Possessing the Gates

March 23, 2006

The book of Genesis records two instances where the descendants of Abraham were given this spiritual heritage: possess the gates of your enemies.

The first instance is in Genesis 22:17, right after the LORD has provided a substitute sacrifice for the life of Isaac. An angel of the LORD calls out blessings to Abraham from the LORD because Abraham did not withhold his son from the altar.

Among the blessings, he declares, “And your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” In other words the seed, or the descendants, of Abraham shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Then a few chapters later this same promise is made to the descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac through his wife Rebecca. In chapter 24, verse 60, the relatives of Rebecca send her away with the servant of Abraham, to become Isaac’s wife. As she is leaving, they speak this blessing over her:

May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands,
And may your seed possess the gate of those who hate them. (NASB)

Rebecca becomes the carrier of this promise, which is so similar to the one God spoke over Abraham and Isaac in chapter 22. Since Rebecca is about to marry Isaac at the end of chapter 24, we could say that the two promises regarding “possessing the gate of your enemy” are about to “marry” and be passed onto their offspring.

What power! What a multiplication! What a confirmation, as the same thing is spoke by the mouth of two witnesses!

Isaac and Rebecca have twin sons, and one of them, Jacob, is the ancestor of the Jewish people. So we can certainly say that this powerful promise of possessing the gates of the enemy is something available to Jewish people even today, if they walk in it by faith.

But what about the rest of us, who are not physical descendants of Jacob? Glad you asked that question.

Let’s look at Gal. 3:29. “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (NKJV)

The previous verse says that there is neither “Jew nor Greek”—neither Jew nor Gentile—in Messiah Yeshua. We are all one in Him, without distinction.

And if we belong to Him, we are Abraham’s seed. So we inherit all the promises spoken to Abraham’s seed in the Word of God, including the promise to possess the gates of our enemies.

Okay, but what does that promise mean for us today? To answer that question, we have to consider how gates functioned in Bible times.

Most of the cities or large towns of those days were surrounded by walls of some kind—anything from a kind of stick fence to thick and high stone walls with parapets for defense. The idea was to be able to protect the inhabitants at night from animals who might wander in and most of all, to protect the city from marauding humans—thieves, bandits and conquering armies.

The gate or gates to these enclosures were the only way into or out of the city. So all commercial traffic entered and exited through the gates.

Thus the city gate became a place for all kinds of important activity in the life of the city and its inhabitants. The area near the gate became a literal marketplace, where commodities from farmers outside the city were bought and sold. (II Kings 7:1; Nehemiah 12:25).

Increased commerce gave rise to disputes. So the gate area became a place of adjudication—municipal law courts. (Is. 29:21; Amos 5:15; Zech. 8:16) The city elders (respected men, not simply “old” men) would sit in the gate area and bring the wisdom of their experience and insight to settle commercial disputes and other matters effecting the life of the city’s inhabitants.

The elders and those passing through the gate area would also discuss the issues of the day and the issues of life, sometimes setting policy for the city and advising the city’s ruler. This in turn gave rise to the gate area becoming the center for political activity and even for mustering militias. (Judges 5:11)

Kings would sometimes sit in the city gates, both to dispense justice and to take the political pulse of the people. (II Sam. 19:8) Here’s a good example of that from I Kings 22:10.

“Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them.” (NASB)

With kings and commerce and courts congregating at the city gate, no wonder the gate also became a place for public declaration by prophets and others. In the case of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, the Lord several times told him to stand in the city gate and proclaim the word of the Lord. (Jer. 7:2; Jer. 17:19) We could say that the city gate was the media center for ancient cities, as well as their commercial center.

The gates to a city, then, represented a point of power, a place to exercise control over that city. A military conqueror would try to get control of the gate in order to enter the city most easily. A king who had the hearts of the elders who sat in the gate would politically control the city. A person who organized and ran the commercial market and storehouses at the gate would control the economic life of the city—and its surrounding villages.

At the gate ideas and policies flowed along with the commerce. These ideas could result in the rising or falling of rulers and even nations.

And that brings us to the modern day in which we live. In our lives—in our cities, states, nations—it often seems like an enemy of the Kingdom of God has possessed our “gates.” This enemy represents ideals and principals contrary to that of Heaven’s Kingdom. Yet it influences our business life, our cultural life, our social life, our political life—even our church life.

And what God is saying to us today, I believe, is, “Rise up and possess the gates of your enemies. Stop settling for the status quo. Take My promise and take back your culture.”

I believe He is saying to us--yes, even to us intercessors—to go out into the marketplace. Go out to the places of power, where the decisions of government are made. Go out into the business community. Go out into the judicial system and the legislature, the political arena. Take these places for the Kingdom of God.

Are you sensing that maybe the Lord is repositioning you right now? Are you sensing that He has a new assignment for you outside the prayer closet where you’ve labored these many years?

If so, then you are not alone. I believe He has been teaching many of us how to live in and by His Spirit, so that He could send us out in such a time as this into the “gates” and change what goes on there.

No more “business as usual.” A new day is dawning. And it is the Army of the Lord that is taking territory, that is moving the boundary stones in this earth until they agree with the decrees of Heaven.

This is what it means to be salt and light. Yes, prayer is necessary. Yes, strategic intercession is powerful and valuable. Yes, contemplative intimacy is the cry of the Lord’s heart for us.

But for some of us it’s time now to take what we learned in the place of hiddenness and go into all the world.

Go then, and every place where the sole of your foot treads take territory for your King!

Scripture marked NKJV taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Emphasis added.

Scripture marked NASB taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Emphasis added.