Nehemiah 3

Nehemiah 3:  The Gates

In the study of Nehemiah we see the steps to putting lives back together that have fallen into some state of ruin. We see the importance of gates. For gates in Scripture represent a means of access and egress. This can represent ways of entering into other people’s lives and also letting them into our lives. But this chapter with all its names is also a picture of what the church is to be- a body made up of different members working together. You must realize- if we are going to put lives back together we need and must seek help from each other. We cannot do it alone. The preacher/pastor and staff cannot do it alone.

This chapter is recognized as one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament for determining the topography of Jerusalem.(NIV footnote) Jerusalem as a city is at its lowest point. The once thriving city of Solomon’s time and Solomon’s Temple was virtually destroyed in 586 BC. There is nothing to draw people back. It is in fact a low point for the Jewish nation as they struggle to stay Jewish, to stay God’s people. We see this happening to the church – the body of Christ today in the 21st century. It is a struggle to stay God’s people. And so we must begin a work of rebuilding and restoring , lest we leave the church in worst condition for the next generation.

The names recorded here should remind us that God, Who does not change, is keeping a record of each of our works which someday at the Bema will be judged by fire for rewards.(I Cor.3) He loves to record names for us in His Word to remind us- He is watching and remembering and recording. God knows what you and I are doing and He knows our motives for He knows our hearts.

The Principles of Rebuilding.

Let us notice some of the principles of rebuilding that God has shown Nehemiah. With the exception of one group, the nobles of Tekoa, who refused to dirty their hands with manual labor, all the city was involved. God records for us those who worked on the rebuilding but he also notes who did not.

So a first principle in rebuilding is get everyone involved. This is the work of the church, the body of Christ has to be involved if we are to rebuild what has fallen into ruin. Notice all the people are volunteers.  The high priest, Eliashib, sets the example but one can see that the size of this project and task could not be done by just the priests, it required the effort of everyone. Each person was assigned a section or gate to work on. It was an all volunteer project. People from every walk of life were involved, the rulers, the priests, the goldsmiths, the perfume makers, every member of the congregation was involved and had a task to perform and even the women were involved in the labor.

The second principle we see repeated for emphasis is found in the phrase: “ built next to them”. This project was completed in just 52 days because they worked together for a common good for an agreed upon goal and purpose.  They were organized so that each group was responsible for a section or part of the whole. No one was sitting on the sideline ( except the before mentioned nobles of Tekoa, ) no one is recorded as arguing with others as to how this should or should not be done. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ functioning as one who is directed by its head to do the work. A spirit of cooperation is something that is necessary for getting kingdom work done. The enemy loves to cause turmoil and create a dysfunctional body by causing divisions within the group. This side, thinks we should do it this way, this side thinks we should do it that way and in the meanwhile, the ruin continues, the gates are not repaired. And the enemy has access to not only those living within the walls, but those observing this chaos wonder what kind of God do these people claim to love and serve when they cannot even work within their own group?  What kind of witness is that? What does this do to revere the name of our God? Earlier in our studies I quoted from Alex De Tocqueville, the young Frenchmen who came to discover what made America so great and unique in the 1830’s.  He could not help but notice how Christianity and liberty were entwined to make us what we were.  Only 30 years later in 1860- we were a nation divided by the worst war in the history of our country during the Civil War.  A house divided against itself- American against American, and surely Christian against Christian. What did the world think of us then?

There is another principle we observe that is recorded here for our benefit. We see that many of the workers were working on areas near their home. Verse 10 tells us Jediah made repairs opposite his home; in verse 23 we see Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house. God has determined the times set for each of us and the exact places we should live we are told in Acts 17. In John 15, Jesus told the disciples he had appointed them to bear fruit. In other words, God in His Wisdom and Sovereignty has strategically placed us in the place He wants us to be in order to accomplish the kingdom work He has for us to do . It is our neighborhood, our church, our community, our work place, that  are  to be our section of the wall and gates to maintain.  And He has placed others alongside us.  Can you imagine what West Jackson Baptist could accomplish if everyone came, gave, and volunteered.  They would in Nehemiah’s day rebuild the wall and repair the gates in 52 days!  What if West Jackson joined with other churches, other believers throughout the city to rebuild what has fallen into ruin?

Can you close your eyes and imagine this scene in Jerusalem long years ago?  Can you see the people neighborhood by neighborhood working alongside each other  to complete a project. I can hear them laughing, getting re-acquainted with neighbors, stopping to eat lunch on the job and looking at the end of the day with pride in what they had accomplished. Can you not also imagine, having worked so hard to put it back together, they will be all that more careful in the future to maintain it?

The Gates

Now let us look at these 10 gates for each of these gates is named a specific name that has a specific meaning with spiritual implications.  We must be careful in spiritualizing a given text in the scripture. We will look at what the intent of this gate was – the reason for which it was built and within that physical purpose we will find the spiritual implication. Paul uses the actual, historical account of Hagar and Sarah and their two sons and tells us these can be used as an allegory to illustrate a theological or spiritual truth. I believe also the order in which these gates are mentioned, which is in a counter-clock wise direction is important.

Let us look at the first gate mentioned and also note who worked on it- the high priest and priests. The first gate is the Sheep Gate. It is the most important gate because, this is the first gate we must enter. This gate got its name from its purpose- it was the gate through which the sheep and lambs used in the sacrifice in the temple were brought. Lets’ look at scripture both Old Testament and New Testament that tell us about the Ultimate Sacrifice: “ a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” ( Isaiah 53:7) “ God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering my son.: ( Genesis 22)  “ Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” ( John 1:29- John the Baptist pointing out the Lord Jesus to Andrew and John) In John 10, Jesus tells us: “ I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I AM THE GATE, WHOEVER ENTERS THROUGH ME WILL BE SAVED.” ( John 10:7-10,NIV.)

You must understand our journey of recovery begins where our Christian life begins at the cross where the Lamb of God was slain for our sins. We must never forget this, for we must remind ourselves we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. Let this gate fall into disrepair and you will find the enemy rushing in like a flood. This gate must be maintained and kept in repair if you are to mature as a Christian. This is the first gate. We must remember the Sheep Gate, the Lord Jesus the Lamb of God slain for our sins. We enter through this gate, we are crucified with Him. Life comes out of death. This is the gate through which we have access to His life and He has access into ours.

The second gate as we move counter-clock wise is the Fish Gate. Its name was derived again from the purpose it served. This is the gate through which the fishermen brought their catch into the market place to sell. Once we have accepted the Lamb of God and entered in by the one who is the Sheep Gate, we are reminded of what Jesus called  His disciples to become:  “ Follow me and I will make you FISHERS OF MEN.” This speaks of evangelism. It is the natural progression that having been saved by the Lamb of God, we want to tell others what He has done for us and what He wants to do for them. Witnessing is simply telling others what you have experienced. He has placed us strategically in this world in the time and place where we are to live and perform alongside our brothers and sisters the kingdom work He has for each of us. In doing this, we discover the purpose of our lives. We are to enter in the market place and cast our nets down for a catch.

The third gate we encounter is the Jeshanah Gate which in Hebrew means “ Old Gate.” “ This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it.”(Jeremiah 16) This gate represents the old truths of this ancient book of wisdom- God’s Word. The world is enamored with the new- new truths, new ways, new that replaces old. Someone once said- ‘ if something is new, it is not true; and if it is true, it is not new.’ God does not change and neither does His word. Learning the old ways of truth never changes. Yet we have found our lives and our nation in a state of ruin, because we have compromised and discarded old truths as not relevant in the 21st century. This gate must also be maintained for the challenge against the old gate- the ancient paths of the good way are being challenged as never before. Is our country at a cross roads? How about our church? Know anyone- loved ones, who are at a cross roads?  Then they need to enter the ancient paths the old truths that do not change that can be a light upon their path and direct them in the way to go.

As  you look at the outline of the wall and where the gates were placed, some were closer to each other than others.  The next gate, the Valley Gate is a relatively long distance from the Old Gate. Why is that important?  For the new Christian who has entered into the life of the Good Shepherd by the Sheep Gate and begins his new life anxious to tell others what has happened as he quickly enters the marketplace of life with his fish to sell, the gospel, and begins to desire the sincere milk of the word as one entering the Old Gate, the Lord is gracious in allowing a period of time before the new believer enters the Valley Gate. The Valley in scripture always speaks of a time of testing, trials, and humbling. Our human nature has to be very aware of pride. The world applauds pride and accomplishment in our works. But God resists pride and gives grace to the humble. If God resists pride- do I want God to be working against me? Of course not. God applauds humility. Jesus told us to take His yoke upon us and learn from him for he said he was meek and lowly of heart. He also said this is where you will find rest for your soul. ( Matthew 11) Not only does pride put you in a position of God working against you- it is the source of a restless soul. The Valley Gate speaks of the trials that humble us, that we all must enter lest we become prideful and arrogant.

The next gate that comes up is the Dung Gate. Not a very attractive name, but a necessary gate. This gate was used to carry out all of the city’s garbage, refuse, trash and dung to the valley of Himmon to be burned. God uses the Valley of Trials to cleanse us and clear away those things in our life that are not of faith. This rubbish must be eliminated from our lives and taken to the dump. The Bible in many verses exhorts us to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness. If we do not do this- it will lead to ruin. One must take out the garbage to be burned.

Now as you look at the direction the reconstruction has taken you can see in this diagram that is an outline of the ancient wall and gates they were working on in 445BC, we see they have ‘turned a corner’.  The next gate we encounter is the Fountain Gate. You see once your life has been cleansed of the rubbish and trash the fountains begin to flow freely once again. The Fountain Gate is at the end of the Pool of Siloam.  It represents the Holy Spirit who Jesus said in John 7 was the streams of living water refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit filled life- a life filled and overflowing with the Holy Spirit because the vessel of your life has been cleansed of all corruption. Cleansed and overflowing- the identifying marks of the Spirit-filled life.

The next gate is the Water Gate.  If you read these verses carefully, you will see the Water Gate did not actually need any repair. Repairs were made up to a point opposite the Water Gate(vs26) but there is no mention of repair to the Water Gate. Why?  The Water Gate stands for the Word of God. The Word of God is indestructible, it is eternal and last forever. Nothing can damage it- it is just needs to be re-entered. When you have been through the previous gates, the Old Gates, the Valley Gate, the Dung Gate and are cleansed and filled with the Spirit, then you can re-enter the Word of God, the Water Gate.  You will find now in this cleansed, spirit-filled condition you can drink deep from the fountains of the Word of God and  its meaning clearer than ever before.

Next gate we encounter is the Horse Gate. The horse from Old Testament to the last book in the New Testament, Revelation, is always a symbol of war. This gate reminds us we are in a battle. We are being attacked and will be assaulted by the enemy. Yes, there is great joy and there are periods of peace – but there is the battle of spiritual warfare. The Lord told us we would have trouble in this world. Peter said we should not consider it strange when we encounter fiery trials. Paul describes the weapons we have for this battle which are mighty and not carnal and the armor that has been supplied by commander in chief.

The East Gate is on the eastern side opposite the temple area and facing the sun. This gate speaks of hope and expectation of the returning Messiah. The Bible tells us in several passages this is where Jesus will enter the city in his victorious return to set up his earthly kingdom. This gate must be maintained in the life of the believer. Let this fall into disarray and ruin and your hopes and expectations will suffer loss.  This gate tells us the  best is yet to come. And that death has no sting and the grave no victory- death the enemy has been defeated. God has glory awaiting us. In fact Jesus told the disciples when you see all of these things happening, lift up your heads and rejoice for your redemption is near.  We are headed home to glory.

The last gate is the Inspection Gate. In Hebrew this word means – ‘ the appointed place.’ In Hebrews 9:27 we are told: “ it is APPOINTED  unto a man once to die, and after that the judgment.” As Christians, the Inspection Gate is the Bema Seat where Christ will judge our lives and works and reward us accordingly. (I Cor. 3) God has been observing our works, just as he wrote down the names of these people in Nehemiah 3, we can expect He has an account of our works recorded so they can be inspected and tried by fire which will test the quality of our works.  We are to build on what others have built before us. Each of us are instructed to be careful how he builds. On that day , you do not want to be a worker who is ashamed of his or her work.

Notice what gate is mentioned last in this chapter- the Sheep Gate. Back to the Lamb  of God slain for our sins. The Cross. It begins with cross, it ends with cross and what it represents . For the cross undergirds the whole of our Christian life and walk and work. It is life that comes out of death. Death to self. His will not mine.

Thus the cycle is never completed – it is not finished. So we began again, constantly working this circle of life, examining the walls and gates of our life in Christ, examining to see that we are in the faith.  We are  not to count ourselves as having  achieved our goals and thus  are able to rest on our accomplishments. We continue to be watchman on the wall, to inspect and make sure we have not given the enemy an area of access into our lives. To keep the gates in good repair. For our enemy goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We are told to watch and pray , lest we fall into temptation.

“Enter through the narrow or strait gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and MANY  enter  through it. But strait ( narrow) is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a FEW find it.” Matthew 7:13.

Have you entered the narrow gate, the narrow way that leads to life?

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14