A strange title but hopefully it will soon make sense!
Here is the starting point.
Jerusalem - called “the City of our God” (Psalm 48:1,8) was a strong city set high on a hostile landscape, protected by strong walls, strong towers and strong gates. These fortifications were designed to keep the people safe within and the enemy safely without. The gates allowed entrances and exits to be guarded and monitored by gatekeepers. When all was in place, all was well.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. - Isaiah 26:1-2 (ESV)
Jerusalem's inhabitants were a people separated on to God.
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 14:2
However Jerusalem's people - God's people - began to go walk-about outside the protective walls, and the people outside the city walls began to go walk-about within the protective walls.
And eventually the two contra-cultures began to 'inter-marry'.
Time always showed that in the 'intermarriage' the culture from without would gain increasing levels of influence, and many from within would begin to believe and behave little differently from those without. (Example: 1 Kings 11:4)
They still claimed their identity in God, but in practice embraced much of the world outside.
This meant thatspirituallythe Temple was slowly crumbling because God's rule was no longer a living reality.
This meant that spiritually the walls and gates were gradually breaking down. They no longer separated and protected.
As an inevitable and prophesied consequence (Jeremiah 25:12) Jerusalem was laid waste and most of its people taken into Babylonian exile by Nebuchadnezzar.
This extract from David Pawson's book 'Unlocking the Bible' (p.644) helps understanding the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (one book in the Hebrew Bible) since there were three stages of deportation and three stages of return.
The first deportation happenned in 606 BC. The Babylonians took the top layer of Jewish scociety - that is, the royal family and the court officials - together with the temple vessels. This was in part to make sure that the conquered Jews were unable to rebel against Babylonian rule. Jehoiakim was left as a puppet king. Those who were exiled at this time included four young man named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (The Babylonians renamed them Belteshazzar, Shadrach and Abednego)
The second deportation came in597 BC. This time the upper classes were removed, including the politicians, and so too were the craftsmen. Ezekiel was among those who were deprted. King Jehoiachin was left in charge.
The rest of the people were taken in 586 BC, when the city and the temple were destroyed. The Babylonians took away King Zedekiah but left Jeremiah the prophet.
The first return came in 538 BC, when the Persians overthrew the Babylonians, and Cyrus allowed exiled peoples, including the Jews, to return to their homelands. Around 50,000 Jews came bacl in this first wave, led by Zerubbabel. Then a second group returned under Ezra in 458 BC, when the rebuilding of the temple was begun. The last wave came in about 444 BC,when the city walls were rebuilt and the city of God was made safe.
The Temple was physically destroyed. The mighty walls and the fortified gates were physically broken down.
Eventually - under King Cyrus of Persia - the Jews were allowed to return to Israel to rebuild the Temple and the city. Only a remnant chose to do so.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the relentless opposition to the leaders who sought to first restore the Temple of the Lord (re-establish God's rule) remove all traces of the un-Godly intermarriage amongst the people, and finally to restore the protective walls, repair the gates and appoint trusted gate-keepers.
The restoration of the Temple immediately met with opposition, designed to cause discouragement and frustration.
...the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counsellors against them to frustrate their purpose. Ezra 4:4-5a
Eventually the 'government of the day' closed down the work, and it lay unfinished for many years.
Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:23-24
Finally, in the reign of King Darius, the temple was restored and re-dedicated. (Ezra 6:15)
God's rule was once again a living reality amongst His people.
The defiling effects of intermarriage with the godless culture outside were dealt with.
The essential first step was true Godly sorrow, humility and heart felt repentance by the people.
What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? .... Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Ezra 9:13-15 (NIV) [emphasis mine]
Then the restoration of the walls and gates began. Enter Nehemiah.
Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Nehemiah 2:17 [emphasis mine]
Nehemiah chapter 3 goes into much detail about the work and the workers, then chapter 4 records the beginning of the relentless opposition to their restoration work.
First came the ridicule.
What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish - stones that are burned?” Nehemiah 4:2
When those opposing Jerusalem's restoration saw the gaps in the wallsbeing closed they became angry and conspired against the restorers. They sought to stir up trouble and create fear and confusion amongst the people.
Now it happened, when ..(those opposing).. heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.. Nehemiah 4:7-8 [emphasis mine]
This had a weakening effect on the people because we read where they became discouraged at the sheer scale of work, and frightened by the viciousness of the opposition.
Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” Nehemiah 4:10-12 [emphasis mine]
But the leaders resolutely fixed their eyes on God, and encouraged and inspired the people.
“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah 4 :14b [emphasis mine]
The leaders and the workers became acutely aware that the walls and gates would only be restored in the face of relentless opposition, so they set to work in unity and with determination, ready to withstand the continual opposition.
So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armour; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.. Nehemiah 4:16-18
When the walls were restored - but the gates not yet - there were more schemes to deter the leaders. Those opposing the work sought to intimidate, frighten and discredit Nehemiah. They even had people prophecy to him, trying to convince him that he was in great danger and should run in fear of his life.
Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”
And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!”
Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. Nehemiah 6:10-14 [emphasis mine]
What a battle between the plans and purposes of God for His people and the plans of satan to steal, kill and destroy the plans and purposes of God.
What courage was needed. What determination was needed. What discernment of the enemies work was needed.
And of course, what a close walk with God was needed.
Finally we read,
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. Nehemiah 6: 15-16 [emphasis mine]
So where is this Old Testament record of events leading us?
The Old Testament is not only a historical record of events that led up to the incarnation, it is also a physical - or a natural - picture God has provided to help us understand spiritual situations associated with the today's New Testament church. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11 & 1 Corinthians 15:46)
Jerusalem symbolises the City of God, the dwelling place of God and the saints.
It symbolises the true church. Now and in the age to come.
We, the inhabitants are a people separated on to God.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9
The walls and gates symbolise God's Word. Truth that the world relentlessly ridicules and opposes. Truth that the government of the day increasingly legislates against and prosecutes against.
...Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,... Zephaniah 8:3
Scripture clearly declares - and daily evidence supports - that the whole world is under the destructive influence of the evil one.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 1 John 5:19 [emphasis mine]
Having been transferred out of the dominion of darkness and into His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13) we are never to merge back in again!
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:15-16
Again and again Jesus declared that God has separated us, His people, out of 'the world'.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. John 17:6
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:14-16 [all emphasis mine]
As God's people, our world-view must be a Biblical world-view. We have left Egypt and must make sure Egypt has left us.
As God's people we must always check, what does God say upon a matter?
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2
As God's people,we must learn to take captive the world's relentless bombardment of godless, humanist and carnal thoughts and images that are contrary to Christ's rule in our lives. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Carnal believers are still greatly enamoured with the world. Disciples follow Jesus.
We are to know - with complete clarity - that we have been chosen and called outof 'the world' and we are to live as befits a peoplechosen and called out of the world.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. Ephesians 5:8-12 [emphasis mine]
God does not do mixtures. Listen to the apostle Paul telling God's people this truth.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?
And what accord has Christ with Belial?
Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 [emphasis mine]
Today, as God's people, we need to dig deep and ask ourselves, are we truly, deliberately living as separated 'unto the Lord'
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:8 KJV [emphasis mine]
Today, as God's people, we need to dig deep and ask ourselves if we have gone walk-about outside the City of God's protective walls and let worldly 'wisdom' gain increasing levels of influence over us.
Try this test.
God's word tells us that He created the world, and that He created it through His spoken Word within six days. He said it in the opening words of scripture and then confirmed it by writing it into the fourth commandment. Not once, but twice. (Exodus 20:11 & 31:17)
The world tells us that the universe started with a bang and through an unexplainable process, life on earth began from no life. Then through mutations (which actually reduce information!) and natural selection, (which adds nothing) very simple life forms evolved upwards and upwards, unexplainably gaining massive increases in genetic information along the way, until eventually, after billions of years and via apes, we became human.
Which has influenced you more?
God's word tells us that He ordained marriage, and that marriage is between a man and a woman. (Genesis 2:24 Ephesians 5:31-32)
The world tells us that marriage can be between men and women, men and men, women with women.
Which has influenced you more?
God's word speaks of men having sex with men and women with women as 'an abomination ' 'shameful', 'vile' and 'strange flesh'. (Leviticus 18:22 Romans 1:24-27 1 Corinthians 6:9 Jude 1:7)
The world tells us that men having sex with men and women with women is normal, acceptable behaviour.
Which has influenced you more?
God's word tells us that sex outside of marriage is not of His Kingdom. It is fornication. (2 Corinthians 12:21 Galatians 5:19 Colossians 3:5 ) That 'it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints' (Ephesians 5:3) Thus a white wedding dress traditionally signified the bride's virginity.
The world tells us that sex outside of marriage is normal, acceptable behaviour.
Which has influenced you more?
God's word tells us that life in the womb comes from God, and that all life is precious. ( Psalm 139:13-16)
The world tells us that life in the womb is disposable if that is the mother's wish.
Which has influenced you more?
God's word tells us that that all scripture is trustworthy and true. That it is 'God breathed' (Proverbs 30:5 2 Timothy 3:16)
The world tells us that all scripture is not trustworthy and true.
Which has influenced you more?
By now you get the idea!
And why "we are left this day as a remnant" (Ezra 9:15) [emphasis mine]
We are to be co-workers with 'The Rescuer.' (2 Corinthians 6:1 & Matthew 18:11)
We are to be ambassadors for His Kingdom. (Ephesians 6:20)
Living letters from Him. (2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV)
We are to be light in the darkness, not part of the darkness. (Matthew 5:14 &Luke 11:35)
Listen to these scriptures with this understanding. [all emphasis mine]
Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. Luke 11:35
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. John 12:46
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armour of light. Romans 13:12
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
So where does the 'electrified fence' come in?
Councils put signs on the approach to a dangerous cliff warning people not to proceed any further. Some add fences. But you proceed past those warnings signs at your peril.
In biblical times fortified city walls were very high, very thick, with towers and watchmen on top.
Within those walls the people felt safe from the dangers without.
Today we don't have colossal fortified city walls upon our landscape. We may be more likely to think of 'walls' as garden walls or motorway noise prevention walls, and so the necessary dramatic effect might be lost on us.
So for this exercise, instead of a city wall, picture a strong electrified fence.
While in Australia a few years ago I pulled up some long grass to try and feed a cute little donkey that was close to a wire fence. Little did I know it was an electrified fence. As my hand passed the grass through the fence towards the donkey it touched the wire and the shock made me yelp and jump back several feet. It took me many minutes to regain my composure in front of my wife! Needless to say, I didn't try that again.
When in Switzerland I got down on one knee to take a photo of Swiss cows complete with traditional cow-bells around their necks. I didn't notice the wire fence. Which was electrified. I yelped with shock, fell backwards on to the roadside, dropping my expensive Nikon camera on the ground. When I recovered my camera and my composure I made sure I stayed well back for the next photo.
To complete the imagery, understand that God has placed 'electrified fence scriptures' around His City, His Kingdom, for your protection.
The scriptures become effective when you realise that God truly means what He says.
That He does not lie. That He watches over His word to perform it. (Jeremiah 1:12)
These 'electrified fence' scriptures are powered from on high.
Thus you proceed past such warning scriptures- such clear warning signs - at your peril.
This called the fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 14:7 Acts 9:31 2 Corinthians 5:10-11)
Lust? Pornography? - here is the electrified fence!
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matthew 5:28-30 [emphasis mine]
Fornication? Adultery? Homosexual activity, stealing etc - here is the electrified fence!
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 [emphasis mine]
Abiding (living) 'in the world' instead of living 'in Christ'? - here is the electrified fence!
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John15:6 [emphasis mine]
Taking 'away' from the clear Word of God? - here is the electrified fence!
...and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:19 [emphasis mine] (Note: if this warning applies to the last book of the Bible it must certainly apply to the whole of scripture)
Becoming lukewarm? - here is the electrified fence!
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:16 [emphasis mine]
Causing a child to loose their faith in Jesus? - here is the electrified fence!
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42
Knowing Jesus and later choosing to go back into the world for the sin it has to offer? - here is the electrified fence!
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-29 [emphasis mine]
Such frightening scriptures, and there are many more - when taken seriously - provide safe walls for sinners saved by grace to dwell within. The fear of the Lord should instantly activate within you so that you don't even consider proceeding past that point.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Jeremiah 32:40 [emphasis mine]
Remember that sin is not harmful because it is forbidden. It is forbidden because it is harmful. Look at the collapsing world all around.
Thankfully there are those who 'Hear the Word of the Lord, (and) who tremble at His Word'. Isaiah 66:5a
Example: The website www.livingout.org is an example of men who take the Word of God seriously despite massive pressure from 'outside'. They are men who struggle with same-sex attraction but choose to live for God in a way that is submissive to His word and honours Him. Their understanding of scripture settles the matter for them.
Sadly many choose to corruptly use God's grace as a theological steamroller to deliberately proceed past such scriptural boundaries as if they do not exist, or as if they are exempt from Kingdom boundaries.
Example: I remember a married man with children, quite highly regarded in church circles, telling me that on the way home from work every night, he stopped off at a certain gent's toilet in order to have sex with various men. I asked him what God might think of such behaviour. His eyes lit up with his answer. "Thank God for His grace!"
Jesus spoke clearly to people who claim Him as Lord but knowingly live outside His Kingdom walls. People who want the grace of God without the government of God.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
We are to bear Holy Spirit fruit. Not carnal fruit. The apostle Paul warned the church.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - [The Greek word Paul used for 'do' is 'prasso' which means to do continually as a lifestyle.] - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24
The apostle John put it simply.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7 [emphasis mine]
If you have gone walk-about outside the City walls and realise that the world has influenced you in your relationship with God, all is not lost.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:2 [emphasis mine]
God's grace and mercy is indeed available where there is genuine repentance.
Turning from a sin-ruled life to a life characterised by obedience to God.
A staying within the walls.
Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance from a man of God who went outside God's boundaries.
Today, in the west, the spiritual walls are broken down, the spiritual gates have been burnt, and a great many who take Christ's Name upon their lips have wandered outside into the world, absorbing its culture like blotting paper.
The Lord God has sworn by His holiness:
“Behold, the days shall come upon you
When He will take you away with fishhooks,
And your posterity with fishhooks. You will go out through broken walls,
Amos 4:2-3a[emphasis mine]
Today, determined leaders and faithful workers are needed to restore the walls and the gates.
Don't under-estimate the opposition to restoring the walls and gates.