Click here for Part 1: A City Without Walls)
By Maureen Silveyra 02-2022
In the first of this 2 part teaching, we looked at Proverbs 25:28, which says:
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”Proverbs 25:28 NIV
We talked about how the walls protected the city from chaos and attack, and that our lives should have walls of self-control in place so that as a person, we create a place of inner peace (shalom), well-being. We will take the analogy one step further to look at the city gates which were part of the wall, because this concept would also be automatically understood by the very familiar concept of city walls at the time this was written.
Though many modern cities don’t have walls, many around the world still do, including Israel’s city of Jerusalem. To bring this concept into something that Americans can grasp a little better, our football stadiums have walls and gates to perform a similar function for a smaller area of congregated people. Our Packer football stadium in Wisconsin, for instance, has very high walls and has named gates so that the entrances can be identified. And like city walls, the gates are meant to guard what goes in and comes out of the stadium.
The Old City of Jerusalem has gates. Some of the gates have changed over time–they have changed location, name, use. The walls have been built, broken and rebuilt over the course of history. These gates were how people and things entered the city and they served as a way of managing what came in and went out. There were guards at the gates and watchmen posted on the wall to see a panoramic view of what was happening outside and inside the city.
Jerusalem’s city gates were named for what happened around them. They have changed location and name over time, but we will look at the gates in the time of Nehemiah (around 445 BC) where a detailed description was given of the wall and each gate as it was being rebuilt (see Nehemiah chapter 3). The Fish Gate was where fisherman brought in their catches; The Sheep Gate was where the sacrificial lambs were brought in; East Gate and Valley Gate described their geographical locations; Old Gate described the gate itself; The Horse Gate was where the king’s horses came in and out; Inspection Gate was where the army was inspected, Fountain Gate was where people washed, the source of drinking water was near to the Water Gate; and the Dung Gate was where waste was removed from the city.
I believe that there are different gates we have in our life that allow influences in and out of the “city of our life.” What are they? You could label these differently, but these are some of the gates that I see:
The Sound Gate: What music do we listen to that goes into the city of our lives? How do the lyrics or sounds affect how we think about the world around us? Are they building our city up in a positive way? Are they causing destruction in any area of our lives? How about the movies, shows, and YouTubers we watch or listen to? What words are used? Are these pleasing to God?
When I was in high school, one of my friends introduced me to Christian radio. I started listening to it instead of the popular music radio station I usually listened to. This subconsciously changed my thinking. Dwelling on the popular songs was influencing my mind to think about boys and relationships WAY more than I should have. I was unaware of it until I had listened to the Christian station for a while and noticed that I started thinking about the things of God a lot more than I had before. It was a healthy and unexpected change.
My little son had been watching some shows that weren’t really bad shows, but he began acting more disrespectfully to others like the characters did. I stopped allowing him to watch those, and his behavior changed as these shows were no longer an influence. I think what we listen to affects us more than we know.
The Friendship Gate: What people are we letting into our lives in an influential way? Are they causing destruction or anxiety or unrest? If so, you may need to move them outside of your city walls. Are they building you up? Encouraging you? Then they should have access inside the city of your life. This also includes what people we let in through social media. If we are making friends with people that are asking us to do things we shouldn’t or who want to harm us, close that gate fast! They should not be let in! Even if you do not have in-person contact with people, they still access your city if you communicate online. It can still be a true source of influence!
The Eye Gate: What are you watching? What are you letting in? Do you guard what you see? Are you dealing with pornography or sexual images? That will destroy you and affect people around you. You are letting in things that will keep your relationships with others messed up and unwhole. If fear comes in, you may need to reconsider what you are watching. Horror movies let in fear, and do not glorify God. We do have an enemy–his name is Satan. Fear glorifies him. Wise people guard what they watch. I still have images I did not choose to let into my mind that are with me to this day.
The Dung Gate: Let’s go back to ancient Jerusalem. We all need a Dung Gate! There are ungodly things that get into our minds, either by what we see, what we hear, or maybe what originates from our sinful nature. We need to take those thoughts captive and throw them out of the city!
2 Corinthians 10:5 says:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Maintaining healthy, godly thoughts does take work, but is well worth the effort. There is great peace that comes with a healthy inner life.
The Water Gate: We need a place of refreshment, too. What is influencing you that is bringing you growth, refreshment, and good things? As always, we need to make sure that these things are really good for us, but we need to grow! Maybe it is something that fills up our soul like art or painting or playing sports. We need to refresh our spirits as well, through going to church, reading our Bibles and spending time with Christian friends. I had a really tight group of authentic Christian friends many years ago, and they were a refreshment and support to me. We had so much fun together, and brought God glory in our times together, too.
The gates of the city had Watchmen, who often stood on the wall and watched out for what was happening outside the city and within. They watched out for enemies coming in the distance, but also for friends of the city who were approaching. There were also guards or officials posted to watch over the gates. They would fight to protect the city. If enemies tried to attack, they would watch over who came in and came out of the town, and would make sure all was in order. We need to do this in our own lives. Are we keeping guard over our different gates? Do we have systems in place so that we avoid ungodly influences?
The gates would be closed at night so that no trade would come in or out. Night was a vulnerable time for cities. Just like a city, we need rest from interruption! God gave us night time so our minds and bodies could rest. I believe it is also a vulnerable time for us.
Someone close to me at one time had very poor boundaries for their phone at night, and that not-so-bad sounding boundary caused them at least one very painful year of their lives. The influences of unhealthy friends and trying to counsel them at night during their struggles and depression eventually influenced this friend to cut and consider suicide. Our souls and bodies need rest at night! It is time to close the gates of influence for 9 or 10 hours and let our bodies do the healthy work of rest and processing all that has happened to us during the day. How can we rest while we are taking in new information or trying to counsel our friends in their midnight crises night after night?
Psalm 127:1-2 CJB says: Unless Adonai builds the house, its builders work in vain. Unless Adonai guards the city, the guards keep watch in vain. In vain do you get up early and put off going to bed, working hard to earn a living; for he provides for his beloved, even when they sleep.
God wants to give us rest! It is important for us, and we need to guard it well.
Our gates are our most vulnerable places in the city of our lives. How are you guarding what comes in and goes out of you? And Like Psalm 127 suggests, we need the help from God in protecting our city and its gates. Have you asked Him to help you set good boundaries? The Holy Spirit can whisper to our conscious and our spirit what is good and what is not. Do you need to set a guard at some of your doors? Are you managing your city well? You will know this by the amount of peace you walk in.
God has found your life very valuable–so much that he let his son Jesus die to cover your sins (and mine). If he thinks you are valuable, then certainly you and the city of your life is worth protecting.