Restoring the Twelve Gates of the Sanctuary

Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the prophetic book of Ezekiel, and describes in detail the portion of the inheritance which was to be consecrated and set apart as holy unto the Lord. In reading and studying this passage, I find it absolutely imperative to begin with the final six verses of the chapter, which deal specifically and exclusively with the gates of the city of Jerusalem. “These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel. On the east side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. ON the south side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Isaachar, and the gate of Zebulun. On the west side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali. The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:30-35). I believe that the key to understanding and unlocking this whole passage of Scripture—at least these six verses—is found in the final verse of this chapter. It’s in this final verse where we read that the name of the city from that time on shall be The Lord Is There. The name of this city that would be in the midst of the inheritance of the people of God would be known as The Lord Is There, which suggests and reveals the powerful reality that the Lord was going to be in their midst. I happen to find it incredibly powerful that there were twelve gates to the city, and that each gate represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the name of the city was The Lord Is There, and if there were twelve gates which provided access to the city, then I am convinced that these gates represent the incredible reality that each of the tribes of Israel had an equal share and equal portion in the Lord. The city that was found among them in their midst represented the reality that the Lord desired to be in the midst of His people. If each of the twelve tribes of Israel had a gate which was named after them providing access to the city, then I believe that the Lord was declaring to each of the twelve tribes that they each had access to Him.

I believe there is an absolutely incredible truth that we can glean from this particular passage of Scripture, for these gates represent something more than just the twelve tribes of Israel having access to the Lord—having access to the place of His throne, to the place of His sanctuary—but of our having access to the Lord God of Israel. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel had a gate that was named after them, and I am convinced that each tribe of Israel knew and understand that they had an equal place and portion in the inheritance given to and provided for them by the Lord their God. What we must understand, is that when the house of Israel returned to the land, they returned as a united people—no longer a people, a nation, or a kingdom that was divided. Jesus the Christ declared that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and I am convinced that this reality is powerfully seen in a divided Israel, for their division made them more vulnerable and susceptible to the threats, the attacks, and the invasion of the enemy. If a house divided against itself cannot stand, than the house of Israel divided could not stand in the presence and face of their enemies. The northern kingdom of Israel was invaded and taken captive by the Assyrians, the southern kingdom of Judah was invaded and taken captive by the Babylonians. In captivity, however, the Lord completely destroyed and removed the wall that separated and divided His people, and when He brought them back into the land, He brought them back as one people who were no more divided and separated. The fact that there were twelve distinct gates to this city, and that each of the twelve gates represented the twelve tribes of Israel suggests the unity that had been restored within the house of Israel. These gates represented more than just access to the city, but also that the twelve tribes of Israel had once more been unified and restored to each other. Their returning to the land wasn’t simply about their being restored to the land, but about their being restored to the Lord, and their being restored to each other.

Restoration to the land meant more than just their being restored to a piece of real estate, but also a restoration of relationship—a restoration of relationship with each other, and a restoration of relationship with the Lord. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of how many years Jacob was estranged from Esau before the Lord finally granted them the opportunity to be restored and reconciled to each other. Though Jacob and Esau were estranged from each other for quite some time, there came a point in time when they were restored and reconciled to each other, and in like manner, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would be restored and reconciled to each other. These twelve gates represent both a restoration to each other within the inheritance, but also a restoration to the Lord. These gates represented the reality that not only could each tribe come before the Lord and approach Him at this city, but they could come before and approach Him together. Oh, imagine what it must have looked like as each of the twelve tribes of Israel entered into the city called The Lord Is There, and brought their offerings and sacrifices before Him. This city and its twelve gates represented the powerful reality that they had been restored to each other in worship, and that they could worship the Lord together. Consider that from the time the nation of Israel became divided, the worship of the house of Israel became divided, for Jeroboam son of Nebat introduced a false form of worship in the land with the erecting and setting up of two golden calves. There were those who journeyed away from and out of the northern kingdom of Israel, for they wanted to worship the One true God at His holy sanctuary and Temple in the land. For years worship among the house of Israel was divided, as the sanctuary of the Lord was found within the city of Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah, while two golden calves were found in the northern kingdom of Israel. What sheds even more light on to this reality of twelve gates is when you consider the way that the camp of Israel was to be arranged while they were still in the wilderness.

If you journey back to the Old Testament book of Numbers, you will find deliberate and intentional instruction given to Moses concerning how the camps were to be arranged before and around the sanctuary of the Lord in the wilderness. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Aimmindab, his company as listed being 74,600. Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Isaachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, his company as listed being 54,400. Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, his company as listed being 67,400. All those listed of the camp of Judah by their companies were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march. On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, his company as listed being 46,500. And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon, the chief of the people of Simeon being Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, his company as listed being 59,300. Then the tribe of Gad, the chief of the people of Gad being Eliasaph the son of Reuel, his company as listed being 45,650. All those listed of the camp of Reuben, by their companies, were 151,450. They shall set out second. Then the tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; as they camp, so shall they set out, each in position, standard by standard. On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim by their companies, the chief of the people of Ephraim being Elishama the son of Ammihud, his company as listed being 40,500. And next to him shall be the tribe of Manasseh, the chief of the people of Manasseh being Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, his company as listed being 32,200 Then the tribe of Benjamin, the chief of the people of Benjamin being Abidan the son of Gideoni, his company as listed being 35,400. All those listed of the camp of Ephraim by their companies, were 108,100. They shall set out third on the march. ON the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan by their companies, the chief of the people of Dan being Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, his company as listed being 62,700. And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran, his company as listed being 42,500. Then the tribe of Naphtali being Ahira the son of Enan, his company as listed being 53,400. All those listed of the camp of Dan were 157,700. They shall set out last, standard by standard. These are the people of Israel as listed by their fathers’ houses. All those listed in the camps by their companies were 603,550. But the Levites were not listed among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 2:1-33).

In the book of Numbers we find that the twelve tribes of Israel were to encamp round about the Tent of Meeting, thus signifying the sanctuary and presence of the Lord in the midst of His people. Oh that we would pay close attention to this reality, for far too many times we fail to understand that the Lord is to be present in our midst, and that we are to center our lives around Him, and not the other way around. Far too many times we expect the Lord to be centered around us, and by doing so, we commit a great disservice before the Lord. The twelve tribes of Israel were to be encamped around the Tent of Meeting, thus signifying that each had an equal part in the sanctuary of the Lord. What’s more, is that each of the twelve tribes of Israel had direct access to the altar of the Lord, and to the sanctuary of the Lord which was present in their midst. In other words, the camps of the twelve tribes of Israel formed sort of a boundary around the sanctuary of the Lord, thus allowing for the Lord to be present in their midst. The same reality was true of the city of Jerusalem, and the city which would be called The Lord Is There. The twelve gates that are mentioned in the prophetic book of Ezekiel symbolize direct and individual access to the place of the presence and name of the Lord. The sanctuary of the Lord was to be found in the midst of the people of the Lord, and these gates signified that each of the twelve tribes of Israel had a portion in the inheritance. What’s more, is that the city of Jerusalem didn’t merely belong to the tribe of Judah, but belonged to the entire house of Israel as a whole. The city that was named The Lord Is There belonged to each of the twelve tribes of Israel, for each of the twelve tribes of Israel had access to and entrance into the city. What’s more, is that if you read the measurements associated with each of the gates, you will read that each had the same measurement—4,500 cubits by measure. There was not a single tribe of the twelve tribes of Israel who had a greater or more superior portion in the inheritance, nor was there one who had greater access to the city The Lord Is There.

I think that there are far too many men and women within the house of the Lord who attempt to compete with each other when it comes to having access to the throne of God. I am convinced that there are far too many men and women who believe they have a corner and handle on the presence of the Lord, and somehow view themselves as being vastly superior to others. There are even churches and ministries that move about with tremendous pride and arrogance, believing themselves to have greater access to the Lord, and to His presence. There are far too many churches and ministries that are competing with each other, and I would dare say that there are churches and ministries that believe that size is somehow a confirmation that they somehow have a corner on the presence, the favor, the blessing, and the glory of Almighty God. I would even dare say that there are some churches where this competition is found even at the altar of the Lord, as men and women seem to fight and compete with each other to experience God in a greater way than another. There are individuals who will attempt to worship a little bit louder, or raise their hands a little higher, or bow themselves a little lower, or carry Bibles that are a little bit larger than others, in an attempt to somehow outdo them. Oh, what would happen if we recognized that we all have equal access to the throne of God, and that there is not one whom God loves moe than another. God doesn’t love you any more than He loves me, and He will not do for you what He is also not willing to do for me. The Lord is willing to answer your prayers just as much as He is willing to answer mine. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and His eye move to and fro throughout the earth seeking to show Himself strong to those whose hearts are completely His. The Lord is no respecter of persons, and is pleased with broken hearts and a broken and contrite spirit. Let it both be said and known that there is absolutely no room for any competition in the house of the Lord, nor is there to be any competition in the presence of the Lord. The time of Pharisees and Sadducees competing with each other in the house of the Lord must come to an end, and there must be a clearly defined unity that is found within the house of the Lord.

Twelve gates each providing access to the city called The Lord Is There meant that no tribe was excluded, and that all could enter in through the gates. Let us as the people of God understand that we all have the same access to the throne of grace, and that we all have the same access into the presence of the Lord. What would happen in many of our churches if we were restored to each other, and restored to the Lord? What would happen if we began to worship the Lord together in His holy sanctuary rather than worshipping separately and individually? I am convinced that there is far too much individual worship that is present within the sanctuary of the Lord as opposed to corporate and unified worship. We gather together in the house of the Lord to come before the Lord together as one body in worship, in praise, and in adoration of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Could it be possible that the reason there is very little corporate worship in our churches is because we haven’t truly been restored and reconciled with each other? Is it possible that there is a tremendous need for men and women to first be restored to the Lord, then restored to each other, and then unity in the Spirit will follow suit? Tell me dear brother and sister, tell me dear minister—are there twelve gates within the sanctuary in which you gather together and worship? Are there twelve gates which provide equal access to the throne of grace, and to the one true King of the universe? Is there division in the house of the Lord where you worship, and are there perhaps only ten gates, or perhaps even fewer than that?

How many of our churches and congregations truly have twelve gates, thus symbolizing the unity of the people of God? How many men and women within our churches and sanctuaries attempt to ostracize and isolate other members of the body, in order to somehow elevate and exalt themselves before the Lord? These men and women will make every attempt to do whatever is necessary to somehow appear to have a corner on revelation, or a corner on devotion to God, or a corner on His presence, or a corner on holiness. Such a reality was found among the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders, the elders and the scribes of Israel during Jesus’ generation. These individual believed themselves to be far more holy, far more pious, far more faithful, far more righteous than others, and as a result, they neglected and overlooked those among them. This is nothing more than selfish pride parading itself in the outward guise of false religion, legalism and hypocrisy. Oh, if you are such an individual who acts in such a way in the house of the Lord, I would highly caution and urge you to stop immediately. If there is somehow selfish pride and arrogance within your heart that is causing you to elevate and exalt yourself above others, and if you are somehow attempting to elevate your gate above another—your access to the throne of God—I would strongly caution you be careful, and to seriously consider your actions and behaviors. If there aren’t twelve gates present within your congregation, church, or house of worship, I would dare say that there is a powerful presence of religious pride, hypocrisy, legalism, and arrogance. Oh that we as the people of God would fall to our knees and ask Him to raise up twelve gates in our midst. Imagine driving up to a church that bore the title “Twelve Gates Ministry Center,” or “Twelve Gates,” or “Twelve Gates Worship Center.” Let us take this passage in the prophetic book of Ezekiel, as well as the division of the camp surrounding the Tent of Meeting, and that we would understand our place within the body of Christ, and the unlimited access we have to the presence of the Lord. Oh that we would cry out from the depths of our souls that the Lord would raise up twelve gates within our midst—not twelve literal gates, but a deep unity that is embedded within the core of our existence as the people of God. Let us ask the Spirit of grace and truth to establish twelve gates in our midst, and that we would be reconciled and restored to each other in worship before the King of kings and Lord of Lords.

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