Me ... A Gate Keeper?
What do I mean by “gate-keeping”? In biblical times, cities were protected by thick, high walls. People only entered or left a city through its gates. “Gate-keepers” were placed in positions of authority to control who and what came into or left the city. The rulers of the city often “sat in the gate of the city.” This referred to the designated area inside the gate where the leaders of the city often met.
The Bible provides us with many examples of young people called to serve the Lord in gate-keeping positions. In their respective positions of authority, they were able to exert a positive influence on their culture. They were used by God to stem evil and promote good, and served as a blessing for their people and country. Think of Joseph, Moses, David, Obadiah, Hezekiah, Josiah, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel, and many others. I want to focus on four of these examples.
Think of Obadiah. We read about him in 1 Kings 18. God placed Obadiah in the gate-keeping position of governor over King Ahab’s house during the time of Elijah when Israel experienced three and a half years of no rain and severe famine (v. 2). Obadiah governed in the palace of a terribly sinful king and wicked queen, Ahab and Jezebel. Yet, the Bible informs us that “Obadiah feared the LORD greatly” (v. 3). Because of his leadership position, he became aware of the queen’s murderous plans before they were executed, and he was able to act in time to decrease the extent of the damage.
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off (killed) the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.
1 Kings 18:4
If Obadiah was not occupying this gate-keeping position in Israel, he would neither have known about this plan nor been able to make arrangements to keep one-hundred prophets of the LORD alive.
Think of Nehemiah. God placed him in a gate-keeping position as cupbearer of King Artaxerxes in Sushan, the palace (Neh. 1:1 and 2:1). A mighty king was in continual danger of plots to kill him so that others could ascend his throne. One way to accomplish this would be to poison the king’s drink, so kings employed trusted subjects as their cupbearers. The cupbearer carefully watched over the king’s drinks and pre-tasted all to ensure that all were safe for the king to drink. In such a trusted position and with such near proximity to the king, cupbearers frequently became friends and confidants of kings. As a trusted friend of the king, Nehemiah asked the king for permission to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. The king not only granted his request but also provided Nehemiah with royal letters giving him official permission to build, and instructing Asaph the keeper of the king’s forests to provide the timber he needed. Artaxerxes also commissioned captains of his army and horsemen to accompany and protect Nehemiah (Neh. 2:5-9). The Lord used Nehemiah, and under His blessing and Nehemiah’s faithful leadership, the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15)! If Nehemiah was not in this gate-keeping position in the palace, he would not have been in a position of trust and friendship with the king in order to request and receive the king’s approval and support for rebuilding Jerusalem.
Think of Esther. God placed her in a gate-keeping position in the palace in Shushan as the queen of King Ahasuerus (Esther 1:2 and 2:17). Shortly after she was crowned, Haman the Agagite rose to power as chief of the princes (Esther 3:1). Haman received the king’s approval and his ring to write and seal the terrible commandment ordering the people to kill all Jews, young and old, and those who killed the Jews could take their spoil. His commandment was sent to all 127 provinces of the kingdom. Esther went before the king after Mordecai asked her the question,
(W)ho knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?Esther 4:14
We know how the king honored Esther, gave commandment for Haman to be hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai, and authorized Mordecai to write a new law that the Jews could defend themselves and attack their enemies. After hearing of this, the fear of the Jews fell on all people, and the day that they had so feared turned into a day of great rejoicing and victory for the Jews. If Esther would not have been in this gate-keeping position in Shushan, the palace, she would not have able to approach and speak with the king and the day of planned destruction would not have been turned into a day of victory and celebration for the Jews.
Think also of Daniel. God placed Daniel in gate-keeping positions in Babylon. He served as ruler over the province of Babylon, chief of the governors over the king’s wise men (Dan. 2:48-49), third ruler over the entire kingdom under King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:29), and first president of three over 120 princes governing the kingdom under King Darius (Dan. 6:1-2). We know how ungodly these kings and kingdoms were. Yet we also read of the tremendous influence Daniel had, so that even these heathen kings made personal confessions and proclaimed kingdom-wide decrees honoring the God of Daniel (Dan. 2:47 and 6:25-27). If Daniel had not been in these gate-keeping positions in Babylon, he would not have been able to influence heathen kings to make such God-honoring confessions and decrees. Thus, the Bible provides us with many examples that illustrate the importance of serving God and country in gate-keeping positions.
What are the key gate-keeping positions in our city, state or province, and country? What positions especially influence our society? I am thinking of politicians and government administrators, lawyers and judges, and news reporters and journalists. When we review the last fifty years, it appears that Christian churches have not been challenging their young people to consider if God is calling them to use their gifts in these gate-keeping positions. How many of our middle-aged and elderly people can recall hearing one sermon where we were seriously asked whether the Lord might be calling us to serve the Lord in a key gate-keeping position in our society? Yes, we were encouraged to consider such positions as pastor, teacher, doctor, and nurse. And all of these are important. But what about government leaders, lawyers, and journalists? Instead of Christians being challenged to see if God was calling them to these positions and church members being motivated to pursue careers accordingly, the opposite was generally true. “How can a true Christian be a politician? You have to be corrupt to be successful! How can a Christian serve as a lawyer? You have to be a liar to make it! How can a Christian be a journalist? You have to slant your news to fit the liberal agenda! If you tried to stand on Christian principles in today’s politics, courts, or media, they would simply throw you out! These are not suitable positions for serious Christians!” These views summarize the prevailing opinions of many Christians.
But is such thinking biblical? Are today’s politicians and government officials more corrupt than King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who slew the Lord’s prophets, commanded everyone to worship Baal, and falsely accused Nabal and then had him murdered so they could access his garden? Yet we read that Obadiah who served as governor in the court of this wicked king and queen “feared the LORD greatly.”
Was the court of Sushan a more honest place than today’s courts? Was Haman speaking truthfully about the Jews? Did King Ahasuerus even give it a second thought when he gave Haman permission to order the killing of all Jews and the plundering of their possessions? Was Nehemiah’s name not maligned and his safety threatened? Yet we know that Esther and Nehemiah faithfully represented God’s purpose and people as queen and cupbearer and governor in sinful governments and challenging positions.
Was the kingdom of Babylon less proud and mocking and self-idolizing than today’s media? Did not King Nebuchadnezzar proclaim,
Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?Dan. 4:30
Did not King Belshazzar openly mock God when he ordered the vessels of God’s temple to be used for his drinking party (Dan. 5: 23)? Did not King Darius pass a decree that whosoever would ask any petition of any God other than of him for thirty days would be thrown into the den of lions (Dan. 6:7)? Yet we know that Daniel served the Lord in the palaces of these kings so faithfully that when the princes, who wanted to get rid of him, searched for failures in Daniel’s performance, we read,
Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.Dan. 6:5
The Bible provides us with numerous examples of how godly men and women faithfully served God and their nation while serving in key gate-keeping positions in very ungodly governments. In fact, today our communities, states or provinces, and nations are paying a huge price for Christians not pursuing careers in key gate-keeping positions. Perhaps Christians sat back and relaxed in the recent past, thinking that their nation was a Christian one. Or perhaps the dangers of serving in gate-keeping positions were considered too great or the responsibilities were not emphasized enough. Whatever the reasons for the lack of Christians serving in gate-keeping positions, others saw the opportunities and actively pursued placing their people in these key positions. Liberals pushed the importance of government leadership. Groups wanting to change the moral determiners of our land through the courts stressed the importance of becoming lawyers and judges. Same-sex activists are disproportionately over-represented among our nation’s journalists. And they have effectively used their gate-keeping positions to bring about the changes they desired. While the Christian church was sleeping, those with an ungodly agenda for our culture were not. Now Christians are awakening to the reality that their Christian nation has been stolen and its influential positions usurped by unchristian leadership. The fruits demonstrate the disastrous change.
What must we do? Pray and work. Pray that God will provide us with godly men and women to serve our land in gate-keeping positions. Encourage gifted, godly young people to examine whether God is calling them to serve in these key positions. And if so, pray for and support them in their pursuits. The hearts of our people certainly need to be turned. We need to repent from sin and turn to God. But we know from biblical and world history that the leaders play a significant role.
When I was in China for some years working with high schools delivering Western, English educational programs, a senior Western-trained and certified teacher serving as a counselor and academic advisor at one of the schools said to me, “I have frequently been asked two questions by Chinese high school students when they are considering future careers that I never heard in all my years of teaching and counseling in the United States or Canada.” “What questions?” I asked, my curiosity stirred. “The one is, how can I best use my abilities for China? And the second is, how, do you think, that I could best use my abilities for my family? In the United States and Canada, the only questions I have ever heard were, what career should I go into? What, do you think, would be best for me?” The idolization of the individual in the West has permeated our thinking to such an extent that we think in terms of my time, my decision, my rights, and even my career. Young people, none of these things are solely yours. In the first place, they are all God-given. Secondly, they all impact others – family, community, and country. When considering a career, pray and think about how God may be calling you to serve others.
When I was serving in a leadership position in government for several years, I experienced that God does provide opportunities to be of influence when serving in gate- keeping positions. This is true not only when making decisions directly in one’s sphere of authority and providing advice to influence government decisions on other matters, but it is also real in ways of personal influence. I have witnessed government officials abstain from profanity, refrain from expressing mocking religious views, modify more radical recommendations, and even back away from promoting decisions in which they personally believe out of consideration for a Christian person in their presence that they have grown to respect. God also provides personal opportunities when serving in gate-keeping positions. These include opportunities in personal and group settings to explain Christian beliefs and perspectives that are quite different from the caricature that non-Christian officials understand from secular media, as well as individual, personal discussions. Opportunities even include atheist or agnostic government leaders asking personal religious questions or asking for prayer when experiencing a serious family or health issue. The opportunities are many, but we need to be there in a gate-keeping position and to have earned respect in it in order for these opportunities to carry weight.
Dear young people, if God has blessed you with good people and leadership skills, is He calling you to use these gifts to serve your city, state or province, or nation in an elected or government administrative office? If you are gifted with a keen and logical mind, could God be directing you to serve in the legal profession? If you are good at and love writing, have you considered serving God and your people as a journalist or in media?
We desperately need more Obadiahs, Nehemiahs, Esthers, and Daniels in the gate-keeping positions of our land!