Monday, November 25, 2013
Looking after and praying over ‘our’ gate and the people who enter through it
The Sheep Gate, one of the remaining gates in the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.
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. Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son ir Imri built.
23 After [the priests, the men of the valley] Benjamin and Hashub carried out repairs in front of their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, carried out repairs beside his house.
THIS WEEK we see Nehemiah encountering – and wisely handling – some serious opposition as he gives leadership to the repairing of the gates, and the wall sections between them. The description of the work begins and ends with the Sheep Gate which exists today, usually known as the Lions Gate because of the leopard motifs above the gate, which dates from Ottoman times roughly equivalent to our Tudor period.
The Sheep Gate at the time of Jesus was between the Pool of Bethesda and the Temple courts.
The account mentions 10 gates in the old city wall of Jerusalem. The city grew, and by New Testament times the wall had been extended twice and enclosed a much greater area. The position of the Sheep Gate remained the same, near the Pool of Bethesda, and the new construction of Herod’s temple. The relevance is that this was where the sheep market was held, but also the place where sheep came for sacrifice. The Pool of Bethesda had two sections. One was a place of healing. Next to it was the sheep dip – where the sheep were cleaned ready for sacrifice. Healing, cleansing, sheep, the Lamb of God – the imagery is rich.
The gate next to Bethesda is like a gate to come in for cleansing and healing. Many people do come to know Jesus through a healing encounter – it could be Healing on the Streets.
In verse 23 Benjamin, Hashub and Azariah are described as making repairs to the wall in front of or beside their houses. Our gate is where we are – people who share the same ‘space’ whether that is as neighbours or colleagues or those who share the same interests or activities. We tend to forget that the Lord has put each of us into His church for a reason, and that reason isn’t hard to find. There are certain people we are particularly gifted to reach. Watching prayerfully over our gate and ‘our’ people is our number one assignment but we are to have an eye on the other gates – other kinds of people and their ways in, and those in the fellowship who have a natural assignment to them. We are in it together, not as individuals.
This is all part of the joining up of the gates and walls – and blessing these places in consecration – that we are learning.