Thoughts

The Gate

Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
and I will go in and thank the Lord.
These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
and the godly enter there.

Psalm 118:19-20 (NLT)

In ancient times the entrance to a city, the city gates, were doorways which offered protection and strength. But they were more than that. City gates were also the centre of public life – places for meeting others and for public assembly, places where covenants and contractual agreements were made and where the city elders met (see – Lamentations 5:14). It was also here that prophets cried out and kings were judged.

When Ruth and Boaz were to be married – the marriage contract was agreed in front of ten elders at the city gate. At the conclusion of his statement to them and the people Boaz says –

‘Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day. And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses.”‘

Ruth 4: 10&11

The city gate was also the place of justice and judgement. The prophet Amos cried out –

‘Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.’

Amos 5:15

We also see the significance and importance of the city gate as a place of meeting illustrated in an event relating to king David –

‘Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king.’

2 Samuel 19:8

The Tabernacle, which predated the Temple in Jerusalem also had its gate/door. Interestingly, the entrance to the Tabernacle, a structure designed and constructed to be mobile, was made of blue, purple, and scarlet fabric woven into white linen. This colourful gate was surprisingly wide – about 35 feet or over 10 meters. Of course the design of the Tabernacle, and, later, the Temple in Jerusalem, were replete with symbolism and metaphors of the Heavenly Tabernacle/Temple – located in the ‘New Jerusalem’.’Some of these symbols pointed both backwards, to  Eden past, as well as forwards, to a future and restored Eden/Paradise.

The gates of the Tabernacle and Temple were located on the east side of the courtyard. This meant that, as a person entered the courtyard, they moved in a westward direction. When Adam and Eve ate Edens’s forbidden fruit and were expelled from God’s presence, they walked out in an easterly direction. Later we are also told that Cain, after murdering his brother, went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

Consequently, to reenter the garden, they would have had to turn around and travel westward, passing the cherubim who guarded the tree of life. Ancient Judaism saw similarities between the Garden of Eden and how their High Priest, representative of all of Israel, reversed the steps of Adam and Eve, bringing Israel back into the presence of God.

But to return to the tabernacle entrance made from purple and scarlet fabric woven into white linen. Some see another metaphor here. Blue, in ancient times, often symbolized heaven, purple royalty, and red death or sacrifice. These same colours were replicated throughout the Tabernacle and in the garments of the High Priest (himself a type of the coming Christ), and the veils of the Tabernacle.

It is not by accident then that Jesus declared –

‘I am the gate (variously translated ‘door’); whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 10:9 (NIV)

I sometimes think we miss the impact and significance of this declaration. In one short statement Jesus announces, by unmistakable implication, the obsolescence of the Levitical priesthood, the Temple and any other way or means of accessing the presence of the Living God. He is clearly declaring that only through him can  broken fellowship with our Creator be restored and our lost paradise regained!

Furthermore, it is by passing through and then sitting at the feet of Jesus, The Gate, that we see the eternal covenant renewed and sealed. We are loved and purchased in a covenantal relationship as his bride. Any outstanding debt or judgement is dealt with and freely covered. We enter the Holy Place – the presence of the living God through him. Gone is any other sacrifice, gone is any other merit, gone is any other means of protection – he is my shield – he is my reward – he is my all in all!

Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.

Revelation 22:14 (NLT)

In yet another twist the Bible records that Jesus himself was crucified outside Jerusalem. The writer of the Book of Hebrews, a book full of symbolism, with obvious intent states –

‘Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.’

Hebrews 13:12

Commenting on this verse the late Fr. Thomas John Hopco writes –

‘Jesus was crucified outside the gate. The one who is Himself the Gate of the heavenly Jerusalem was cast out, along with the unrighteous and rejected. This happened so that He could become the Gate or the Door by which the unrighteous and rejected will then, being forgiven and redeemed, be able to enter into the heavenly, eternal Jerusalem.’

 

Ye gates, lift up your heads on high;
ye doors that last for aye,
Be lifted up, that so the King
of glory enter may.
But who of glory is the King?
The mighty Lord is this;
Ev’n that same Lord, that great in might
and strong in battle is.
Ye gates, lift up your heads; ye doors,
doors that do last for aye,
Be lifted up, that so the King
of glory enter may.

Psalm 24 (The Scottish Psalter)

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