Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Gates

I can remember when the Word of God started to get especially tasty to me.  I was in college, going through Beth Moore's bible study on the tabernacle.  Everything in the old testament tabernacle pointed to Jesus.  Jesus who hadn't even been born yet on earth.  I was floored.  I came to realize that the whole purpose of everything that God does is to point to the glory of His Son, the Messiah. 

The Old Testament became a treasure hunt as the Holy Spirit showed me more and more things that pointed to Jesus as Messiah.  I am still floored that there are so many Jews who are ingrained with the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) and yet don't have the eyes to see that Jesus is the Way.  But God's ways are not our ways and I believe He is going to open their eyes to the truth perhaps very soon.

While in Florida, I was hit upside the head with Hebrews 13:12.  It basically says that Jesus died outside of the city gates.  It broke my heart.  I felt like I needed to understand the gates a little more to understand why I was so saddened by this.

In the book of Nehemiah, we find Jerusalem destroyed.  The walls are all down.  The gates have been burned with fire.  It breaks Nehemiah's heart.  I haven't researched this, but to me, Nehemiah is a bit of a Christ figure.  He is cupbearer to the King.  He samples the wine so that the King doesn't have to partake of any poison.  Jesus is my cupbearer.  He drinks the cup of wrath for me so that I don't have to.  I can be ushered into royalty and live without the effects of sinful poison.

Nehemiah has a heart for restoration.  So does Jesus.  In fact, he laid down his very life so that we might be restored to the Father. 

So, what are all these gates about, anyway?  Do they have any significance?  Could they possibly point to Christ?  After all, in John 10:6-7, Jesus tells everyone that HE is the gate for the sheep.  Once we enter that gate, could all the other gates possibly resemble our walk with Christ?

The gates were entrances into the city.  Think of more of a walled city/fortress like environment.  The gates were the way into the protection of that home.

1.  The Sheep Gate
The first gate mentioned in Nehemiah is the Sheep Gate.  We can apply the "law of first mention" and realize that it must have some significance in being mentioned first.  It is a beautiful thing!  This is the gate where the sheep's blood was brought in for the sacrifice.  The High Priest of the day...well his name was Eliashib and he was in charge of building this gate. His name literally means "God restores" and that makes me smile all over myself.  Under the New Covenant, we know that Jesus is OUR High Priest and He has come to bring restoration. 

Jesus is our Lamb (sheep) of God and His sacrificial death brings redemption and restoration.  There is no life without this first gate. 

2.  The Fish Gate
The second gate mentioned is the fish gate.  Fishermen brought their fish through this gate to sell to the masses.  Spiritually for us, now that the gospel (good news) is possible thanks to the sacrificial Lamb, we are to be fishers of men.  This gate points to evangelism.

3.  The Old Gate
The third gate is the old gate.  Spiritually, it is the death of the old man and the crucifixion of our own wills and flesh.  Really, we can't enter into the next gate until this occurs.

4.  The Valley Gate
The fourth gate is the valley gate.  This gate describes out the wandering experiences of the followers of Jesus.  I guess a more spiritual term would be sanctification.

5.  The Dung Gate
The fifth gate is the dung gate.  It is where all of the trash was taken out of the city (Jerusalem.)  It was taken to a place called Hinnom, where it was burnt.  For us, the sin that becomes rank and smelly must be taken out of our hearts and put away forever.  This can definitely be a process, we must die piece by piece and sin by sin.

6.  The Fountain Gate
The sixth gate is the fountain gate.  It was located near the pool of Siloam where water flows.  Many people washed  (took their Mikveh bath) here before entering the temple.  For us, the fountain gate represents the Holy Spirit. 

7.  The Water Gate
The seventh gate is the water gate.  It represents practical life in the Holy Spirit.  God can wash us clean with His word as the Holy Spirit makes his word come alive.

8.  The Horse Gate
The eighth gate is the horse gate.  It was located next to the horse stables.  Horses in that day were used in wars against enemies.  For us, this gate represents spiritual warfare and the battle that we are always a part of.

9.  The East Gate
The ninth gate is the east gate.  It represents where Jesus arrives.  You may have heard it called the "beautiful gate" in the New Testament.  This gate shows off the glory of the Lord and points to the second coming.

10.  The Gate Miphkad
The tenth gate is the gate miphkad.  The word "miphkad" means an appointed place or a census.  For us, we can meet with God in the appointed place and ask what His will is for us...why He chose to redeem us?

11.  The Inspection Gate
This gate points to the Bema Seat...where we will be judged/rewarded  for our acts.  Not judged for our souls...the sheep gate took care of that, but judged for our acts after redemption.  We should live this this gate in mind as we go through our days.

{Here is where things get fuzzy for me.  Some say there isn't an inspection gate, but replace it with "The Gate of Ephraim" which would mean a double portion and would point to both Jews and Gentiles entering into the gate.  Still, others add "The Prison Gate" which signifies us being a slave to the Lord Jesus, our Master.  It sums up the epitome of our experiences with Jesus.  Personally, I think there may have been 12 gates, simply because there will be 12 gates in the New Jerusalem.  You can see these in Revelation 21:12,13, 21, and 25.}

Anyway, here is one possible drawing/interpretation:
I find it interesting that the Dung Gate is as far away from the temple as possible.  Sin will definitely mar us from His presence.

So, what do we do with all of this?  I want to shout because something else in scripture points to our Jesus, our only hope.  I think the gates can also reflect our spiritual journey and progression.  In a way, they can be similar to our growth in faith.  The gates can represent our praise and worship to God!

Back to Hebrews 13:12 "In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp.  The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice  for sin.  It's the same with Jesus.  He was crucified outside the city gates, that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God's altar to cleanse his people."

This saddened me because it didn't seem fair that the King of Kings couldn't even die within his city.  I felt like the Jews and Romans were saying he wasn't good enough.  But, then I read Deuteronomy 16:5 and it tied it all together:  "Thou mayest NOT sacrifice the passover within any of the gates..."  Jesus died outside the gates because he was the ultimate and final passover lamb.  It simply had to happen this way to fulfill scripture.  And that brings peace to my heart.

After Hebrews 13:12, some hard words come.  Jesus tells us, those who have been redeemed by His blood, to go to him outside the camp.  "So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is--not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus.  This "insider world" is not our home.  We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come.  Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out the sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name."  (Hebrews 13:13-15 in the Message)

Those are tough words and I think that the words "privileged insiders" can reflect the American church as a whole.  We thank Jesus that we are forgiven and then go to our insider church and certainly don't offer up praises that are sacrificial.  Because just as I told my boys at breakfast, a sacrificial praise would be one that we offer up when we don't like what God is doing, or things are uncomfortable, or He gives us what we don't like.  In those times, we tend to write God off, certainly not praise Him.

I am getting preachy, so I am going to stop.  Just want you to know that I am guilty as any.  Praying God will show me what it means to go outside the camp, especially since I have access into the Kingdom thanks to the only Gate.

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