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Monday, December 31, 2012

Nehemiah and Ezra

Nehemiah– the Wall and Gates Part 8 

As we have seen in the previous teachings, Nehemiah divided the wall and gates into portions. The work was done in unity by people of all walks of life, whether Jew or Gentile. Some laborers repaired a double portion. Motivated by love for God and His holy City, they were willing and able to go the extra mile to labor for the cause of God and His people.  The work was done for the glory of God, as we are to do His kingdom work for God’ glory.
The next gate to be repaired is the Valley Gate. This gate is on the west side of the city and was lower than the previous gates. In the “natural” most things grow in a valley/plain but not spiritually. Those who climb higher with God to the mountaintop grow spiritually. Lot chose the plain near the Jordan and ended up losing everything, but Abraham chose the high places with God where he had to work and dig wells for water and was blessed.
God took Moses up on a mountain to give him the Law. Jesus took His disciples up on a mountain to teach them.  Mountains were important in scripture.  Symbolically mountains meant that you were going higher with God.
Nehemiah went out of the city of Jerusalem through the Valley Gate next to the Serpent’s Well when he went to inspect the wall and its condition. (Nehemiah 2:13-15), and re-entered the city through the same gate. Nehemiah went to the low place first to see the condition of the gates and wall of protection. Jesus came down to earth to inspect the condition of humanity and to open the fountain of living water and His Word to lift us up out of the valley of our flesh-driven nature which is controlled by the serpent (devil).
Nehemiah saw that the Valley Gate and the Refuse Gate had been consumed by fire. Our God is a consuming fire. He must take us out of the valley by removing the garbage (sin) in us. God’s goal is to take us from the inferior place of sin to His highest blessing in Him.  At his inspection, Nehemiah also found the Fountain Gate and the King's pool blocked up. There was no passage way so Nehemiah could go further. The garbage in us blocks the full flow of the fountain of Living Water – the Holy Spirit. God in His love wants to remove those things that block the flow of His spiritual life in us.
The Valley Gate led out to the valley of Hinnom (hell)and the Kidron Valley (place where idols and false images are destroyed.) Jeremiah prophesied in 31:40 that God would make the valley of Kidron where dead bodies and ashes are thrown “holy to the Lord.” God can turn things around -- including us! Kidron means “obscure; making black or sad.” God can make beauty out of ashes if we submit to Him and His will. He can take the blackness of our flesh nature and turn it around making us white as snow. He can also turn our sadness into joy through His precious Son. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always working to lift us higher out of the ashes of our earthly ways so we will walk in the ways of the Lord.
Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. (Nehemiah 3:13) Hanun means “favored or gracious.” In other words, Hanun was full of the grace (favor) of God. Zanoah is a city in the low area of Judah. Zanoah means “cast off.” Those who have the grace/favor of God will reach those who are outcasts and restore them to God's holy city.
Christians wander in our spiritual walk because our flesh is weak. The flesh rises up from time to time--probably more than we like. God will take us to the Valley Gate through trials and tests to refine us by fire. God will use our valley experiences to cast off some sin or attitude that has been blocking the flow of His Holy Spirit in us. He will use our experience in the valley to purify us further. It is in our valley experiences--though painful--that we will grow into a deeper knowledge of God. Our suffering in the valley often brings new life and fruit. In the natural, some fruit is produced in the valleys! In the valley, we learn to trust God no matter the circumstance. God will protect us and guide us in the valley, and will give us the way out. 
The Valley Gate separated Zion from the Mount of Corruption. This represents the separation of God's holy dwelling place (believers) from the false god and evil. This hill is named the Mount of Corruption (evil counsel) because Solomon, who had disobeyed God by marrying pagan wives, erected an altar to the chief god of the Amorites there, and children were sacrificed on it. This hill was so defiled that Josaiah rendered it unclean by spreading dry, dead bones over it. (2 Kings 23:13-18)
Ezekiel had a vision of a valley of dry bones. In other words, disjointed, scattered, with no hope or no life. God told Ezekiel to speak the Word to these dry bones saying “Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you, and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord! Ezekiel 37:4-6  When Ezekiel obeyed God's Word, these dry, dead bones began taking on life. It was the obedience of God's prophet Ezekiel that moved God to action.  Ezekiel spoke the life-giving Word anointed by the Holy Spirit to these dry, dead bones and they connected as one body and came to life.
Ezekiel wasn't told to condemn these dry, dead bones but to speak God's Word, life and hope to them. Christians should take note of this. We are not called to judge the unsaved but to speak the Word, life and hope to them! When Ezekiel spoke God's Word to these dry, dead bones and the Lord breathed the breath of life (Holy Spirit) into them, they were resurrected into new life and started coming together with the other parts of the body as one! This is a picture of Christ's body of believers who have received new, resurrection life from Christ and unite with fellow Christians as one in the Spirit and in Truth/Word/Jesus. 
Jesus is the Incorruptible Word who takes us from the Mount of Corruption to Mount Zion, the King's dwelling place.
In the valley, we are to dig into God and His Word. We will find a well and fountain of water if we dig deeper. This water will sustain us and strengthen us. Isaac, the promised son of father Abraham, had servants who “dug a well in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.” Genesis 26:19  Isaac's servants found “natural” water to quench their physical thirst, but Jesus gives us “spiritual” water that will fill our spirit. When believers in Christ dig into His Word, there is always fresh water and a fresh word and revelation from Jesus and His Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Promised Son of God who was foreshadowed in Isaac, is the spiritual well of salvation and eternal life. He is also the Word of God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that He would give her “living water” so she would never thirst again. The woman was talking about natural water, but Jesus was speaking of spiritual water—the spiritual water of His Holy Spirit and Word. 
As Nehemiah went out of the city through the same gate he re-entered, Jesus came to earth from the heavenly dwelling place with the Father and returned to the Father to the same place.
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses is reminding the Israelites to not forget the Lord. “Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and revering Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing....Dt. 8:6-9 God wants to walk believers into this land that is filled with life-giving water, bread and fruit. Olive oil represents anointing and honey represents the incorruptible Word. Honey cannot be corrupted. If it hardens, all one has to do is put it on the fire and it is usable again.  God will also put us on the fire to rid us of our hardness and sin so we are of use in His Kingdom.  It is the Anointed Incorruptible Word that will bring the abundance of life that Moses is speaking of here. In the natural, the land of God's promise will have all these “natural” things to bless His people. But in Jesus, we will receive all these spiritual blessings to which the natural points. True believers will be full of the Anointed Word, Spirit and spiritual fruit.  There is only one way to receive this abundant life—through obedience to the Incorruptible Word Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in the Lord's ways through obedience to His Word, we reverence Him and show our love for Him.  We will be of use to Him because we will reflect His character and ways.


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