Guest blogger: Joe Barone - A gate and a promise

On day 3 of a 10 day group tour of Israel, we entered Tel Dan Nature Reserve in Northern Israel, near the Lebanon border. This spectacular area is the site of the ancient city of Dan, nearly 5000 years old. According to the Bible (1 Samuel 3:20), Dan is the northernmost point of ancient Israel. It sits at the southern base of Mount Hermon in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. Snow melt and rain waters from Mount Hermon, whose summit sits on the borders of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, feed the Dan Stream, one of the 3 sources of the Jordon River. Along the multiple hiking trails are fresh water springs, streams, waterfalls, well preserved remnants of settlement pits, ritual compounds, a flour mill, and gate complexes.

Most impressive at Tel Dan are two ancient city gates. The Abraham Gate (Canaanite Gate), approximately 4000 years old, was made of mud bricks and has been remarkably preserved to its full height of 23 feet. The Gate of Judgement (Israelite Gate) is approximately 2800 years old. Later in our tour, we’d see and learn of the eight gates of Old Jerusalem. City gates were seats of authority, meeting places of rulers, and where guards were often posted for protection. Words of wisdom, administration of justice, and prophetic messages were delivered at the gates of the settlements or cities.
According to our Messianic Jewish Tour Guide, it was most likely at a city gate that Ahijah, a Levite prophet of Shiloh in the days of Solomon, foretold to Jeroboam that he would become king (1 Kings 11:29-39). Jeroboam did become the first king of the northern Kingdom of Israel which consisted of ten of Israel’s twelve tribes. The two remaining tribes were in the southern Kingdom with the center of worship in Jerusalem. Ahijah’s  prophetic word included a promise from God that if Jeroboam obeyed God’s commands, walked in obedience, and did what was right in His eyes, he would be the beneficiary of a dynasty as lasting as the one that God gave David (1 Kings 11:38).

Unfortunately, Jeroboam never experienced the promised, prophetic life to the full. He disobeyed God’s commands, embraced wrong traditions, and was seduced by his kingly power. He fell into wickedness and idol worship. It was at the city of Dan, in the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, that Jeroboam set up one of the two golden calf high places of worship in the ritual compound of the settlement. In response to Jeroboam’s behavior, God spoke through Alijah the prophet again, who delivered this rebuke: “I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me” (1 Kings 14:8-9). What followed was disaster for Jeroboam, his family and his reign as king.

While in this lush Tel Dan Nature Reserve, I contemplated gates, prophetic words, and God’s promises. Jeroboam could have experienced what David spoke of in Psalm 112:1-3. “Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.”

During Jesus’ ministry, He talked of gates, issued prophetic words, and blessed promises. The gate is a symbol for Jesus, Himself. Enter through the narrow gate of salvation, avoid the wide gate of destruction He instructed.  (See Matthew 7:13-14).  Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full(John 10:9-10). Jeroboam was promised life to the full, but stubbornly rejected the positive prophecy given to him. Take to heart the promise of Jesus, the narrow gate. Embrace His promise that if we enter that narrow gate we will “…have life, and have it to the full.

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