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Swing Wide the Gates, pt. 1

Nehemiah 3

see part 2


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The walls of Jerusalem stood for something.  They were more than just protection.  They stood for the glory of God.  Unbelievers of that day looked at the broken down walls and would mock believers.  The ruins of the walls became a reproach upon the name of God.  But God raised up Nehemiah to do something about it.


In chapter 3 the actual construction begins.  Thru delegation Nehemiah practiced superior organization.  The workers were an example of splendid cooperation.  Everyone got involved and did their part.  Now here's the spiritual application...we'll call it Spiritual Illumination.


The wall had 12 gates which were spaced around the city.  10 of them are mentioned in our text.  And their names have deep spiritual meaning.  We won't overly spiritualize here other than to look at the literal truths that pop right off the page, placed there by God I believe.


1.     The sheep gate.

v. 1  Thru this gate they would bring the sacrificial animals to be laid on the altar in the temple.  The priests would use this gate.  It was the only gate that was 'sanctified.'


This gate reminds us of Jesus, the Lamb of God.  It all begins and ends with Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world Who will bear His scars for eternity future in heaven.


Jesus was a special Lamb.  Without flaw or blemish.  We serve a sinless Savior.


Jesus was a silent Lamb.  Is. 53 says he would open not His mouth in self defense. 

Matthew 27:12-14 [Pilate]
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Luke 23:9-10 [Herod]
9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

Why did it have to be this way?  Any of us would have presented our defense.  Especially since they had it all wrong.  Jesus remained silent in order to FULLY bear our shame.  Jesus not only took the punishment of our sins, but also the shame and reproach that goes with them.  If Jesus had defended Himself, His defense would have been so potent no one could have stood against it.  And even if they had then killed Him out of hatred, He wouldn't have suffered the shame and guilt as if He were guilty.  Was there guilt in Him?  Yes.  Ours!  Even though He was sinless, He was willing to be counted as a sinner before man so that we could be counted as righteous before God.


No wonder that old rugged cross is the emblem of suffering and shame!  He suffered our shame in silence.


ill.--a Christian man who worked in a slaughterhouse told of his experiences as the one who had to put a bullet into the head of the cattle as they came to his station.  He said they came to him so noisily, mooing, snorting, and loudly complaining about their captivity, and he never had a problem w/ his job of silencing those brute, noisy beasts.  Then one day they brought in a truckload of lambs and asked him to slaughter them.  He said they brought him the first one who stood there and looked at him with big eyes.  He was instructed to slit the throats of these lambs rather than shoot them.  It felt different than before, but reluctantly he reached down and slit its throat, and it just looked at him as it began to bleed to death.  It laid its head on his arm and began to lick the blood off of it.  He said, "I was done.  I laid down my knife and never went back."  He said it reminded him so eerily of that verse which said of Jesus, "He stood silent before His accusers."


It's no accident that Jesus is compared to a lamb.  They did not drag Him to the cross, kicking and screaming, He willingly laid down His life.


A special lamb, a silent lamb...


Jesus was a slain Lamb. 

ill.--a single man took in an orphan boy and sought to adopt him.  One night the house caught fire and the boy was caught upstairs.  The man escaped outside, but heard the boys cries from above.  With no regard for himself, he climbed a burning hot downspout and rescued him.  The result was that his hands were badly burned.  The adoption process continued, but the state took him to court stating that as a single man he couldn't win their approval, and that a couple should be found for the adoption.  DCFS made their arguments against him, and he just silently listened.  Now it was his turn to speak.  They asked him why he thought he should retain custody.  He said not a word, but just simply raised his hands for all to see.  Quiet gasps were heard from many, and the man sat down.  The judge awarded him the child.


Even in His glorified body Jesus retains His scars.  The disciples saw the nail prints after His resurrection, and we will see them in heaven.  But why retain the scars?  We won't have ours any more.  I believe those scars will be an eternal reminder to us in heaven of just how we got there, and how much we are loved.


No wonder the sheep gate is mentioned first.  It's all because of Jesus!

Mary had the little Lamb, who lived before His birth;
Self-existent Son of God, from Heaven He came to Earth.
(Micah 5:2)
Mary had the little Lamb; see Him in yonder stall –
Virgin-born Son of God, to save man from the fall.
(Isaiah 7:14)

Mary had the little Lamb, obedient Son of God;
Everywhere the Father led, His feet were sure to trod.
(John 6:38)
Mary had the little Lamb, crucified on the tree.
The rejected Son of God, He died to set men free.
(1 Peter 1:18)

Mary had the little Lamb — men placed Him in the grave.
Thinking they were done with Him; to death He was no slave!
(Matt. 28:6)
Mary had the little Lamb, ascended now is He;
All work on Earth is ended, our Advocate to be.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)

Mary had the little Lamb — mystery to behold!
From the Lamb of Calvary, a Lion will unfold.
(Revelation 5: 5, 6)
When the Day Star comes again, of this be very sure:
It won’t be Lamb-like silence, but with the Lion’s roar.
(Ps 2:12, Rev 19:9-16)

Jesus came the first time as a silent lamb to the slaughter, but He's coming back as the Lion of the tribe of Judah!

He came the first time for a tree, but next time for a throne!

He came the first time for a cross, but next time for a crown!

He came the first time as a Redeemer, but next time as a ruler!


Swing wide the gate!


2.     The fish gate.

v. 3  It was located to the west of the sheep gate, and was one of the main entrances to the city.  Thru this gate the fishermen would bring their catch from the Mediterranean.  What does this remind us of?  Soul winning!


Jesus said to follow Him and He would make us fishers of men.  Do you know what that means?  We have no right to call ourselves His follower if we aren't fishing for men!


When is the last time you walked thru the fish gate?  When did you last bring a soul into the boat which you went out and caught? 


The Bible has a word for those dying w/out Christ.  It is LOST.

2 Corinthians 4:3
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

Matthew 15:24
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Luke 15:6
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

Luke 19:10
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

What does it mean to die lost?  To die without God, without hope, and to be cast forever into the lake of fire! 


Charles Spurgeon,

" is another and a higher miracle to make us who were fish to become fishers—to make the saved ones saviours—to make the convert into a converter—the receiver of the gospel into an imparter of that same gospel to other people. I think I may say to every person whom I am addressing—If you are saved yourself, the work is but half done until you are employed to bring others to Christ. You are as yet but half formed in the image of your Lord. You have not attained to the full development of the Christ-life in you unless you have commenced in some feeble way to tell to others of the grace of God: and I trust that you will find no rest to the sole of your foot till you have been the means of leading many to that blessed Savior who is your confidence and your hope. If Christ has caught us, we must catch others. Let us ask him to give us grace to go a-fishing, and so to cast our nets that we may take a great multitude of fishes. Oh that the Holy Ghost may raise up from among us some master-fishers, who shall sail their boats in many a sea, and surround great shoals of fish!


We need to walk out these doors today like they were the fish gate, and beyond is a great sea of people who need to get hooked on Jesus!


ill.--China Missionary great J. Hudson Taylor told of one of his converts whom he took on a voyage to England on a very large vessel.  They had just set out to sea when the man fell overboard.  It was impossible for them to retrieve him onto the huge ship, but a small fishing boat was nearby.  Taylor began screaming at the men to help his drowning friend.  But they were unloading their nets of fish they had just pulled in...they said to wait and they would come over.  He shouted all the more about the urgency saying, "You must hurry, he's just a grab away!"  They waited until they had every single fish into their boat, then they rowed over but it was too late, he was already gone.  Taylor said, today when I think of those fishermen I think how evil and selfish and complacent they were, but really, we're no different.  Jesus has commanded us to be fishers of men, but we aren't, we're too busy dragging other things into our boat.  Possessions, sports, pleasures, vacations and the like.  We are so concerned w/ the things of this life that we are letting people drown all around us, and they are only a grab away.  And they will drown not in an ocean, but in the lake of fire.


Are you using the fish gate?  Swing wide the gate! [review and preview slide]


3.     The old gate. 

v. 6  There is a paradox associated with this gate.  It was located in the NW corner of the city, the section of the city called the Mishnah, or new quarter. 


So, the old gate led to the new quarter.  This reminds us of our never changing message.  We may try new methods along the way, but our old message never changes.  We need to swing wide the old gate.


We need to swing wide the old gate that man is born a sinner.  Many today reject this truth.  Call me sick, but not a sinner.  Call me behaviorally challenged, but not a sinner.  The humanist and evolutionist say, we're not sinners, just underdeveloped.  The geneticist says, we're not sinful, we just have bad genes.  The sociologist says, we're not sinful, just products of our environment.  The educator says we're not sinful, just ignorant.  We just need to learn.  So we give our prisoners college courses and now instead of petty theft they know how to embezzle from their new company, because if you don't have a heart change, nothing you do to the head matters.


Our problem is sin.  The heart of the problem is the human heart.  And we can't change this message just because many today don't like it.  I'm glad that I was raised in a church that didn't tell me how good I am but how bad I am, and that I don't just need a boost from beneath but a birth from above!


No one can visit Mt. Calvary until they have first visited Mt. Sinai.  It was there the 10 commandments were given, and we all break them, and you cannot be saved until you realize you are a sinner! 


Swing wide the old gate!


How about this one?  Sinners deserve hell!

March 25, 1991, U. S. News and World Report ran an article on heaven and hell.  A lady 'reverend' said, "My parishoners are upper middle class, well educated, and view God as compassionate and loving, not as someone who is going to push them into eternal damnation."  She's saying, we're too smart for hell, and too educated to believe in it.  And that's the majority opinion in most pulpits today!


Swing wide the gate!


I don't like to talk about hell anymore than the next guy, and I take no joy in thinking of people going there...not even my worst enemy.  But I must talk about it because Jesus did!


People say it is a cruel doctrine to teach.  They say we need to be more about kindness than cruelty.  But is it cruel to tell a man the truth?  Is it cruel to arouse sleeping people if their house is on fire?  Is it cruel to jerk a blind man away from a rattlesnake?  Is it cruel to declare unto people the deadliness of their disease and instruct them in what medicine to take?  I would rather be called cruel for being kind than to be called kind for being cruel.  Swing wide the gate!


Man is born a sinner, and sinners deserve hell...


Here's one more:  Jesus is the answer!  Swing wide the gate!


THE answer.  Not just AN answer.  He is the ONLY way!  This is now considered 'hate speech' in many places.  It is now politically incorrect to say Jesus is the only way to heaven.  The president says there are many ways to heaven.  And we are intolerant if we believe otherwise.


Jesus. It’s a little name. A small word.

Say this little name in public, however, in a way other than an obscenity, and stand back and watch the fireworks.

This little name is like a tiny detonator that triggers a nuclear warhead.

You can say "God," and you won’t get a squeak.

You can say "Our Father/Mother in Heaven," and few will flinch.

You can say "Great Spirit," and people will nod in approval.

You can say "Allah" and you will be deemed tolerant.

But say "Jesus" and just wait for the sonic boom.

Articles will appear in the paper. Reprimands will be posted from the home office. Suits will be threatened by the civil liberties block.


So don’t say Jesus.

Jesus is divisive, and now is a time for unity.

Jesus is an extremist, and that must mean right wing.

Jesus is exclusive, so His name amounts to hate speech.

Keep His name to yourself. Cloister it in your church. Lock it in your prayer closet. Close it between the covers of your Bible. But for God’s sake, don’t voice it in the public square!

It’s immodest. It’s immoral. It’s unloving.


Only one problem. Jesus is God.

Only one problem. Jesus alone brings salvation.

Only one problem. All other gods are nothing.


So speak His name aloud.

Shout it from the mountain.

Whisper it in the dark.

Write it in the sky.


That’s not hate, it’s hope.  Swing wide the gate!


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Swing Wide the Gates, pt. 2

Nehemiah 3



The work has already started.  There, I said a dirty, four letter word.  I like work.  I can sit and watch it for hours!


But these people on the wall worked and worked hard.  And the key to success today is still hard work.  Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.


The founder of Holiday Inn, a Christian, said his father told him to be a success you just have to work half a day.  Does that sound right?  His dad went on to say, it can be the first 12 hours or the last!


Nehemiah 4:6
6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

We have seen the symbolism and rich meaning behind the first 3 gates of Jerusalem's 12 gates.  The sheep gate reminded us of Jesus, the Lamb of God.  The fish gate speaks of soul winning, being fishers of men.  The old gate led to the new quarter and in irony we remember that the old message never changes, though methods may change. 


4.     The valley gate.

v. 13        It opened to a low place, the valley of Hinnom.  Every believer needs this gate, which speaks of humility. 

1 Peter 5:5-6
5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

God resists us or pushes us away when we live in pride, but when in humility His grace comes rushing into our lives.  God hates pride.  It is a most deceitful sin, well hidden to the person who lives in it. 


Pride is an attitude of independence from God / self sufficiency.  Here's 6 symptoms of pride.  Take this quiz.  Should you be diagnosed w/ pride based on these symptoms?


·       Becoming irritated when corrected.  This person is defensive and cannot accept that they could be wrong or that someone else could know something that they don't.

ill.--2 preachers stood on a road holding signs that said, The End is Near!  A driver screeched to a stop and angrily said, "You religious fanatics, why don't you get a life!"  A few minutes later the man came walking back in the other direction, soaking wet.  He didn't even look their way.  After he had passed one preacher said to the other, "You think we should change our signs to "Bridge Out Ahead"?


Know anyone who just can't take advice?  It's a symptom of pride.  Go thru the valley gate.


·       Taking credit for things you don't control.  For example, do you have a high IQ?  If so, you were born with that and shouldn't look down your nose at morons.  Have talents or good looks?  There's no cause to be proud of that, you had nothing to do with it.

ill.--a woman asked the pastor for counseling.  She said it was her besetting sin, that she has noticed she is the most beautiful woman in the church, and can't help but notice that no other ladies can even hold a candle to her beauty.  "What can I do about this sin?"  He replied, "Oh dear lady, that's not a sin...just a mistake!"


Spurgeon said, "Be not proud of race, face, place, or grace."  It's ok to be thankful for advantages you have, but not prideful.


·       Making excuses.  This person always has a reason or explanation why it really isn't true or isn't their fault.

·       Not seeking counsel.  To not ask advice is a symptom of pride.

ill.--in the 50s an airplane flew over Alaska with 6 on board.  They were in a fierce snowstorm.  The navigator thought they might be off course and contacted an airbase.  The radio controller said indeed they were hundreds of miles off course.  They gave the navigator the correct coordinates to fly by.  He said, there's no way we're off by that much, and went by his gut.  He was wrong.  They eventually ran out of fuel.  They parachuted but landed in conditions of 50 degrees below zero and all died, their bodies found 3 days later.

Proverbs 12:15
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

·       Victim's mentality.  Bitterness over something God hasn't given you, or feeling you got a raw deal is a symptom of pride.  If you feel something is owed to you is a self centered symptom of pride.  Life isn't fair, and we have no real rights.  The entitlement mindset permeates America today.  Let's remember that if we got what we deserved we would be in hell tonite!  Anything short of that is only by the grace of God.


·       Unhealthy sense of competition.  Some people have more stuff than they can afford because of pride.  They want to feel like they are in a class they are not in.

ill.--one salesman made hundreds of sales by saying, "Let me show you something your neighbors say you can't afford."

Proverbs 16:5
5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

If there was no pride there would be no devil.  Lucifer exercised pride in wanting to be like God.  It was pride that plunged the human race into sin.  Pride was the bait on the hook for Eve.  She wouldn't have done that just for a bite of juicy fruit. [not gum]  Satan said to her, take it, you'll be like God!  This means that all sin in the world was caused by pride.  Every rape, murder, theft, etc.  Pride caused it all!  We need a valley gate in our lives.  We will fight this problem all of our lives until heaven.  Pride is not dead until YOU are!

ill.--in 1958 the most famous bullfighter in Spain was named Jose, and was 21 years old.  He was the most successful, well known matador of his day.  He died on a day when he struck the bull w/ his sword, and thinking it was dead he turned his back on the bull to receive his applause.  But in an instant the bull rose and gored him thru the back, puncturing his heart. 

    The lesson?  Never turn your back on pride because as soon as you think you've got it whipped it will rise up and stab you in the back!


According to these symptoms, can you be diagnosed w/ pride?  Is there anyone who cannot?


5. The Dung Gate.

v. 14    This was where the garbage was carried out.  It led to the dump.  It may not have a nice name but it provided a very valuable service.  This reminds us of repentance.  It is important to take out the trash in our lives.

2 Corinthians 7:1
1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

What is the garbage in our lives? Galatians 5 gives us a list of the works of the flesh which we are to dispose of.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:

I'm always amazed at how much literal garbage we make at our house.  Every week we carry in 5 sacks of groceries and carry out 10 sacks of garbage!  And if not careful, the devil will cause our lives to stack up w/ a bunch of trash!  It's hoarding of the worst kind!


Gal. 5 gives us a list of 17 works of the flesh, a catalog of corruption.  This is the garbage God wants out, and the only exit is the dung gate. 


The first 4 are sexual sins.  Adultery is sex outside of marriage.  Fornication is premarital sex.  Uncleanness is a dirty thought life, porn, movie channels, etc.  Lasciviousness means no sense of shame, no sense of disgrace.  Much of TV today falls in the Jerry Springer category and we can't look away...everyone likes to watch a train wreck but it doesn't deserve our attention. 


What do we say to these sexual sins?  Today most say, well, everyone's doing it, but the Bible says 'follow not a multitude to do evil.'  Even Christians justify pumping the movie channels into their homes, claiming they can control it, but the Bible says not to make any provision for the flesh.


Idolatry is anything you put before God.  Witchcraft [farmacia] is the idea of drugs.  V. 20 continues w/ all kinds of internal sins and unhealthy emotional feelings and false beliefs.  Notice that drunkenness is mentioned as a sin, not a disease.  Revellings is the party scene.


God says to take out the garbage!


6. The fountain gate.

v. 15  It was located near the Gihon spring.  This fed the water system of the entire city.  Water for drinking is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

John 7:37-39
37 ...Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Notice the progression.  The valley gate stood for humility.  The dung gate is repentance.  Now the fountain gate, which is Spirit fullness.  We must humble ourselves, repent, and then we can be filled w/ the Spirit!  You can't fill something that's already full of something else.


ill.--you can't force a baby to eat.  If they are full you can't get the spoon past those iron lips.  You can't sneak it in, they'll turn at the last second and get it in the ear.  And the Holy Spirit of God won't force Himself on baby Christians.  Only those who are hungry for it will ever experience it.

    The Bible says open your mouth and I will fill it.  I want to be like a little bird in the nest w/ mouth open wide for my Heavenly Father.


[review and preview slide -- last 4 gates next time!]


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