Piet Douma - Gates in Nehemiah - Oak Lodge, Australia - 1976

I would like to speak a little about the book of Nehemiah, the first chapters. I just want to say that I am glad that I had the privilege to come to Australia. There was a real fear in my heart to go, but I like to think of men of God in Bible days and they had fear, but we read so often in the Bible of “fear not.” It was not only spoken to man but also to women, brothers, sisters, and it was spoken to Mary the mother of Jesus, and it was spoken to Abraham and Daniel. You would think men like Daniel, he didn’t need to hear those words, he had been in the loins' den and he had been through many difficult experiences. He had been tested and tried and still God had to tell him, "Fear not."

I like to think of Paul when he was writing to Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but God has given us a spirit of power and of life and of a sound mind,” and that is true. God’s people are given the spirit of God and that spirit of God is different than the spirit of a man. It has been said that when we have the spirit of God, we don’t fear and that will take away the fear of man. We have a hymn in our book and it says, “May the fear of man flee from us when we do Thy will.” It speaks to me that the fear of man may flee from us when we do God’s will. We don’t need to be afraid when we do God’s will. He will help and standby us in times when we need it.

The word Nehemiah means, "Jehovah comforts." God comforts, times He could be that comfort because he was going and he could give others comfort, also. Not only was he a comfort, he told them what God had done for him, they said, "Let us get up and build." They were willing to act when they heard the message of Nehemiah. We sang that hymn, “Does the master plea for constancy, find echo in thy heart? Art thou pained to see the kingdom suffer loss?” Here was a man and he was pained that the kingdom suffered loss. He asked about it and it seems like as this man’s work was only in the Palace because he was the butler and he was in the king’s palace and he could have been content. He had a good place and there was nothing to fear really. He was thinking about the kingdom of God and when men came from Jerusalem, he enquired and asked how things were. That wasn’t a very good picture and the walls were down and even the gates and everything burned with fire, but how nice to see that Nehemiah was interested in it and he had a heart to feel for it.

I was thinking about this how different it was with that butler in Joseph’s day. Joseph interpreted the dream for the baker and the butler, the baker was hanged but the butler, he was taken back to his palace and Joseph had asked him that he should think about him and we read that he forgot him. Nice to see how different it was with Nehemiah, he was anxious to know about the welfare of others, because he had a big heart in this. When we think about others do we act? It says, "When I heard the words, I sat down and wept." It shows his heart was soft and tender and it says that he mourned and fasted and he prayed before the God of heaven. It wasn’t done before people, but it was done before the God of heaven and the God of heaven listened in. And we see He opened the way up through a king that was an ungodly king and still God opened up the way.

It says he wept and he prayed and it says he fasted and he mourned. We read in the New Testament “Blessed are those that mourn.” They were Jesus words, “for they shall be comforted” and he was comforted then his prayers were answered.

Verse 6, “Let thine ear be attentive and thine eyes open that thou mayest hear the prayer of My servant,” and he knew what God could do. Good if we know what God will and can do for us, we will have no fear for the future. He called himself a servant. A servant is one that is ready to do something and he says in the same verse, “Confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee, both I and my father’s house.” Nice to see he includes himself in it. We know God’s people are people God’s takes notice of and His ear is open to their prayers, His eyes are open to them, but he has said, "We have sinned," and John in his first letter said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Here it tells us, "We have sinned, both I and my father’s house," and he felt he had come short. John doesn’t write only about this, but when we confess our sin, God is willing to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness and nothing will be left over. That is the way we can go out from this convention, we don’t have to fear, if we are willing to confess.

Verse 8, “Remember I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst by Thy servant, Moses.” Good when we know the words of God servants are in the Bible, even those living in our day and time. I can tell you the servants of God have been a great help to me in the past. I thought about those when I was young in years, young in the work and there were several old workers in my own land also. Here he mentioned the words of Moses and Moses was gone long ago but his words were written indelibly. Nehemiah knew about it. If you turn unto me there was hope. There is also hope for us. I like to think the gospel is a hopeful message for a hopeless people.

Verse 11, he spoke about his own prayer and he spoke about other’s prayers to Thy servants and we can be so glad that we are not the only ones to pray. I like to think, "Even in Holland, they are praying." My companion said when I left, "We will pray for you," and I was glad for that. The servants are praying and we can be glad for those who can pray and faithfully pray. Then it goes on to say, "I was a king’s cupbearer," and he makes known who he was. In the next chapter, he makes known how he came before the king. The king asked him a question and he said, "Why is thy countenance sad?" He had never been sad in the king’s presence, but now when he thought of the kingdom of God’s suffering loss, he was sad and the king noticed it and he did not hinder the king noticing it. The king asked the question and he said, "For what does thou make requests?" It doesn’t say he answered right away. So I prayed to the God of heaven and this is a wonderful man, how near he was to God. The king asked the question, then he gives the answer, "I said unto the king." He made known the message, he had liberty to do it. Then we see he went on and got a message to some that would give timber to make beams for the gates of the Palace which appertained to the house for the whole of the city. He got the material for it right away and the king granted him according to the good hand of my God on me. He felt it was God’s hand that was leading. Nothing gives us more comfort to draw near than to know God is interceding and leading.

Verse 12 “I arose in the night… neither told any man what my God had put in my heart.” He was a man that was not outspoken. He didn’t say much but he acted and he took other men with him. He didn’t tell them about it, they were men willing to follow him and to go with him. It says they went by night and viewed the walls of Jerusalem. He went to look at it first, he took notice of what was happening and he saw things that were wrong and that were damaged. It tells us there wasn’t even a place to walk, there was no place for the beast under him to pass it wasn’t easy going, but he went anyway. He went further, he did not tell the rulers where he went or what he did and he kept silent for a while.

Verse 17, then I said unto them, “Ye see the distress that we are in…" Then I told them of the hand of my God, which was good unto me and they said, "Let us rise up and build.” His message had such an effect on the men that heard it and they said, "Let us rise up and build." I thought about the one man God could work through in the beginning, and this man went forth he showed God what was in it. Others were willing to go too and it is wonderful how it was when people know it is from the Lord and they listen to it. Even so with the Gospel message that people who are honest see it is from God and they must go in for it and they do. They are so glad and willing to do something like it tells us here and themselves being given without hindrance but Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gesham laughed us to scorn. There were three men hindering, they made me think of the threefold enemy you and I have to face daily. Which are the world, the flesh, and the devil. But it is nice to know God’s power is greater than that, nice for us to put our trust in God.

Verse 21, "He will prosper us.” They could say God would stand by them when they were willing to do the right and is that so. God stands by those who are willing to do the right, to do the thing with the right motive. We heard last night not with the motive to get ourselves in the picture, but the motive of trying to be a help and blessing to God’s people and God’s kingdom.

Chapter 3, we read a little about the gates and I would like to mention a little about how much cooperation there was in chapter 3 and the way they work. It tells us in the second verse and the next unto him builded on the wall of Jericho. They were building the wall side-by-side and they built right next to one another. They didn’t leave a gap and they didn’t think, "If I get my part up even if others have done a little, it doesn’t matter," no these people building together in union with God. In such a way, that the wall was built and it tells us several people’s names and even mentions sometimes it was one person. Sometimes, a group of persons and we don’t read of anyone that was hindering the wall but all tried to build. There were even goldsmiths. I don’t think goldsmiths would have very much place but everybody does their part and it does help. Just like convention, you see all working all are doing something and I feel ashamed I wasn’t doing anything.

I remember at the first convention I was at and I didn’t go to many conventions as a saint. I would like you to know what I was doing. I was milking cows morning and evening and the milk went to the convention grounds that milk was given without taking a price for it. How nice it is when we have a part in it and we know there are some have to take care of the children and the older ones cannot take an active part how nice when there is so much cooperation. There is only one kind of people who do not do anything. It tells us that Nobles did not put their necks to the work of the Lord and only one kind of people who were able and they did it not.

There are 10 gates mentioned in this chapter and that is not the perfect number. We read in Revelations there was a perfect number and there were 12 gates. It might speak to us there is no perfection this side of the grave. Once in heaven everything will be perfect, although God’s work is perfect. I was in the home of one of the friends and there was a little girl came to me and gave me her Bible and she has put something on it. A young girl and she put, “God’s way is perfect.” I thought that was very nice and you can say the parents saw to it that child had something that was worthwhile.

Now the different gates, the first gate we read about is the sheep gate. That gate is where God’s people go in and Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” We go in through the sheep gate since that time came in our lives when we heard the Master’s voice, the shepherd’s voice and we were willing to go through the sheep gate. I didn’t hear the Gospel in Holland. I heard it in Montana and I always think about that joy when the time came when we went to gospel meetings years ago. I still picture the time when we went the way we went. I went with three brothers and we went to the meeting and there were two sisters in a schoolhouse 25 miles from the nearest town. You would think, "How could they find us?" But they found us there. My prayer had been that God will be merciful to me. I remember I wasn’t satisfied with my life and I wanted something true and genuine. The neighbours came up to us and said to me and my brothers, "Come to the meeting at the schoolhouse." We were church people but the neighbours were not. The neighbours went to the meeting the first evening and we didn’t go because we wanted to see what happened and the next day we asked them what happened. They said, "It was very nice and we are going again," so we went.

Sometimes it is sad it doesn’t happen very often that four brothers go to a gospel meeting together. I know I have not experienced it in Holland. In South America, I spoke about this one time in one of the meeting and a sister said, "There are four brothers here at this convention." She said the old one was her husband and the other three are his brothers all professing and wasn’t that good. All from one family professing. That was the way we went and that was the way we got in touch with the truth and the friends were a help to us. My three brothers and one has gone to eternity already, the younger one, another one has a meeting in his home and the other is a widower and is professing also.

The fish gate and that is a very important gate. It was for Peter, Jesus spoke to him and said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." Peter had been fishing, now he got the higher calling. It was said at convention that before the fish that he caught they died, but afterward when he was fishing and caught fish and they became alive and that is true. People hear the Gospel and they become alive, they are different, they are changed, they even goes so far that a sister said, "I have another husband," and she met her husband had changed so much. An old man one time said, "Who called you and who sent you?" I said, "Who called me? We are not called by men we are called by God," and we are glad that is so. We are not called by any denominational sect, but by God himself.

The old gate in verse 6. people say, "What new religion is this?" I remember one day my father, he had not professed yet, he did after I went into the work and they asked him at the church, "What was the new faith your wife and your sons in?" He said, "This is not new, this is the old faith that is according to the Bible." He gave a good answer but they were not willing for it. I was glad afterwards he was willing to put his life in with God’s people the old faith and the old gate.

We read about Elijah, the altar was broken down. We don’t read Elijah built it, he went beside it. He repaired it, he built an old altar. You know God gave fire from heaven to show it was right. God will convince us to what is right and what is not right. The time came when Elijah said, "The Lord He is God," and he repaired the old altar. Sometimes people have asked us who is the founder of this faith. I had one man asked me it wasn’t so easy to tell him Jesus is the founder of our faith the author and finisher of our faith. We sing the hymn, “It pays to serve Jesus, I speak from my heart. Jesus, He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life.”

The valley gate, we go through the valley and it is a land of valleys and hills and it is true we are not always on the mountain top, there are dark experiences also. A sister wrote in a letter to me Psalm 84 and she says, "I was passing through the valley of Baca and how do we come out?" We come out all right, but if we get in trouble more make wrong choices, how good it is to have patience and to have faith that when we go through the valley, we don’t settle in the valley of Baca. There are more valleys mentioned in the Bible and we know about the valley experience, we are glad there are other experiences also and we hear joy and sorrow interwoven. Jesus said He rejoiced in spirit, He also went, there are two sides of it that is God’s people, it is good to know we are just passing through the valley.

The dung gate that might speak to us of rubbish getting out. You know every city has rubbish, people don’t want to keep it, and we want to get it away. It is good to know there is a rubbish gate, we might have something in our possession or in our heart that might be like rubbish that will spoil our testimony. Good to get it and throw it away and there is a place for it. An open gate to get it away or it will spoil our testimony, spoil our joy, spoil our satisfaction, spoil our place, it all goes together. We are the people of God, we are different from others and we have a higher standard.

The fountain gate, how glad we can be there is a fountain gate. We read about Joseph and the fountain and the wall. God’s people really have the same, there is a wall that separates, to keep that wall up and we have that fountain the fountain gate. And we heard about Joseph’s branches went over the wall. He stayed inside, there were fruit growing over the wall, it went out to others and even to the perishing world and good to think about that too. We sometimes think we can’t be much help anymore, but there are still some people looking for the rest of their life. None of us feel capable, good to have a word in season not only for God’s people but for people outside and for our relations. It is true they don’t all get help but it is wonderful how some can get help if we are faithful in doing our part.

The Watergate speaks of cleansing and God wants a clean people. We want to be clean not only outwardly but inwardly, like David said to God he would be cleansed and clean. There is water, God makes provision for His people. We can be glad to have fountains here like that at convention. I have been in some places, and they can’t have a convention or hardly a little meeting, but we can have convention and this will help us, God can work in our lives and those people who are lonely God will see to it they will come through.

The horse gate that might speak of getting ready for battle. You know there is a fight to fight and we have to get ready for fighting, like Paul said, "I have fought a good fight," he had fought the fight that was good, that had value in it. It says a horse gate, getting ready for battle to fight the enemy and they were getting ready, like God doesn’t call us together to whip us but to equip us and He wants to equip us, we don’t get wipped, we get the whole armour of God. We need the whole armour and we should not leave one piece off.

The East gate it speaks to us of a new day, the sun comes from the east, it speaks to us of new responsibilities and possibilities that God gives young and old. Sometimes people say, "I wish I was younger." A servant of God, he was 28 years of age and he said, "If I had to overturn my life, I would want to spend it in this service of God." He spoke to young workers every time when he could, he encouraged them to give their lives to God to plant them in such a way they could be useful.

There is one more and that is a miphkad gate, it speaks of numbers and it might speak to us that we are counted in with God’s people. We don’t count numbers but we are glad we are counted in. I hope we will appreciate our place and we will do what is in our being that we might be true to God and true to God’s people and be a help to a perishing world.