Gatekeepers and Watchmen 8-29-15

Shabbat: August 29, 2015

Gatekeepers and watchmen were the security team of old. In days to come—days of tumult and transformation—we’ll need to beef up our security team. V’eemru? (And let us say?)

Let’s study how security teams worked in ancient Israel, so that learn better how to set up a security for Beit Simcha (especially as we prepare for our move) as well as our personal households.

2 Samuel 18:24. “Now David was sitting between the two gates. When the watchman on the roof over the gate walked over to the wall, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and all of a sudden, he saw a man running alone.”

Ancient gate with watchtower

The Hebrew for watchman comes from the root tzafah, meaning to lean forward, i.e., to peer into the distance. A watchman couldn’t be passive; he had to be on the lookout, leaning forward to see what is coming in the distance. Notice where the watchman is—up on a roof over the gate, where there would typically be a high watchtower, so that he can see farther, and then if he sees something, he can alert the gatekeeper below. Notice that the watchman “walked over to the wall” which was next to the watchtower, so that he can broaden his perspective, and when he notices something, “he lifted up his eyes”—he is on the alert, so that “all of a sudden,” he can notice what is coming, as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of the watcher to be alert, so that he can give word about who is coming ASAP.

25-26. “The watchman cried out and told the king. The king said, “If he is alone, there is good news in his mouth.” So he came closer and closer. Then the watchman saw another man running,  so the watchman called out to the gatekeeper and said, “Look, another man is running alone.”
The king said, “He too is bringing good news.””

The Hebrew for gatekeeper is sho’er, from the same root sha’ar, gate. A sho’er was a shomer—a guard or keeper of the gate. Generally, the gates of a city or town would be closed at night and open by day—unless the security team agreed there was something threatening or dangerous approaching the gate.

In this passage, we see that King David was sitting between the two gates. In ancient times, city rulers or elders would often sit at the gate to do city business or render judgments. So it was no surprise to King David would be at the gate—and all the more at this particular time, since he was waiting for news of a battle between his general Joab’s forces and those of his rebellious son Absalom.

What the watchman sees coming might be either bad or good. In this case, King David believes that the running man is bringing good news —besorah.

Three observations: first, watchmen, gatekeepers, and the ruling authorities worked together as a team; second, everyone on the team had to be on the alert, and third, what might be coming to the gate might be good or bad—if good news, they had to open up the gates and welcome it, but it was bad, they had to bar the gates and prepare for battle.

The roles of watchmen, gatekeepers and ruling authorities were different—for security to work, they had to work together as a team. The watchers were the lookouts; if they saw something coming, they alerted the gatekeepers and the authorities. The rulers interpreted what the watchmen saw—David thought the messenger was bringing good news (turns out he was, but not exactly was David was hoping for) and what action to take. The gatekeepers controlled the gates, either to open them or close them—they also inspected who was coming in or going out.

For security to work well, they all had to work together as a team. If the watcher didn’t alert the gatekeeper or the city ruler, what good was he? If a ruler or a gatekeeper were snoozing or partying, ignoring the warning, that might lead to disaster or missed opportunity.

Everyone must be on the alert—though alertness for a gatekeeper is different than for a watchman. What is coming hither might be good—open the gates, welcome! Or bad—close and bar them shut! Discernment of good and evil is crucial, to determine whether to shut the gates or open them wide.

The same is true today. We need to recognize our watchmen and gatekeepers as well as leaders,  and we need them to work together. V’eemru?

We can compare the ancient security team with the modern security team of El Al, Israel’s airline. The TSA in the USA relies heavily on technology to inspect everyone equally—to avoid “profiling,” So grandmothers and toddlers get treated as criminals, same as anybody else.

El Al agents interviewing passengers

El Al’s security team includes Israeli intelligence to find out if there are any suspicious passengers—they compare the list of passengers for each flight with a list of suspicious people. If a passenger is on the suspicious list, then security personnel at check-in are waiting for that one—no surprises! So then, to what ancient role can we compare Israeli intelligence officers? And what about the security personnel at check-in?

But there’s more: the security check-in people are trained to interview every passenger as they are checking in, and based on your answers and the way you behave, they determine whether you trustworthy to fly or not. It doesn’t take long to interview the easy cases—they don’t need to spend as much time with grandmothers or moms with kids.

When Pamela went shopping in Israel, with 9 year old Adam and 2 year old Abby in tow, security officers would do this interview, just lifting up her bag without even looking into it—maybe to see if anything moved in it suspiciously.

When intelligence or check-in guys meet someone suspicious, then off that person goes to another room for a more intensive interview, where an officer decides whether that person will fly or not. Good people fly—welcome to the friendly skies of El Al! —but not bad guys. El Al has not had a terrorist or other security problem for over 45 years.

BTW, El Al does use technology—anti-missile systems on every jet to shoot down any missiles. Other international airlines should start installing this system!

Meanwhile, whose security system are you going to trust? How about the one that uses smarts & teamwork? Of course, flying El Al costs a bit more….

How many of you want to be secure, yet welcoming? Security requires teamwork, alertness and discernment. With these things in place, you can be both secure and welcoming.

You can look at your own body this way. Your body is a house —the Temple of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 141:3, David prays, “Set a guard, ADONAI, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips.” The guard is a shomer, a gatekeeper; the one watching is the tzarah, a watchman.

Remember, the watchman peers into the distance—are you on the lookout for what’s about to come into your mouth, or out of it?The gatekeeper opens or close the gate—but that shomer has to work together with the one in charge, the one who calls the shots about what goes into the mouth.That’s why David prayed for HaShem to set a guard over his mouth—that shomer must be under HaShem’s rulership, because I don’t always make the right decision. But if I would just let HaShem put a guard in my mouth—maybe as I say a brachah over food before I consume it—that might lead to better decisions about what I put in it. You know, King David, that’s a good prayer. V’eemru?

Some of us might also want to pray for a security team over our eyes, especially with the onslaught of media through the TV, theaters and the Internet. Some of us may need a gatekeeper to filter out pornographic images or commercials designed to sell or influence the way we think, V’eemru?

We don’t know whether King David had a weight problem—though we do know, he didn’t have to contend with chocolate chip cookies or ice cream. And we do know his eyes wandered.

Yet David might also have been concerned about what comes out of the mouth—such as curses, lashon hara (bad-mouthing), gossiping, words of spite or discouragement. Anyone need a bouncer?

That’s what Yeshua emphasized. In Matthew 15:11, He said, “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

How many of you need HaShem to set a guard over your mouth to check what comes out? Good news! Psalm 121:8 promises, “ADONAI will watch over (or guard, yishmar) your coming and your going from this time forth and forevermore.” That is, if you let Him.

Just remember, security requires teamwork—you need to work together with the Holy Spirit of God, and it requires alertness—you need to be alert for what’s about to come in or out (paying attention the Holy Spirit, who is on the lookout for you)—and it requires discernment—with the Ruach’s help, you can tell the different between what is good or bad for you (and others whom God loves).

How many of us need to beef up our spiritual security before the sound of the shofar on Yom Teruah?

We also need to understand that our security team must watch not just for things we can taste and see, but for spiritual powers and forces. That’s why Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

If we’re going to effective watchmen, we need to know what we’re looking for. Sometimes we think we’re struggling with flesh and blood (people), but we need to learn to look beyond them, and see the spiritual rulers and worldly forces that may be influencing or even oppressing them.

For example, if someone is struggling with guilt or depression, what good will it do to tell them not to feel guilty or depressed—that will probably make the person feel more guilty or depressed! Hmm? Better to pray against the spirit of guilt of depression—and you can do that, because “He that is
in you is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). V’eemru?

Have you been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? Then His Ruach is in you, and He’s in charge! Therefore, you are a member of His supernatural security team. V’eemru?

Now let’s read on to Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist when the times are evil, and after you have done everything, to stand firm.”

How many of you are aware that the times of evil, and for the time being, are getting more so? Then, as a member of God’s security team, you need to put on the armor of God, every day.

I’ll let you all review the following verses describing this armor on your own, but I do want to review Ephesians 6:18-19, “Pray in the Ruach on every occasion, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, keep alert with perseverance and supplication for all the kedoshim. And pray for me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News.”

The Greek for “keep alert”, agrupneite, means “to be vigilant in awareness of threatening peril.” Yet what we are watching for is not always a threatening peril—it might be good news, or someone ready to hear the Good News. Note the connection Paul makes between alert watchfulness, intercessory prayer and boldness to make known the Good News.

I love it when Don Kale welcomes people at our door, don’t you? At the baseball game this week, Don was telling me all about passers-by he met at the yard sale we had in front of the Grange last Sunday—and Don enthusiastically told all of them that Beit Simcha would soon meeting within those doors, and why they should come on Shabbat, and here’s my card, and when you come, please, you just ask for me and I’ll make sure you’re nice and comfortable. Now that’s a good watcher and gatekeeper—who sees an opportunity to make known the Good News. Bring it on, Don! May more of have this boldness, for which Sha’ul asked us to pray. V’eemru?

The same word agrupneite is used in Mark 13:33, when Yeshua instructs His disciples concerning the last days just before His return, “Keep on the lookout! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time is. It is like a man away on a journey. After leaving his house and putting his servants in charge and giving each his task, he also commanded the doorkeeper to watch.”

Messiah’s true disciples must stay alert, watching for the things that are coming, down the road. They/we must work together as a team—both the servants in charge and the doorkeeper. And we must have discernment, especially in these times—though we do not now when the time of His return, we do know the times we live in—therefore we need to distinguish spirits of deception and delusion from the One who alone is the way, the life and the truth. V’eemru?

Beit Simcha also needs to beef up spiritual security as we prepare for our move to Trexlertown Grange, and after that, Lord willing, into our own Synagogue & Community House. We do have watchers—our prophets and intercessors on the lookout (todah rabbah, Nancy, Sharon, Emma, Sandy, Bong-hee, and others!).

And we have gatekeepers—our ushers and greeters, and other ministries of Temple gatekeepers, who also watched over the Temple treasuries (so our treasurer Aaron Levy is a gatekeeper),  all the sanctuary equipment and setup (so Nydia who sets up our Sanctuary, and Emma, who sets up the foyer, and Susan Kofchock, who sets up Shulkhan Adonai) are all also gatekeepers.

And we have leaders—your z’keinim (elders) and shamashim (servant-leaders). It’s been a good team—but we’re going to need to beef it up. Trexlertown Grange is not sanctified ground—it’s not a synagogue or a church, but a public community hall. And it’s surrounded by a secular businesses and a low-income trailer park. That’s challenge; that’s opportunity—transformation needed from secular to sacred before we move in —so on move-in day, Sept 7, at 2:30pm, I’ve asked for spiritual cleansing to take place there.

And since who knows what all may happen there between our services, we’ll need to re-sanctify  the place every Shabbat. So Nancy is recruiting spiritual gatekeepers to pray for at least five minutes every Shabbat. Nancy, would you be willing to explain a bit about how that will work? How many are willing o be spiritual gatekeepers for Beit Simcha?

Our prophetic watchmen tell us that our time at the Grange will strengthen us as a community. It will prepare us for the greater responsibility that will come with our own building—for which we will need to be vigilant watchmen and gatekeepers, shutting out evil & welcoming what is good—including all who come to hear the Good News. V’eemru?

The worship team may come forward. Is there anyone here who needs to door of your heart to God? In Revelation 3:20, the Spirit of Messiah says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Is anyone here hearing Him knocking at the door of your heart? Then be a good doorkeeper,
and let Him in! God is good. Trust Him. Open the door of your heart to Him. Let’s pray…

This sermon may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha.  Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!

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