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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 9:17-22 The gatekeepers

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 7, 2023

17 The gatekeepers were Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman, and their brothers. Shallum was their chief; 18 previously he had served in the King’s Gate on the east side of the Temple. They were the gatekeepers for the camp; the descendants of Levi. 19 Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, together with his brothers from his father’s house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, guardians of the threshold to the Tent just as their fathers had been responsible for the LORD’s camp as guardians of the threshold. 20 Phinehas son of Eleazar had been in charge over them in the past, and the LORD had been with him. 21 Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper of the threshold to the Tent of Meeting. 22 All who were chosen to be gatekeepers in the doorways numbered 212. They were listed by genealogy, according to their villages, and they had been appointed to their trusted position by David and by Samuel the seer.

Our author takes a pause from his list of the people who repopulated Jerusalem after the exile, to focus on a single, small group: the gatekeepers. There could be more than one reason for this. First, the gatekeepers were responsible for who was able to enter into the temple courts, and therefore they should have been able to prevent any breach in God’s regulations such as the one Paul was wrongly accused of in Acts 21:29. Another point could be to show the number of Levites who were willing to help out in any way they could despite small numbers (Ezra 8:15-20). One of their tasks was to be especially watchful of the King’s Gate on the east side of the temple. The temple faced east, and therefore this would have been the “Beautiful Gate” of Acts 3:2, the gate through which Jesus rode on his way into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:10; Mark 11:11).

The divisions of the gatekeepers are explained in verse 22. The Levite families of certain villages were appointed to serve as gatekeepers. Since these divisions went back to the days of David and some even to Samuel the prophet, they were very old if not quite ancient in the days of the return from Babylon—about five hundred years (Samuel anointed David in about 1025 BC, 1 Samuel 16:13). Samuel is called “the seer” here because, according to 1 Samuel 9:9-11, that was the old name for “prophet” in Samuel’s time. He even calls himself “the seer” in 1 Samuel 9:19.

These divisions brought orderliness and accountability to the positions of those who watched over the house of God. For both Samuel and David, this meant the ancient tabernacle Moses had built (still in use in Samuel’s time) and the tent David pitched for the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem after he conquered the city and brought the Ark there in 1 Chronicles 16:1. The gatekeepers would be certain that no unauthorized person could enter into the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. When Aaron’s older sons had done that, they were put to death by God when they attempted to offer unauthorized fire, almost certainly in an unauthorized place and at an unauthorized time (Leviticus 3:4, 26:60). God asks: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23).

Therefore we come to the intersection of the very practical and holy work of the gatekeepers and the equally practical and holy work of the ministers of the gospel who lead people to repentance, so that their souls will not be lost to eternal damnation. The word “repentance” is used in two ways in the Scriptures, and we will consider the seeming repentance of God together with the kingship of King Saul in chapter 10. The usual meaning of repentance is sinful man’s repentance, a change of mind, that is to say, a change of purpose and intent. In this sense repentance can be used of the conversion of the unbeliever to faith, as Jesus says: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).

But since repentance in man has two parts, terror and faith, “repentance” is often used just of the first part, so that Paul says correctly: “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). Repentance can be described from its turning point: “A turning from sins” (1 Kings 8:35; Isaiah 59:20), or described as to its ending point: “a turning and returning to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 30:2; 1 Samuel 7:3; Jeremiah 3:7; Malachi 3:7). Repentance can also be described with regard to its wonderful effect: “a repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and “a repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).

There are some marvelous ways that repentance has been described over the centuries by certain Christian writers:

  • “The medicine for wickedness” (Gregory of Nazianus)
  • And also: “The second cleansing (after baptism)”
  • “The harbor of salvation” (Lactantius)
  • “The good flight” (Ambrose of Milan)
  • “The way which leads people back to the angels and returns the creature to the Creator” (Augustine)
  • And also: “The very healthy humility of repenting.”
  • “The root of piety” (Chrysostom)
  • “The tears of sinners are the wine of angels” (Bernard)
  • And again: “The tears of repentance are the delicacies of angels”
  • “The heart of a sinner, humbled and drenched with daily tears, is a rich burnt offering” (Johann Gerhard)

Since God, as we have seen, does not desire the wicked to perish, he places preachers of the gospel into the world to call the wicked to repentance, first by “the putting off of the sinful nature” (Colossians 2:11) and then to be “raised again through faith” (Colossians 2:12). As our Confession teaches: “Because there is no peace for the conscience except by faith, therefore faith alone quickens (makes alive again), according to the word of Habakkuk 2:4, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession).

When, like a good gatekeeper, any one of us points out a sin, we do a good thing, even though the act may cause pain. In the end, the act may lead a sinner to repentance, life, and salvation, and then we have been used by God as a good tool and an honest worker. All we ask is that God would not forget us or discard us, but forgive our sins as well, for the sake of Jesus our Lord, and bring us home to everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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