|At one time this was a city gate at the city of "Dan" in Israel.|
Spiritually speaking, gates give spiritual access to our lives. Human beings have bodies and brains but those physical and scientifically observable "objects" are not the sum total of who we are. We are made in God's image and exist in a spiritual dimension as well, a dimension that interacts with the what can be seen but is not equal to it. This means that, in addition to our physical, emotional, intellectual, social, economic and political relationships, we relate on a spiritual level. We relate with other people (also made in God's image) and with spiritual beings--God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and with the other spiritual (non physical) beings God has made. Scripture speaks of these as angels and "fallen angels" such as the devil and demons.
On Monday nights at Crossroads, we're learning about Spiritual Warfare, that is, the spiritual battles of life. Christian hymns such as "A Mighty Fortress" depict this warfare... but many modern day Christians are unaware that we are involved with spiritual battles every day.
How do we interact with the Spiritual World? The Dean Sherman material points to the significance of "gates." Gates are the places of access, specifically, the places and times of judgment and decision in the lives of individuals and groups. The gates include our thoughts (2 Cor 10:3-5), our attitudes and emotions (Prov 4:23, Eph 4:26-27, 2 Cor 2:11, 1 Pet 5:6-10), our words (James 3:10, Matthew 16:15-23) and relationships with other Christians that are broken or restored (see Matthew 18).
When we pay attention to spiritual gates, when we pay attention to how we make decisions, we will be more effective and find more peace in our Christian lives. We can allow God to close the gates to the devil and open them to His wonderful ways.
Here are a few thoughts gleaned from the notes I took on Monday night:
- When we harbor thoughts of inferiority and discontent, condemnation and criticism, pride and lust, fear and unbelief, and contention and strife, we open the gates of our minds to the evil one. Instead, God calls us to allow his Word (in Christ and in Scripture) to transform our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
- When we allow our emotions to be dominated by anger, when we have an unteachable, independent or jealous attitude, and when the negative thoughts listed above become emotions that run our lives, we give the devil access and become less effective in sharing the love and power of God in this world. God calls us, in First Peter 5:6-10, to resist the one who would dominate us by his "roaring" allowing God to take our anxiety and be in control.
- When we speak negatively of others, tearing them down instead of building them up, when we do not control what we say about others, hurting them with our words instead of blessing them, we "aid the attack of the enemy." Many of us are unaware of this God helps us, however, in his Word, as he teaches us, for example, in the James 3, and as we learn, more and more, the truth the cross, where God shows us the infinite value of each and every human person.
- Finally, when we do not pray about or are unwilling to work on the restoration of broken relationships, we give an opportunity for the devil to work his evil schemes (Eph 4:26). We must pray, and then, as the Lord directs, do all we can to restore relationships, especially with other believers. Matthew 18, which we will be looking at this Sunday (April 3) at Crossroads, is all about this aspect of spiritual warfare and closing the "broken relationship" spiritual gate against evil.
Here is a section about "gates" from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
Gates in the biblical period bring to mind two images: the massive defensive structures that protect the entrance way, and a place of various activities “in the gate.” Gates and walls together mark the boundary between outside and inside, but gates are more frequently mentioned simply because they give access in and out.
Gates have existed since defensive walls first appeared in towns and villages. If walls are necessary to protect a town, an entrance through the wall is also necessary, and a gate to protect the entrance would likewise be required. The two developments probably coincided. In the ancient Near East, archaeologists have uncovered town gate foundations dating back at least to the early Bronze Age (3300–2200 B.C.) and have a fully preserved four chamber mud-brick gate complex from the middle Bronze Age (ca. 1800 B.C.) at Tel Dan. Earlier during the Chalcolithic period (4500–3300 B.C.) at Ein Gedi remains of a temple and sacred area which has an enclosure wall with two entrances have been found. One of the entrances has the clear foundations of a two-chamber gate. Much earlier, at prepottery neolithic Jericho (ca. 8300 B.C.) evidence of a wall around the town and a circular tower, probably to serve as a watchtower. Although no evidence of a gate for that time has yet been excavated, there must have been a gate to provide entry into the town.
The gate is usually the most vulnerable part of a town’s defenses, simply because it stands at an opening into the town. In addition, the gate was often located at a low point in the town’s topography for several reasons: the low point would provide the easiest access to the town by travelers or merchants—they wouldn’t have to maneuver their animals and wares to higher points in the town; the marketplace was often located just inside the gate for the same reason; and the low point would offer a good drainage channel for rainfall throughout the town to run outside the city walls through the gate. Because of its vulnerability, strong towers often flanked the gateway to help protect it. In addition, heavy wooden or metal doors would be closed to shut the gate at night or in times of imminent attack.
During the Iron Age, the period of Israelite monarchy, two-, four-, and six-chamber gates are found. Rather than a developmental scheme, the choice of gate type seems most likely related to local topography and defensive needs. Undoubtedly, the development of new weapons, including more effective battering rams, required new defensive strategies. Among such innovations were the introduction of inner and outer gate structures. Such double-gate structures may well have been intended to strengthen defenses. Assaulting an outer-gate structure would not give access into the city proper; it would only lead through a narrow passage (where an invading army would be under continual assault by defenders on the walls above) to an inner-gate structure, likewise well defended. Sites with inner- and outer-gate structures include Tel Dan, Megiddo, and Lachish. Typical gate openings during the Iron Age were from 3.5 to 4 meters, from 11 to 13 feet. Such openings would allow easy passage for animals laden with goods, for chariots, as well as for pedestrian traffic.
Just outside the city gate one would often find a well or spring. Since access to the water supply is quite important, the city gate was often located near the water. Recent excavations at the Jebusite and Davidic city of Jerusalem have found a gate with massive towers protecting access to the spring Gihon. Beersheba had a well just outside the city gate. John 4 has the story of Jesus meeting a woman of Sychar at the well just outside the city.
In the typical town plan, the marketplace, often an open plaza, was just inside the gate complex. Close by might be either administrative buildings, military buildings, or a shrine or temple. The biblical description of various activities within the gates of the city/town indicates the business of that area. When Abraham was negotiating for the purchase of a burial plot for Sarah, he met with the landowner and the elders of the town at the city gate (Gen. 23:10, 18), as did Boaz when he negotiated the purchase of Elimelech’s property (Ruth 4:1–11). Elders gathered at the city gate to administer justice or judgment (Deut. 21:19; 22:15, 24) as well as transact sales. The prophets have a number of references to proper justice at the city gate (Amos 5:10–15; Zech. 8:16). King David had a seat at the gate (2 Sam 19:8). At Tel Dan a platform has been discovered just inside the gate complex that may have been for a royal throne or may have been a shrine. Shrines have been excavated at several sites around the gate complex. In particular Bethsaida, probably ancient Geshur, had a cultic platform adjacent to the gate and several steles in the gate complex. Also at Mudayna on the Wadi eth-Thamid in Jordan, a shrine has been discovered adjacent to the gate complex.
Many have suggested the various activities described above took place literally in the city gate. “Benches” have been found within the chambers of some city gates. However, the benches are often of such height and size that it is unlikely they were used for sitting. It is more likely such benches were for depositing and storing items or for other purposes. It is probable that the activities took place “at” the city gate or “inside” the city gate [i.e., within the open plaza] rather than necessarily “in” the gate itself. The presence of the marketplace and of administrative buildings just inside the gate complex provided the rationale for the elders to gather there. And where the elders gathered would be the ideal place for transacting business or dispensing justice that fell to them. -- Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.