". We are called to follow the prescribed routes to enter into all that the kingdom holds for us. All too often we try and find a new way to do things. Times demand change and so something new is required. So often the world will offer a new and better way to do an old task, to embrace a new idea. God however, by his word has given us an unchanging way to embrace all that he has for us.

This, by no way means we should never try any new idea or change our programme to present the Gospel to a new generation, but the ways are, and always will be, the same. Sin will always be sin, right will be right and wrong will be wrong. Man without Christ will always perish in his sins and whilst we may like to reduce sin to just a social problem or lack of understanding, education or privilege, the truth is that the prescribed route of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is the one route into the kingdom that God has prescribed.

As we continue we find the fourth gate in chapter 3v13 is the valley gate. Every Christian faces 'the valley' at points in their experience. Without low points we would never see ourselves as we really are, nor the Lord as He is. It is in the valley that we learn humility. We learn of our need for God and how our own pride and self importance has to diminish for God to raise us up. 1 Peter ch.5v6 says "Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."

It is in the valley that He increases and I decrease. We are humbled and then raised up by him. So often the deepest low points of the Christian life bring forth the greater experience of God and a greater ability to surrender to his will. It is in the valley that we learn humility.

Next to the valley gate we find the fifth gate called the Dung Gate in Neh ch.3v14. The valley of Hinnon was where the rubbish was thrown and even in our own experience as a Christian we find the low valley is the place where we finally relinquish and turn our back on so many things that are unacceptable for the Christian to carry.

As a direct result of the valley of humility we put off the old man, so we are able to put on the new man. Eph ch.4v22 - 32 speaks of the need to lay aside old habits, attitudes and lifestyle, which hinders 'the new man'. If we have no dung gate the rubbish remains within the walls and no transformation occurs. Paul would suggest the change is very much our choice and not just a spiritual experience " Let him steal no more", a personal choice and effort to do so. For the city to have a dung gate did not make any difference unless one decided to carry the rubbish outside. The same is true for us, whilst 'in Christ all things become new', I must still choose to lay aside those things not glorifying to God or necessary to the Christian life.

We then find in Neh ch.3v15, that the sixth gate, the Fountain Gate follows next. Is it not true that as we lay aside the things that hinder, the life of God begins to flow more readily and freely?

In John 4v14, Jesus says that 'whoever drinks of the water he gives will have a well springing up into everlasting life'. As we lay aside things that hinder and draw closer to the Lord we discover the fountain of life, his spirit, flowing freely within our lives, never failing, never running dry, sufficient for every season.

In Neh ch.3v26 we find the seventh gate to be the Water Gate, which has no mention of repair to it, but that they 'built alongside it'. Eph ch.5v26 speaks of 'the washing of the water of the word', which we all continuously need. As we walk with God by his word we find that it ever changes and perfects us, slowly and steadily removing every spot and wrinkle. We can never improve on the Word of God or add to it, just as the gate needs no repair and stands perfect forever (1 Pet 1v25), so we can build alongside the word but we can never add anything to it.

As we continue we then find the eighth gate, the Horse Gate mentioned. In scripture the horse is always linked with battle. Prov ch.21v31 'the horse is prepared unto the day of battle' and in Revelation ch.19, we find the white horse of the King of Kings, that rides into battle against his enemies.

Scripture constantly reminds us that we are called to a war as soldiers of Jesus Christ. The Christian 'calling' is one of fighting 'the good fight of faith, to lay hold upon eternal life'. Until the Lord's return, or the day we go to be with him, we are in a battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. To deny the existence of the battle itself, does not remove it and to fail to fight, does not mean we will not be subject to attack. The horse gate has great significance to the Christian because we are called to stand and fight, as a means of entering into our inheritance in Christ.

The ninth gate is called the East Gate of Neh. ch.3v26 speaks of the Lord's return. In Scripture, the east is always a feature of the coming of the Lord. From the garden of Eden and the cherubim in the east, to the appearance of the Lord in Exodus, from the east in the wilderness and the entry of the Lord into his temple, in Ezekiel, by the east gate, we find that the east always has a connection with the coming of the Lord. The Christian is called to be ready, looking for and praying for the return of Jesus Christ.

Whilst at times it may seem unlikely to our understanding, that Jesus will appear in glory, it was the blessed hope of the early church and the hope of many generations now past. If our east gate is barred and closed, fallen into decay and ruin, we have no concept or vision of the reality of the promise of Jesus' return. It means we become 'as servants who sleep', neglecting our duty and position, thinking that the master will never return. We are called to be 'sober and vigilant', looking for his return and the east gate is there to remind us that He will surely come.

The tenth and final gate is the gate Miphkad in Neh ch.3v31. The word 'Miphkad' means 'appointment' or 'review'. We could say it is the gate of judgment. When the Lord returns, we will be called to account. 1 Corinthians ch.3v14-15 speaks of our works being tested by fire. This is not a judgment for sin to the believer, as his judgment was passed at Calvary, but it is a place of review and even reward. Possibly we, at times, forget the greatness and goodness of all that we have in Christ. To look at Miphkad is to remember that with our salvation comes responsibility and accountability. The east gate and the gate Miphkad are fundamental to each other. If we loose sight of one, the other diminishes in importance. If I forget that the Lord will come, then to give an account seems far away. However if I remember He will come, I must consider what I am doing with the things entrusted to me.

As we progress and finish the chapter in Neh ch.3v32 we are reminded again of the sheep gate. We have come full circle and again see Jesus our sacrificial lamb, the only means of entering in and reaching the end of our course. Were it not for Him and his grace we would surely fail. Amen.'

 

Reverend Nicky (Smith) Eatalapaka