Last week we introduced a new character in our story of the return of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem. His name was Nehemiah, and he led a third expedition of exiles back to the holy city in or around 445 BC. Nehemiah had a desire to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, which had laid in ruins for almost 140 years since its destruction by the Babylonians.
Upon his arrival, Nehemiah went out at night and inspected the fallen wall carefully, after which he formulated a plan to rebuild it. He then shared his proposal with the exiles and recruited volunteer workers from among them to begin the construction.
In chapter 3 of his book, Nehemiah lists the various assignments given to his workers. It reads almost like a ‘program’ that you might buy at a high school football game. A sports program lists all of the team’s players by name and position. Likewise, Nehemiah lists all of his laborers by name and indicates the position or area of the wall for which they were responsible during the rebuilding.
It might be easy to overlook this chapter and move on with the rest of the story beginning in chapter 4 - after all, on the surface this passage seems pretty dry and boring. The action seemed to be heating up at the end of chapter 2, so why insert a list here? It seems to break the story’s momentum. Could there be something valuable for us hidden here?
This chapter provides readers with a detailed description of the wall around Jerusalem, starting at the Sheep Gate (v1) and traveling all the way around the city back to the starting point (v32). Along the way we find that there are 10 gates in the wall - the Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Old Gate, the Valley Gate, the Refuse/Dung Gate, the Fountain Gate, the Water Gate, The Horse Gate, The East Gate, and the Inspection Gate. These gates will be the topic of our study this morning.
I. THE SHEEP GATE (Nehemiah 3:1a)
The Sheep Gate was used to lead sheep into the city to the temple where they would be sacrificed on the altar. Therefore, it speaks to the need for a sacrifice to be made in order to attain forgiveness for sin. Jesus himself is the Sheep, our sacrificial lamb who died on the cross of Calvary that we might be forgiven of our sin and have life everlasting!
II. THE FISH GATE (Nehemiah 3:3a)
The Fish Gate was used by fisherman coming from the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, or elsewhere to bring their fish to the market. It speaks to us about evangelism, the need to share the message of Christ with others. Jesus called us to “fish for people”, by spreading the Gospel message far and wide. As we do so, many will be “caught” in His nets and receive the priceless gift of salvation.
III. THE OLD GATE (Nehemiah 3:6)
The Old Gate was one of the original gates of the city. Some scholars state that it stood during the days of Melchizedek in the ancient city of Salem (Genesis 14:18), which later became Jeru-salem. It speaks to our need to cling to the old, unchanging truths of God. We have a tendency to discard the old, preferring instead to replace it with something new. But there is no replacement for the timeless truths of God. Though His unchanging Word will endure for all eternity, it will never grow old.
IV. THE VALLEY GATE (Nehemiah 3:13a)
The Valley Gate opens to the west of the city. It was through this gate that Nehemiah began his inspection of the wall back in chapter 2. The origin of its name is uncertain. It can be assumed that a person entering the city through this gate had just passed through a valley. Life is filled with trouble - seasons of darkness and hardship. Yet as believers, we have the certainty that God is always with us. He will see us through even the most difficult days. He will walk with us, and sometimes may even carry us, through the valleys of life.
V. THE DUNG OR REFUSE GATE (Nehemiah 3:14)
The Dung or Refuse Gate opened out toward the Valley of Hinnom, the place where waste was discarded and burned. People used this gate to “take out the trash”. It reveals our need to dispose of the former sinful ways we once lived in and be truly changed by Christ. The things of this world constantly snare us in their grip, but they are rubbish. We need to rid ourselves of the sinful clutter of this life, and instead focus upon the things of God.
VI. THE FOUNTAIN GATE (Nehemiah 3:15)
The Fountain Gate was located near the Pool of Siloam on the southeast side of the city. In John chapter 9 Jesus sent a blind man there to wash and receive sight. It beckons us to consider the fountain of the Holy Spirit which lives in us. Once we accept Christ, God takes up residence in our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit. He serves us our comforter, our helper, and our guide. He becomes our source of sustenance, an ever-flowing fountain of living water.
VII. THE WATER GATE (Nehemiah 3:26)
The Water Gate opened out to the Gihon Spring, which was to the east of the city. This spring served as the main water source for Jerusalem. Spiritually speaking, it leads us to consider the water of God’s word. It is God’s word that washes our sins away, by revealing to us what Christ has done for us. We need to be in the Bible everyday, allowing it to cleanse us and sanctify us through every circumstance.
VIII. THE HORSE GATE (Nehemiah 3:28)
The Horse Gate was located near the king’s stable and overlooked the Kidron Valley. Soldiers would ride out of this gate on their way to war. Not surprisingly, this gate causes us to think of warfare and battle. As Christians, we are engaged in spiritual warfare against the Enemy. We are called to fight the good fight of faith by putting on the armor of God. In the end we will be victorious in Christ. If God is for us, who can be against us?
IX. THE EAST GATE (Nehemiah 3:29b)
The East Gate opens toward the Mount of Olives. The Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, He will enter through this gate. For this reason, nonbelievers have sealed it shut in a futile attempt to prevent the Lord’s return. This gate represents the hope we have in Christ and His second coming. When Jesus returns He will set foot upon the Mount of Olives and enter into Jerusalem via the East Gate. We have a living hope in the person of Jesus Christ. He is coming again!
X. THE INSPECTION GATE (Nehemiah 3:31)
The Inspection Gate is so named because it is here where King David would met his soldiers after they returned from battle to evaluate their condition as they entered the city. It reminds us of judgment, that one day we will all be inspected by the King. Jesus will judge all people, from the greatest to the least. Those who have trusted in Him will be saved and inherit eternal life, and those who have rejected Him will be condemned.
Next week we will continue our story as Nehemiah and the people face numerous obstacles while trying to rebuild the city’s wall. But for now, let’s close by quickly reviewing the 10 gates of Jerusalem and their application to our lives. I call it the "Gospel of the Gates".
THE SHEEP GATE - We need the salvation offered through the Lamb of God.
THE FISH GATE - We need to be fishers of men, telling others about Jesus Christ.
THE OLD GATE - We need to rely on the old, unchanging truths of God’s word.
THE VALLEY GATE - We need to walk in certainty, knowing that God is always with us.
THE REFUSE GATE - We need to abandon worldly dung, living instead for God alone.
THE FOUNTAIN GATE - We need to be led by the Spirit, drinking from the fountain of God.
THE WATER GATE - We need to read the Bible daily, continually being washed by its water.
THE HORSE GATE - We need to live victoriously, conquering our enemies by God’s power.
THE EAST GATE - We need to have hope, eagerly anticipating Christ’s coming again.
THE INSPECTION GATE - We need to act rightly, knowing that all we do will be judged.
In John chapter 10 Jesus told the people that He was the gate, the door through which a person could come into the presence God. He stated that all who came to God through Him would be saved, and that there was no other way of salvation. He further promised that all who entered through the gate - that is to say, accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior - would have abundant life both now and forever.
Have you entered the gate? In other words, have you given your life to Jesus? If not, would you go through the gate today? Would you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, to come into your heart, and to give you eternal life? I pray that you will.