Cities don’t have walls anymore. We don’t have to pass through massive, guarded gates which are impenetrably barred at night, or in times of danger. People come and go at will, bringing with them their wares and cares. There’s no inspection, no questions asked. There may even be a big ‘Welcome’ sign.
We’d have to go back a millennia or more to fully grasp the importance of walls and gates of the city to the people in Biblical times. What was their purpose then, and what’s their relevance to our lives today? If we fail to understand their meaning, we may inadvertently be leaving ourselves vulnerable and defenseless. This is no time to be caught unawares! We need to increase our vigilance, and ensure our gates are secure.
The first mention of possessing the gates of our enemies came as a promise to our father Abraham. “Your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Gen 22:17 As Abraham obeyed the Lord, the benefits of God’s covenant with him were progressively unlocked. First, he was promised land. Then he was promised progeny. But here, after he had willingly offered his son Isaac, he’s told to yarash (Hebrew), or seize the gates of his enemies. Gates were not only intended to be defended; they were to be taken. Abraham was being alerted that his descendants would one day exert power and influence over those who stood in their way.
Can you see the direction God wants to take us, Cornerstone? He wants to bless us. He wants to multiply us. Then He wants our influence to increase by occupying places where we exercise leadership in our society and culture. These are our ‘gates’. Though walls may ‘surround’ our offices, schools, or neighbourhoods, by faith we become gatekeepers to keep evil out, and let the presence and purposes of God in.
In Biblical times, kings ruled. Their words became law. Their judgments were uncontested. They were worshipped. Taxes were levied to pay for their dreams to be fulfilled. Men were conscripted to fight their battles. Rivals were executed.
For context, place King Ahasuerus on a throne reigning sovereign over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. Do you see a man standing next to him? This is Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. He was the sworn enemy of God’s chosen people.
As the story of Esther unfolds, another figure comes into focus. He has no position. He wears the cloak of a commoner. He comes from a minority – and persecuted – class. And yet, he too has power.
You see, ‘Mordecai sat within the king’s gate’ (Es 2:19). Every day. The longer he sat, the more he heard, the more his power grew. Even the king’s eunuch came out to meet him in front of the king’s gate (Es 4:6). One day, the king sent Haman out to parade him through the streets adorned in royal robes, and sitting upon the king’s steed. In time, Mordecai would influence the laws in the land, and even rose to take Haman’s place.
Mordecai represents all who have learned the importance of possessing the ‘gates’ of his city. He did not aspire to the throne; he desired not its glitter nor prestige. He understood that gates, when occupied, are the real source of power. From there, he came to know the secrets of the palace, all the while feeling the pain and concerns of the people.
He learned that the dictates of rulers were one form of ‘power’; but discovered intercession could transform the destiny of a nation. The role of kings is to rule by laws and systems; Mordecai’s brilliance lay in that he understood people are even more impacted by ideas, culture, and faith.
Haman is a type of the modern-day enemy. He had position, a title, and authority. By all appearances, he was the one with ‘power’. In his lust for authority and intoxicated by envy, he conspired to slaughter innocent Jews.
Beloved, our battle is NOT with flesh and blood. Mordecai won this ‘battle’ with Haman by steadfastly occupying the gate. He won by being among the people. He won by superior ideas, righteousness, and impacting those around him with the values and wisdom of the Kingdom. He won by intercession.
God is speaking to us. We’ve been authorised to possess the gates of our city. If God had wanted Abraham’s descendants to occupy thrones, He’d have said so. Instead, He commands us: possess the gates! Rule from the place of confident trust, of redemptive and compassionate culture, and by the influence of godliness, wisdom, and faith.
As we do, plans for destruction are reversed. Our sons and daughters are favoured and promoted as Esther was. And in foreboding, anxious times like we’re facing in this hour, we may open the gates of peace and security that the rest of God’s promise to Abraham might be fulfilled as in Gen 22:19: “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”