“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it” (Nehemiah 3:1).
The first gate mentioned is the sheep gate. This reminds us of salvation and the work of redemption accomplished at Calvary. The Lord said, “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).It is significant that the building of this gate was overseen by the high priest, speaking to us again of the work of our High Priest, the Christ Jesus. It does not say that it had to be repaired like the other gates, as the work of Christ will never fail, never need to be repeated or added too.
Practically speaking, we learn that all other service in the Christian life begins at the Sheep Gate. That is, by becoming one of the Lord’s sheep through faith in Him, being able to say, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). Otherwise, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
This gate would also remind us of the need of shepherding. Peter was instructed by the Lord, “Shepherd My sheep” (John 21:16). Each of us can in some way carry this out in caring for our fellow sheep in the flock of God.
In the book of Nehemiah we have the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. A wall in Scripture would speak of separation from the world, reminding us of the words of the Lord Jesus, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth” (John 17:16-17). In the days of Nehemiah, Jerusalem was in ruin and the wall broken down. The lesson we learn is simply that the people were neglecting to hold fast the principle of practical separation from the world, namely the heathen peoples around them, and that we need to be exercised to walk in practical sanctification and holiness.
Many names are mentioned in regard to the building of the wall, and each had a specific work to do. This is in keeping with the verse that reminds us, “to every man his work” (Mark 13:34). As believers we all have a part to do in the maintenance of personal and collective testimony.
In connection with this work of restoration there are twelve gates, ten in chapter three, and two in chapter twelve. We will consider the practical application of these gates starting tomorrow and continuing on each third Thursday of the month.
“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
Some of us tend to talk more than others, and some of us tend to speak before we think. Often I have to apologize because I spoke too quickly, or talked out of turn. Many times we talk just for the sake of talking, and it becomes just useless and senseless babble.
The Bible has a good deal to say about our words, and the consequence of what we say. The above two verses are just a small sample of instruction and warning, but we need to take them to heart (perhaps some more than others). It is a serious thing to consider the fact that we will have to give an account of every word we speak in this life. Will what we say today be for the good of others or for their hurt? Or will what we say be just idle chatter with no point to it at all? Remember it is all being tallied in the records of heaven.
It is an understatement to say that “patience” is not one of my virtues. I always want things to happen now…instantly…immediately…without delay…without a hitch…. So it takes lots of prayer and casting myself on the Lord to see me through the day, especially days like today when things are not moving as quickly as I would like, and my plans to get things done are frustrated through circumstances I didn’t count on.
I have to keep stopping and reminding myself that the Lord has a perfect timetable, and that there are really no surprises or delays with Him.
The Spirit of the age we live in is, hurry, hurry, hurry. But let’s not be so hurried this week that we don’t have time to stop and “Consider Him” (Hebrews 12:3).
Here are two verses that have been a help to me already today:
“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
In the Old Testament, both in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the Temple later built at Jerusalem, there was never a seat provided by God for the priests. This was because, typically speaking, their work was never finished. They had to offer again and again the same sacrifices. It was an endless round of sacrificing animals over and over again, often for the same sin or offence. The Old Testament priests, the Levites, and the rest of the children of Israel understood this very clearly. When they brought a sacrifice it only atoned for that one sin, and then they had to bring another, and another, and another….
With the sacrifice of Christ it was offered once, and only once. “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). Our Priest is now seated, the work is complete, and He will never rise up again to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin.God is forever satisfied.
At the end of his life, King David said, “I go the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2). He was speaking of that which is common to all…death! His son Solomon said, “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other” (Ecclesiastes 3:19). From a natural standpoint it is true, death, as a result of sin, affects all men, as well as every level of creation.
Paul looked at things from a different perspective when he wrote, “the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). And also, “to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
Both viewpoints are true. We need to realize that when we leave this world we do not leave it as an animal, but that we have a soul that lives on in one of two places. The Lord, when here on earth told a story of two men who lived and died. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22, 23). Which would it be for you if you went “the way of all the earth” today?
I recently read a biography on the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh, the Indian Christian Missionary who was born in 1889 and is believed to have died in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929. There was an incident in his life that impressed me. It was a time when falling snow and bitter cold endangered the lives of Sadhu and his Tibetan companion as they crossed a Himalayan mountain pass. Fighting the “sleep of death” they stumbled over a man buried in snow who was half dead. The Tibetan refused to stop and help and passed on. The compassionate Sadhu shouldered the burden and, through his struggling, warmed up the unconscious man as well as himself. Sad to say, before reaching the village they found the Tibetan alone and frozen to death. In seeking to save his own life, he had lost it. The missionary’s sacrifice led to the saving of his own life and that of another.
The Bible tells us, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). Don’t forget that whatever sacrifice we make for the Lord and on behalf of others, will always have a blessing for this life as well as an eternal consequence and reward.
They are just useless scraps; little bits of glass, shards of broken tile and colored stones. By themselves you’d think they were only fit for the garbage. But in the hands of an expert artist you might see some intensely beautiful work. One artist I know uses scraps of junk to create very realistic portraits of animals, people, and beautiful seascapes and landscapes.
What scraps do we have in our lives? Not physical pieces of paper but those scraps of time—the drive or ride to school, the commute to work, the chores around the house and the break time. Do these bits of time go into bits of trivial waste, sports, news-surfing, gaming, gossip, fantasy? Or are they small and colorful gems of prayer, meditation, thanksgiving, thoughtfulness, loving expressions to others and gospel witness. In the hands of the Master they will be worked into the beautiful portrait of the Son of God and not swept into the trash pile of wood, hay and stubble. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).
The Lord Himself rose early to spend time in prayer and communion with His Father before a busy day of service. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). This is what every believer needs to do if they are going to have power and fruit in their service for Christ.
Bible verses often refer to the traits of diligence, willingness, readiness, and obedience, traits that our Lord desires to find in each of His own. Here is a nice exercise expressed on the part of David: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). He also said in Psalm 143:8, “Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto Thee” (Psalm 143:8). Someone else has said, “Morning prayer leads to evening praise.”
Don’t waste your mornings! Make them times of spiritual edification and blessing. Spend them in company with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mornings may not be your best time of the day! However, early morning is a good opportunity for a Christian to spend some time alone with the Lord before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. If you don’t do it in the morning you are not likely to have time later on. And furthermore, the enemy, Satan, will do everything in his power to keep you so busy and occupied that you will not enjoy a quiet time with your Savior. Night will be upon you, and you will find yourself too physically and mentally weary.
There are many examples in the Bible of those who got up early in the morning for one reason or another. Abraham is one of them. “And Abraham rose up early in the morning…and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Abraham is an example of one who rose up early to obey the instructions that the Lord had given him concerning the offering of his son Isaac. How good it is to wake up each day with a desire to obey and please the Lord, and with a yearning to follow His leading no matter what, knowing that His ways are best.