Justice at the Gates Herschel
18 "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall
judge the people with just judgment.
19 "You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the
words of the righteous.
There are three gates mentioned directly or indirectly in scripture that I want to address.
The gates of the city
The gates of the body, and
The gate of heaven
There is however, a fourth gate called the gate of hades referred to in Matt 16:18. Upon Shimon’s confession of Yeshua as “Messiah, the Son of the living God", Yeshua said that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Yeshua promised that our confession of Him is greater than the gates of hades and in my view, that is sufficient attention to that particular gate. Suffice it to say that some theologians suggest that the reference to the “gates of Hades” seems to be a metaphor, which can also refer to the powers of death i.e. the grave. According to Paul, since Messiah’s resurrection from the grave, death no longer has power over believers. Neither does the ‘gates of hades’ exert influence over believers if we walk by faith and not by sight.
Gates of the City
Isa 28:5-6 - He will give a longing for justice to their judges. He will give great courage to their warriors who stand at the gates.
There is I believe a three-fold responsibility to those who kept watch at the gates:
1. the judges, magistrates or appointed judicial officials were tasked
with ensuring that fair and equitable justice was maintained within
Numbers 35:29 – “these are to be statutes of justice for your generations in all your dwelling places.
Psalm 11:7 - :for Adonai is righteous; He loves justice’
Isaiah 5:16 – “But Adonai-Tzva'ot will be exalted through justice, and the Holy God consecrated through righteousness.
In Matthew 23:23, we are informed that the weightier matters of Torah include justice mercy and faithfulness! In this sense therefore, the judges who sat at the gates of the city are called warriors, because they fought for justice and conversely, they fought against injustice. The Kiel and Delitsch commentary on this verse says:
The judges are called "those who sit' - al-hammishpât" - in the sense of "on the seat of judgment" (Ps 9:5; 122:5).
In my view, and I offer my opinion here, the pursuit of justice is also the pursuit against injustice and therefore, this can be likened to spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is more than just speaking loudly against the works of the adversary. I believe that living godly lives and pursuing justice is an act of powerful and effective spiritual warfare.
2. Then secondly, we see that warriors also sat at the gates of the city
The warriors are "those who press back milchâmâh shâ'râh" (war at the gate), when the enemy has reached the gates of the village. So it will come to pass that your choicest valleys will be full of chariots and horsemen posted at the gate.’ (Isa 22:7)
Nehemiah 1:3 - "The remnant who have survived the captivity there in the province are in great distress and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire."
The first thing the enemy does when it laid siege to a village or town was to set fire to the gates which left the inhabitants vulnerable to being overwhelmed by the attacking enemy army.
3. the third point is that the prophets also stood by the gates of the city
proclaiming God’s message to that community
Thus said Adonai to me (Jeremiah): "Go, stand in the gate of the children of the people, through which the kings of Judah come in and go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say to them: ‘Hear the word of Adonai, kings of Judah, and all Judah and all inhabitants of Jerusalem who enter through these gates!
The gates of the ancient cities were massive structures made of stone, iron, brass, or wood frequently sheeted with metal. They were tall and wide. “The Beautiful Gate” of Herod’s temple (Acts 3:2) was made of brass and so massive, that it required twenty men to open or close it. These gates were opened during the day to allow the citizens to come and go, but were generally closed and barred at night as a safety measure to keep out enemy attacks. Whoever controlled the gates of the stronghold, ruled the city.
So, we have judges, warriors and prophets fulfilling their duties at the gates of the city!
Gates of the Human Body
The Sifrei Kohen takes this analogy further by applying this concept to the human body.
The human body is a city with seven gates—seven portals to the outside world: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth. (I appreciate that he did not mention the other portal) Here, too, it is incumbent upon us to place internal “judges” to discriminate and regulate what should be admitted and what should be kept out, and “officers” to enforce the judges’ decisions . . .
The human body is called a temple for the Holy Spirit and using the analogy of the gates of a city, we have gates of the spirit, soul, and body that we are to guard against unwelcome negative or destructive forces.
2 Cor 10:3 - 6
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful through God for the tearing down of strongholds. We are tearing down false arguments and every high-minded thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah— ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
Now, the Greek word for ‘weapon’ means ‘armour’ and we can immediately connect this thought to Ephesians 6 where Sha’ul cautions us to put on the full armour of God.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist when the times are evil, and after you have done everything, to stand firm.
Clearly, Paul had a Roman legionnaire in mind and what we notice is the only part of the soldier’s body that is unprotected, is the back. This is because that marched in formation and they guarded each other’s back. May I suggest therefore, that we avoid doing the adversary’s work by not criticizing, slandering or gossiping about another person.
Furthermore, a major aspect of our spiritual armour is to ‘guard my lips from evil and my mouth from speaking falsehood’ (from the Amidah prayer). Or as Ya’akov said “if we cannot bridle or control our tongues, our spirituality is worthless’.
Do not be anxious about anything—but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua.
We ought to also build a stronghold around our hearts and minds, so that our faith in Yeshua cannot be shaken! Identifying and tearing down existing strongholds that are established in our minds, is essential if we truly desire to walk in the victory that is ours in the Messiah.
“ … in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord’.
Examples of stronghold, are fear, doubt, negativity and rejection. Let me add perpetually complaining and kvetching to that list. There are other strongholds that are formed throughout our life experiences that are contrary to the truth of God’s Word. They distort God’s image and His promises and such strongholds can cause us to become apathetic and listless in the spiritual realm.
Guarding the gates of our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being is extremely important. Our senses are the doors that allow information to enter.
It is important to feed the spirit not the flesh in order to safeguard ourselves from the deceptive work of the adversary. Furthermore, I believe that another critical aspect of guarding the gates of our hearts, is worship!
Jeremiah 7:1-7 - The word that came to Jeremiah from Adonai, saying: Stand in the gate of Adonai's house and proclaim there this word and say: "Hear the word of Adonai, all you of Judah that come through these gates to worship Adonai.
Thus says Adonai-Tzva'ot, the God of Israel; mend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you live in this place – the gates of Adonai’s House!
Adonai is my light and my salvation: whom should I fear? Adonai is the stronghold of my life: whom should I dread? When evildoers approached me to devour my flesh —my adversaries and my foes—they stumbled and fell. Though an army camp besieges me, my heart will not fear. Though war breaks out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing have I asked of Adonai, that will I seek: to dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Adonai, and to meditate in His Temple. For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His sukkah, conceal me in the shelter of His tent, and set me high upon a rock. Then will my head be high above my enemies around me. In His Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy. I will sing, yes, sing praises to Adonai.
Family, we, as God’s people, are called the dwelling place of God on earth. The human body is called the temple for the Holy Spirit and the Bible tells us that when we receive Yeshua, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in our spirit. The gates to our spirit are closed to other forces, when our spirit become new creation. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.
And therefore, we need not fear the curve balls that life so often throws our way because Yeshua is our provision, our protection and our gate. He is the door and He Himself stands guard by His Spirit and makes intercession for us. John 10:7 - “ … ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.’”
The Father warns us not to give the devil an entry point. Gates of pride, rebellion, false beliefs, or wrong motives, are nothing more than flashing neon signs inviting the forces of darkness to ‘enter here”! We must guard the gates of our spirit, soul and body. Be alert, be vigilant, walk circumspectly as instructed by Shaul in
1 Cor 5:6-11:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may lift you up at the appropriate time. Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you. Stay alert! Watch out! Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, searching for someone to devour. Stand up against him, firm in your faith ….”
pay close attention to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise. Make the most of your time because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. And do not get drunk on wine, for that is recklessness. Instead, be filled with the Ru’ach, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord— always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2
And then, finally, let me say a few words about the gate of heaven!
The Gate of Heaven
In Genesis 28, we find Jacob fleeing from the murderous wrath of his brother Esau, from whom, through deception, he had stolen the birth right and blessing of the first-born son.
During this journey, Jacob had a profound transformative experience. He stopped at THE place! We read about this in Genesis 28:
Then Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He happened upon a certain place (not any old place – HaMakom – THE PLACE - and spent the night there, for the sun had set. So he took one of the stones from the place and put it by his head and lay down in that place. He dreamed:
And, in the dream, for the first time, Jacob heard the Father converse with him and HaShem reiterated the covenant promise made to Abraham and Isaac.
“Jacob woke up from his sleep and said, "Undoubtedly, Adonai is in this place — and I was unaware." So he was afraid and said, "How fearsome this place is! This is none other than the House of God—this must be the gate of heaven!"
HAMAKOM – THE PLACE OF THE UNIVERSE
After reciting the kaddish yatom – the so-called mourner’s kaddish – we say:
HaMakom yenachem etchem b’toch sha’ar aveileh Tzion virushalayim’.
May The Place – HaMakom (or the Omnipresent One) comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Jacob went from being unaware of God’s presence, to vibrantly aware of the nearness of God’s Presence. It must have somewhat similar to Job’s experience as recorded in Job 42:5-6
5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.
6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes."
Jacob’s experience at HaMakom was the place where heaven and earth meet. It is the place of the intermingling of heaven and earth, similar to the giving and receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai and also, what occurred at the Mount of Transfiguration. We also see this gateway opened on the day of Shavuoth, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What’s fascinating to me is Jacob defines the house of God, as “the gate of heaven”, the connection between the earthly and the heavenly realms.
Jacob’s dream was a complete paradigm shift and, in this dream, he heard God’s speak to him and confirm the covenant promises made to Abraham and Isaac.
His encounter with the Father was transformative: Jacob was no longer an outcast, running in fear of his life. He was now the central figure in the outworking of God’s plans for the birth of the Twelve Tribes and the future redemption of mankind.
So too, family, we are not outcasts – peripheral players with minor parts – in God’s plan for world redemption. Each and every one can and many have, encountered the gates of heaven opened during the course of our walk with the Lord and we are included as children in the outworking of His eternal plans for the restoration and renewal of mankind, which includes Israel.
We have now entered the month of Elul. This period is a significant period of preparation to encounter God on the Day of Atonement. The shofar is sounded every morning during the month of Elul as a call to arise from our slumber and to prepare to meet with HaShem.
I came across a Rabbi Blech who commented that “start by thinking small - and in that way, we change ourselves and our own world.” You want to positively influence others? Start small in this appointed period of 40 days. Start small. Start with yourself!
Family, we do not have minor roles to play in God’s plans for the redemption of the world. We are sons and daughters of the Most-High and are included to potentially fulfil significant roles. And therefore, we should never underestimate or minimize what God wants to achieve through you.
It is indeed a privilege and high calling – as Paul says “The More Excellent Way’! May we find our place and serve there, and find contentment and also, rest for your souls, I ask and pray in Yeshua’s Name.