4. The Valley Gate

Nehemiah 3:13

Moving on from the Old Gate, we come to the Valley Gate, which is located at the “pinch point” of the Old City walls, with the Water Gate being directly opposite it.

Once we have learned that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (Sheep Gate) and the Saviour of the world to whom all of humanity must give an account, we are told his followers bear witness to him (Fish Gate).  Yet still we have much to learn of Christ, and the teachings of the Church over 2000 years, so we must also pass through the Old Gate, to learn what it means to be clothed with Christ in the ancient wisdom of the ways of God, that we find in Scripture and Church History. 

And now we come to the Gate that I’m sure we all have bitter experience of: The Valley Gate.  The Gate opens out into the lowest point of Jerusalem: The Hinnom Valley, where wicked and idolatrous practices of child sacrifice (2 Kings, Isaiah & Jeremiah) and burning of human and city waste took place.  Jesus referred to this valley several times such as Mark 9:42-50 where “...their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (a line Jesus directly quotes from the very last verse of Isaiah.  This is where the idea of the word Gehenna (from Hinnom) is often translated as “hell” – a place where the unrepentant wicked are punished.

Spiritually, the Christian testimony over the course of Church History is quite clear:  Men and women who follow Christ are taken deeper into the nature and character of God by trials and tribulations. By experiencing what has been called ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’.  This is the vivid experience of the absence of God in your life.  When Jesus hung on the Cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat. 27:46), and yet, Scripture tells us, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). It seems that when God is most hidden, He is most active to save and redeem.

Famously, Psalm 23 captures the idea of the Valley: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”  so we see the Valley in a Christian’s life is both the experience of God’s seeming absence, and the necessary facing up to our fears as we journey with Christ in this life.  The Valley Gate reminds us of our frail humanity, our need for God and dependence upon Him.  The Valley strips us of our pretensions and pride, and leads us though repentance and forgiveness into the deep things of God.It is the place God trains us that even when certain things seem to be so, or that our feelings are telling us this or that, we can be sure that God is training us to rely, trust and follow Him even when everything in this world and our hearts would tell us otherwise: In other words, it is a discipleship into the ultimate truth:  Christ Alone.

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