Scripture – Nehemiah 3:1-12 (NASB)

Builders of the Walls

Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. 2 Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.  3 Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4 Next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana also made repairs. 5 Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.  6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars. 7 Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River. 8 Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of Furnaces. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.

Engaging the Word

The Foundation

As we look at this passage it is easy to see to get overwhelmed by the names and on goings of what is happening here.  In fact, if we look at just this chapter it is almost easy to assume that all the work is done by the end of it.  However as we will discover in the weeks to come, repairing the walls of our hearts is not just about repairing the defenses of our hearts.  So today because this chapter can become somewhat overwhelming we are going to begin the process of breaking this chapter down into some spiritually chewable chunks.  So let’s begin by looking at the first verse of the chapter.  “Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel”  As we can see here the first individual who is brought into the fray of restoring God’s promise is the high priest who rises with his brothers to rebuild the Sheep Gate.  And before any of the other rebuilding occurs throughout the remainder of this chapter there is a consecration to our Lord that is required.  This consecration is brought about to recognize something as special, as uniquely set apart for God’s glory and service. These city gates were made to be set apart to our Lord. Nehemiah and Eliashib knew that God wanted everything set apart, including these city walls and gates.  It wasn’t just about the temple of God but it was also about the outer gates of Jerusalem that provided access to temple or heart of God.  This was a way for Nehemiah and Eliashib to make a statement that all of Jerusalem and all of the work that was about to begin at the hands of the people was specially set apart to God.  This is important amongst the people of Israel because it provided a foundation that for anything to exist as glory to God’s goodness it needs to be built upon the foundation of God’s grace and goodness.

Within are two lessons for each one of us as believers, firstly that for any goodness and grace to exist within the glory that is the Jerusalem of our lives, it has to exist upon the foundation that is Jesus Christ.  It cannot exist upon the good works of our lives.  It cannot exist upon the rituals of our upbringings.  Although they may be good as they have been for me, the goodness of our upbringings are only there because of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing in this life that exists in goodness without the foundation that is Jesus Christ.  Secondly, as evidence in this passage it was not just about the temple of Jerusalem that was founded at the center of Jerusalem, it was just as much about the gates the fortified the entrances that permitted entrance to the heart of Jerusalem.  God’s glory is revealed not just in the temple but in all aspects of God’s creation.   Sometimes we feel that it is only about being spiritual on Sunday mornings, or only taking care of certain aspects of our spiritual lives.  Whether it is our prayer life, or our reading of scriptures, or our appearance of seeming spiritual, or our ability to recite scripture.  Rather it is about every aspect of our lives.

The Gates of our Substance

So why is this passage of scripture important to us today?  This morning, let’s take a moment to consider the significance of the gates within this passage of scripture.  Quite honestly Ezra could have just mentioned the gate to the east or the gate to the west, or just a gate, but instead he pointedly called the name of the gate by which if found its significance.  So for a moment, let’s look at all the different types of gates found within this chapter.

The Sheep Gate – The Gate of Salvation

V2 – We the priests were found to be rebuilding the Sheep Gate.  This sheep gate represented the gate to which sheep from outside the city were brought into the city so that they might be used for sacrifice unto God and provision to the people of God.  The Sheep Gate is a representation of the salvation that our Lord provides when we sacrifice our will to the grace and promise that is Jesus Christ. They were a representation of the salvation that God has given us, that it is only by grace that we have been saved and not we ourselves as the scripture tells us.  It is an illustration to each of us as believers, that we cannot expect the walls of our spiritual lives to be rebuild with the acceptance of the saving grace that is Jesus Christ.

The Fish Gate – The Gate of Building

V3 – We see the sons of Hassenaah were found to be rebuilding the Fish Gate.  The Fish Gate was found just west of the Sheep Gate, and was the location where there existed a fish market.  As I considered this gate, I remembered that each of us are to be called fishers of men and that we are to go out into all the world so that they might know that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The Sheep Gate is a representation of the hope that our Lord provides through his people when all attain the unity of faith and the knowledge that is Jesus Christ. Notice that this comes directly after the sheep gate and that there is no theological gate, or no Christianese language gate, but that there is salvation and then there is our mission as believers, to go and make disciples of all nations.  Secondly it is critical to understand here that the word built here in verse 3 is actual aligns with Ephesians 4:11 where Paul writes “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”.  Note that the scripture calls us to build until we all attain the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God.   God tells us that we are called to equip the saints, the concept of equipping is to prepare, strengthen, and make something able to be used. We come together as Christians to strengthen one another, to make us strong and able to live for Jesus until all attain the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

The Old Gate – The Gate of Renewal

V6 – We see that Joiada and Meshullam were found to be repairing the Old Gate.  Commentaries  and theologians do not agree as to why this gate is referred to as the “Old Gate”. Some argue that this is the “gate of the old town”, in other words this is like going into old Sac as one enters under the I5 underpass. Others theorize that this is called the Old Gate because it belonged to the ancient city of Salem that was first built by Melchizedek.  However we interpret this Old Gate, it speaks two important messages to us this morning.  The Old Gate speaks to the old ways of truth.  The Old Gate is a representation of the promise that our Lord provides in the Old Truth that is revealed in the person that is Jesus Christ.  That when we have experience the salvation in our lives, and we walk through the fish gates of our lives to share our new found life with those who need Jesus Christ, we often times experience trials.  It is in these moments that each of us in our new faith are called to experience the old ways of truth that God has laid before us.  It is in returning to these old ways of truth that we will experience renewal and strength and more importantly truth in these moments.  It is for this reason that our Lord tells us in Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls”.  Today, if you have found yourself torn down by the trials of our life, our Lord desires for you to find rest for your soul, but the only way you can find rest is by walking in the ancient paths that he has set before us.

Conclusion

Today we have had the honor and privilege read and engage our Lord’s word in a new way.  We have seen that in order for our Jerusalem to be rebuilt in our lives, we are called to experience the foundation that is the grace and forgiveness that is Jesus Christ.  That no gate or wall in our spiritual life can be rebuilt without this truth founded at the core of who we are as believers.  We have also discovered that it is not just about the core of our hearts, but that our Lord calls us to renew all the aspects or gates of our lives and that as his children as we renew and rebuild the sheep gates, the fish gates and old gates of our lives we will experience a new Jerusalem for our souls.  Next week we will continue through this chapter of Nehemiah where we will see our Lord calls us to embrace the valley and refuse gates of our souls and many more.  Our Lord desires that we experience a renewing of our souls and rebuilding of our Jerusalem and if you and I desire to see his glory revealed in the land of the living this is where we begin today.