Glad you could all make it out :) Tonight I'm going to share with you a study that isn't exactly original with me in concept, although I have certainly added a bit to it. In the New Testament, we find quotations from Christ saying things like the Scriptures testify of Him. Similarly, to Timothy, Paul once said that he was glad the young man had a godly family: "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim 3:15)
I've seen more than one study that has shown a picture of the Messiah in the types and symbols of the earthly Tabernacle, for example, that the Israelites had in the wilderness. Each object of the structure is compared to some aspect of Christ's personality, and it was seen to be a testimony to the Savior. If you read the account of the Tabernacle's construction, you find it goes into explicit detail about all the things about it, even the lengths of the curtains: "The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure." (Exo 26:2)
In other words, the sheer number of details probably tipped Bible scholars off to the concept that there was a deeper, important meaning to the Tabernacle's details. Tonight, we're going to look at another fairly detailed account in the Bible, that of the rebuilding of the Gates of Jerusalem.
In the Book of Jeremiah, we find that the apostasy of Judah, the southern Kingdom, had reached such a degree that they could no longer even hear or understand the guidance of the Most High. "For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it." (Jer 7:30)
Because of this great emergency, there needed to be something of a time of punishment. "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jer 25:11)
But this was not a final "casting off," it was meant only to bring the remnant to repentance: "For thus saith the Lord, 'That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.'" (Jer 29:10)
True to His word, at the end of seventy years, Yahweh caused two individuals to be raised up, and under this pair, Ezra and Nehemiah, Jerusalem began to be rebuilt. Their names, by the way, mean "Help" and "Comfort of Yah." Now, there are two main reasons for reading the Bible, namely: to learn about the way our Father dealt with people in the past, and to learn how He will deal with us today - that is to say, what the applications are for our lives. The Scriptures, after all, testify of the Father and Son.
So... what can we learn about the story of Judah's return? To me, it seems to be a model of the plan of salvation itself. In the beginning, after Adam sinned, we find this saying: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen 3:19)
Something changed on that day, and Paul explains it thus: "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come." (Rom 5:14) Sin itself is called a bondage: "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." (Acts 8:23)
And therefore I would submit to you that Judah's sojourn in Babylon for its transgression is a symbol of the lives of sin and darkness that a human being has (having inherited the "natural man's nature" from Adam) apart from the Savior. But now, after Judah returned from captivity, what did it do? "Then said I unto them, 'Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." (Neh 2:17)
They began to rebuild the walls of their city, and the gates that were set within them. But the Bible doesn't just say, "And the children of Israel rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem according to the word of the Lord." No... it takes up an entire chapter to tell the tale.
Of course, the question should be, what do the walls of Jerusalem represent to us? If the going into Babylonian captivity represents our being plunged, as a race, into sin because of Adam's transgression, and the return of the exiles is a picture of Salvation, what are the walls that need to be rebuilt?
Well, what does sin "break down" in our lives? What is restored at our conversion? The prophets declare: "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezek 11:19,20)
Ezekiel says almost the same thing again in 36:26. David also, after his sin with Bathsheba prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psa 51:10,17)
Two things again and again - the spirit and the heart. The things that need to be restored after conversion, the things that Jerusalem's walls represent are the character, the outer defenses of the individual.
So, let us read then the order in which the gates of these walls were rebuilt, and see if we can find a pattern here for our Christian walk. Here is the first: "Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel." (Neh 3:1)
The Sheep Gate was first. This gate was the one through which the sacrifices were led into the city. A sheep or lamb representing a sacrifice is the first step. Now... what could that mean? Well, obviously, the beginning of our sanctification, in fact... the point of our conversion takes place when we come to know the Messiah, who was indeed sacrificed for us. "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'" (John 1:29)
We've looked at this in a few previous studies... baptism, joining the family of Heaven, is only the beginning of the journey, not the end, and we find that reflected here in this rebuilding process. We'll see the Sheep Gate again in this study, but let's take the process in order.
"But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof." (Neh 3:3)
According to what I've read, the Fish Gate was so named because this was the area where the buying and selling of seafood took place. Another symbol of Christ is the fish. This is because the characters in the Greek word fish, "ichthus," were used in early centuries as an anagram for Iesus, CHristos, Theos, [H]Uios, Soter; or Yahshua (Jesus) Christ: God, Son, Savior. Another reason this particular symbol was chosen was because of the Savior's words to His disciples: "And He saith unto them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" (Mat 4:19)
The primary purpose of the Church on earth is to work for the salvation of others. The second "great commandment" our Messiah gave us was to love others as we love ourselves, and if we do this, the commission will be taken to heart: "And he said unto them, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.'" (Mark 16:15)
The first two steps in our Christian walk are this - to accept the Sacrifice on our behalf and be converted, and then to understand our great responsibility, as a part of Salvation's plan to the rest of the earth. We may be in the process of liberation from the captivity of sin, but there are many, many others who have yet to approach even the Sheep Gate. As the love of Christ for all men burns brightly in the heart of true believers, we understand that our purpose is not to be taken lightly :)
Here is the third gate: "Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof." (Neh 3:6)
Now, what's the Old Gate? In a diagram of Jerusalem above, one will notice that the first two gates are on the same side (the North) of the city, but when one turns a sharp corner, he encouters the Old Gate, also called the Middle Gate. I've seen this gate interpreted to mean two different things, and I'll mention them both - because I think they are both valid.
Firstly, there is the exhortation in Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord, 'Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.' But they said, We will not walk therein." (Jer 6:16)
The "Old Way" is called the good way, in the sense that the things Yahweh has revealed to us in the past are useful ways to find out who He is now, since, as the Scriptures say, He never changes. Here is an example of that point. Do you all remember the walk the two disciples took to Emmaus after the crucifixion? We find this interesting story: "And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him." (Luke 24:15,16) But why would He do this, disguise himself? Anyone ever considered that?
Well, I think the Bible explains Itself, as It tends to do :) Reading on, the disciples explain to Christ why they are upset, that their Messiah has just been put to death. He then replied, though: "'Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?' And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24:26,27)
But couldn't He have just said, "Here I am?" Why go through the trouble? I think it's because He didn't want their faith to be based on miracles. Remember what He said later to Thomas, who wouldn't believe unless he saw with his own eyes? "Jesus saith unto him, 'Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.'" (John 20:29)
He would much rather our faith, our intelligent service, be based upon what is already written, because remember, this is how He Himself resisted the temptations in the wilderness. "It is written," He would begin His defense. So it is to be also with us. Seek the old ways, study the Scriptures, and you'll be equipped to do the "fisherman's work" to which you are called.
Here is the second, and I think equally valid, point about the Old Gate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Cor 5:7,8)
Again, when one is converted: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom 6:6)
In order to carry out our mission, to take the Gospel to others, we ourselves must be living up to the light we have, for our Messiah said, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Mat 7:5)
Our parallel bears that out, for: "And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah." (Neh 3:10) We find statements like this all through chapter 3... maybe you've noticed it... repairs often began right near to the rebuilders' own houses.
We have done three gates and 7 more to go, so unfortunately we can't tarry too long near any single gate, although as you can see, there's a wonderful story to be told at each! Maybe if we had a couple more hours, rather than just one, we could begin to get a good picture of all this, but I do encourage you to use this brief meeting as a basis for looking into this matter for your own edification.
Okay, so moving on to gates 4 and 5. Looking at the diagram, you'll notice there's a long distance between the Old Gate and the next two gates, which are mentioned in quick succession: "The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate. But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof." (Neh 3:13,14)
The Valley Gate, true to it's name, opened unto a very low place. These are the trials we go through, in order to produce humility, which is necessary to complete the work - both in our own characters, and so that we can be examples to others. It is written: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4) And Peter also writes of this, that the "fiery trial" we now undergo produces faith that shines as gold tried in those very flames.
And this connects perfectly to the Dung (Refuse) Gate which is repaired right afterwards. By going through our "valleys," we find out the "old leaven," the defects of our character, that are to be put away and burned. The Dung Gate opened up unto the Himmon Valley. In the time of Christ, it was known as Gehenna; and this is a site that the Messiah uses as a parable of the destruction of both sin and sinners in the Holy Fire of the last days, that eternal flame that cannot be extinguished. "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." (Mark 9:47) The word He uses there for hell is Gehenna. The Dung Gate, or Rubbish Gate, therefore, represents the actual putting away of faults as we continue our sanctified walk with Christ. It is not surprising that it comes so close behind the trials which reveal those defects.
Now, here is an interesting thing... going back to the diagram, we find the sharpest turn in the wall. Just after the Dung Gate, you turn more than 90 degrees, and you find this gate, which was repaired next: "But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David." (Neh 3:15)
The Fountain Gate, so named because it was near a large fountain, represents the Holy Spirit's influence in our lives. It is the source of our strength, the very fountain of our salvation, for it is written in the prophecies that after Christ's death: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." (Zec 13:1)
In parables, Christ also said of those who believed in Him and received the Holy Spirit: "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38)
In order to pass our trials, and to remain steadfast despite temptations and difficulties, we need to recognize the source of our strength, the Spirit that the Father and Son send to us, and by doing so, we ourselves become sources of encouragement for others.
In the same vein, we come to the seventh gate: "Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out." (Neh 3:26)
Now this, the "original" WaterGate, was a conduit out of the city for the river, Jerusalem's water supply. It was also, according to archaeologists, the entrance to the king's palace. How do we interpret this? "Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" (John 3:5)
The Spirit, we saw, was the source of our living waters, and both finding and remaining with the source provide us an entrance to the "Kingdom of God," or the Palace, as the gate represents. After coming through our trials, and patience has been produced in us, as James says, and our faith shines after being refined in fire, as Peter writes, will we not have a much greater understanding of the Spirit and nature of our Heavenly Father?
This gate, I believe, represents a deepening relationship on the part of the believer with the Savior. And notice from the verse that this gate is "toward the east." That represents the beginning of something that will be made manifest two gates from now.
So moving on: "From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house." (Neh 3:28)
Horses in Scripture represent both warfare and angels. The prophecies of Zechariah, and John in the Revelation point this out: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war." (Rev 19:11)
What we see, then, is that after all these things we have been through, we are equipped to be mature soliders of Christ, ready for the spiritual warfare. Even as Paul speaks of the divine armor he says: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph 6:12)
Now, we have not gone on to "another" commission, forgetting the early gates, that our true purpose is to be fishers of men, but as we come to understand our place in Christ we see that standing for Him against the darkness of the corrupt world can be a battle indeed :)
But we are not without hope. Here is the next gate: "After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate." (Neh 3:29)
The East Gate... that means what? "Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. It is for the Prince; the Prince, He shall sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same." (Ezek 44:1,3) "And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east." (Ezek 43:4)
The East Gate represents the return of Christ, or at least the hope and glory thereof, for He Himself said, "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Mat 24:27)
This is our hope, and as we draw closer and closer to Him in love, we look forward more and more to His return. This is our hope in the darkness of this world, for He said: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:3)
Okay, one last gate, and this is it: "After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner." (Neh 3:31)
The Miphkad Gate. The word Miphkad means "Command." It also means, "Inspection," or "The Appointed Place." This is probably the gate through which Christ was led for His crucifixion, since the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane and Golgotha were toward the east and closest to this exit. It was, historically, the place were people would come when there was a census, or a gathering. It was the place to "stand up and be counted." It is at this place, just before His return, that we stand.
We are "inspected," for Paul wrote that Christ gave Himself for us (through that gate): "That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph 5:27)
In another place he writes: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor 5:10) It's written: "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after." (1 Tim 5:24)
We can either ask Christ to judge us in this life, that is... to point out by His Spirit the flaws in our lives so we may put them away, enabling us to stand unashamed at His coming, or we can be judged after death. That... isn't such a good idea :) We have the opportunity now to confess sins, to put them away... because I sure wouldn't want any following me to judgment. Our walk is maintained in all these phases by a willingness to listen, and to obey. With the faith and trust of a little child, we put our security into the hands of our Savior, and we may rejoice thereafer in the victory that is given to us even before His actual return.
The last verse in the chapter reads thus: "And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants." (Neh 3:32)
The Sheep Gate is mentioned again. Our walk begun by accepting Christ, and will end also with the Lamb, at His return. Just like the walls, we come completely around, and in a sense are right back where we started. But the journey itself is where the value lies, because we walk from acceptance of Christ, to receiving the great commission. From there, we go on to both finding out who our Father in Heaven is, and putting away our "old selves." To facilitate this, we must go through low times in the "valleys" of our lives, and by doing so we discover the rubbish that must be burned so we can be clean.
Directly following this, we have a sharp turn to the Gates of Fountain and Water, representing the Holy Spirit's influence, leading to a deeper walk with our Lord. After this, we are equipped for spiritual warfare, and as we await His soon return, we walk circumspectly, keeping our eyes ever fixed on the Lamb by whom we began our journey.
We are about out of time, but I hope this study has given you all a good example of some of the symbolism in the Old Testament, and how it applies to both the New and our own lives. May the Father bless us as we continue to learn of His ways, that we may walk joyfully in them. If anyone has questions or comments, we can talk about them, and please email me if you'd like this transcript with a diagram of the gates that I found on a website somewhere... but let's close our official time first. Shall we pray?