The Gatekeeper

“Buongiorno Giuseppe. Posso entrare?” (Italian for Good morning Joseph. May I come in?). All 600 pounds of him stands at the gate each morning. He doesn’t budge until I’ve hand fed him three cubes. Then, after I’ve paid the toll, he allows me to open the gate and drive through with the feed buckets. The oldest, and largest, of this year’s weaning calves; Giuseppe quickly assumed his role as the dominant steer in this pasture. His extroverted nature led him to be the first calf to let me pet and feed him by hand. In the pasture outside my den’s window, I watch all the other calves follow his leading throughout the day.

Like the troll in the Norwegian children’s story, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Giuseppe stands firm on the other side of the fence. He bellows loud and long until he hears me start the UTV each morning. Almost always beating me to the gate, he refuses to move until I’ve paid my entrance fee. After a few cubes fed through the gate, a pat on his head and a rub of his chin, he’ll back up and allow me to drive inside the pasture.

He never tries to escape, but stands at the end of the open gate until I stop. When I get out to close the gate behind me, he walks around and moos his request. One more morsel and I can close the gate. It’s always funny to see all the other calves standing there licking their faces, some drooling; but they all stand a few paces behind Giuseppe. Sometimes, I’ll extend my hand to offer one of them a treat, but they always back away as the big guy moves in to steal it away.

A natural leader, whenever I look in on them he’s the one standing guard; and wherever he goes, the others follow. With only a month gone by since weaning, he still stands at the fence and calls for his mama now and then. As she’s nearing the last trimester with her next calf, she no longer comes running when he calls. This morning, the words of Nehemiah 12:47 came to mind as I drove up to the gate.

“In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.” (NKJV)

In his role as Gatekeeper, Giuseppe feels he should receive his version of a first fruits offering. As Bubba the chocolate lab and I drive across the pasture towards the bunk feeder, I call, “Vieni qui miei vitellini. Vieni a mangiare bambini.” (Come here my little calves. Come eat babies.). As they run toward the feeder, I can’t help but smile. When time permits, I’ll sit on the opposite side of the feeder and talk with each one. There’s something special about how they look up at you when you speak their name. Some allow me to pet them, while others still back away. Not wanting to pressure them, I’ll take my leave and move on to feed the other livestock after a brief visit with each one.

Exiting the pasture this morning, the need to better understand why that verse came to mind overwhelmed me. Opening my Bible when I got back in the house, I read the surrounding passages and understood what God was teaching me. As a more mature Christian, I must stand as a Gatekeeper at God’s temple (His church, the body of Christ). I must accept the responsibility of this role, understanding that I will receive my reward in glory. My next task was to comprehend what it means to be one of God’s gatekeepers.

My first step was learning who the gatekeepers of the restored temple were in Nehemiah’s days. Coming from the tribe of Levi, gatekeepers were Levite priests who protected the Lord’s house (the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.) As gatekeepers, they had three primary responsibilities:

  1. Protect the Lord’s house. Their job was to ensure nothing unholy entered the temple. Guarding and controlling the gates to the temple accomplished this task. Other responsibilities included protecting and caring for all the items of worship and the temple’s treasury.
  2. Watch for the Lord’s return. They did this by serving as watchmen on the walls of the temple. They were also responsible for selecting, training, and assigning others to serve as watchmen. With a deep faith, they were ever watchful for the Lord’s return and exhorted others to always be ready.
  3. Help those who stray from God. Much like a shepherd or sheepdog, the gatekeeper helped any of God’s followers who strayed from God to find their way back to the right path. This responsibility required them to call out anyone who was not worshipping and serving in the right way. Bold speakers of truth, they weren’t afraid of ridicule or rebuke, wanting only to save that person from hell.
Among the most important roles of a gatekeeper for God is protecting the Lord’s house. Click To Tweet

With no temple in Jerusalem (yet) to guard, what can we gatekeepers do today to honor this role and serve God? One way we can “protect the Lord’s house” is to guard the church. More than being part of the church’s security team—sadly, a much needed role in today’s world—it is being a staunch defender of the truth of God’s word. As gatekeepers, we ensure that no unholy acts (false teaching, misleading, misappropriations of any kind, or other acts) take place within our church. We must stand up to apostasy or anything/anyone else who attempts to alter God’s word; including those who do not teach the full word.

As the gatekeepers in Nehemiah’s time, we must be “watchmen on the wall”, keeping watch for Christ’s return. As watchmen, our job is to encourage others to be ready. In like fashion, we must also be sheepdogs and shepherds to help those who are struggling in their faith. We must help those who are unsaved or have fallen back into their old carnal ways without repentance. To do this, we must speak boldly, pray vigorously, and be on constant guard for both others and ourselves.

As one of God’s gatekeepers, like an elder or deacon in the church as Paul wrote in his letter to Titus, we must search ourselves to ensure our worthiness. Leadership in your local church will require great sacrifice, but with that sacrifice comes great reward from God. Be strong, vigilant, humble, righteous, and gracious; but above all be God’s.

God’s blessings,

Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

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48 thoughts on “The Gatekeeper

  1. What an insight into God’s words and what it means to stand guard. It is, as you point out, an awesome responsibility we should never shrink back from. As anyone who has been in the military knows, you never leave your post until properly relieved. I pray that when we get properly relieved, it is when Christ comes for His church.

  2. We must defend the faith above all else, J. D., and constantly search our souls to make sure we have the right motives and clean hearts as gatekeepers. How I love your analogy using the calves! That Giuseppi is quite the character, and obviously, the boss. 🙂
    Blessings!

    1. Thank you Ms. Martha; and yes, he certainly is a character. I love how each of our animals have their own, distinct personalities. And I agree, if I can’t support it with God’s complete word, then I can’t accept it. Well said ma’am. God’s blessings.

  3. Your posts always leave me wanting more. Please tell me you’re writing a book about these ranch experiences. If we, as believers, ever need a reminder as to our duty (and privilege) it is now. Thank you, J.D.!

    1. I’m humbled by your kindness Ms. Stephanie. Thank you so much; and I agree, we must #StandUpForChrist now more than ever before. God’s blessings ma’am; and I’ll be praying your new book “The Jewels of Hebrews” touches many lives ma’am. Can’t wait for it to arrive.

  4. Oh J.D., you have no idea how I need this message this morning. I feel like I’m trying to be a gatekeeper and getting run over by a stampede (note the cattle metaphor!!!). It is discouraging. I’m battered and bruised. I’ve been waiting for God’s guidance and you delivered. Stand firm.
    Thanks for letting God bring a message to me through you.

    1. Amen Ms. Cathy! I think all of us endeavoring to be gatekeepers for God is taking it on the chin right now. Society (as I use this loosely) has sunk to such levels of depravity and there is so much deception in our world today, that it’s hard for folks to keep shining brightly for God. Still, we must remember that our light is His light (it comes from Him) and we must rely on His strength as we stand firm on His word ma’am. So honored to be standing alongside you, as best I can my friend. I’ll be praying!

    1. No ma’am; tis I that thank you. 🙂 As for Italian? My wife Diane’s maiden name is Mosconi. Her family immigrated her from the area around Rome. In preparing for our visit to Italy immediately following my retirement, I tried to learn the language as we toured all around the country by ourselves. I have to admit though, I’ve lost much of it (use it or lose it), but our friend Mrs. Mary Calabria (God rest her soul) was instrumental in helping me learn to speak conversational Italian. With Ms. Diane giving the majority of our livestock Italian names, it just made sense to teach them to be bilingual. 😀

  5. J.D. this is one of my favorite stories you’ve shared. I see how God builds certain traits in those He calls to be gatekeepers. The traits that help leaders stand against evil may appear stubborn and close-minded to those who don’t understand the nature of the battle. Great illustration!

    1. Wow! What an awesome responsibility you folks share. I’m certain the church is blessed to have your wisdom and grace to help guide them my friends. God’s blessings; and thank you both so much for your willingness to serve God in these roles. Many blessings I pray.

    1. Grazie mille mia gentile amica. 😀 Somehow I just knew you would like that opening line ma’am. So very glad you enjoyed. I can almost see that smile from here. Especially glad you enjoyed the lesson, as simple as mine are my kind friend. God’s blessings.

  6. Protect, watch, help– a call to each of us regardless of our giftedness or season in life. Sometimes we do that in our prayer room. As always, an enriching post and your first lines with my heritage were also music to my ears, Thank you.

    1. Amen Ms. Marilyn. So pleased you appreciated the post ma’am. I try. I’m also glad you perhaps got a chuckle from the language. Having calves with Italian names (Giuseppe, Giovanni, Lorenzo, Luigi, on and on), I thought it best if they were brought up bilingual. LOL God’s blessings my Italian-speaking friend.

    1. You’re always a blessing my friend. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. Am praying you have a great book launch this week for “Creative Critters with Wings”, the first in what I hope will be a long series of children’s books with a godly message. God’s blessings “Honey Man.”

    1. Thank you Ms. Robin; and thank you for always bringing a smile to me with your “moo-ving” words. Your words paint almost as beautiful a scene as your hands young lady. I’m so glad to share a little bit of our lives together here.

  7. Loved all of this but I especially like the last sentence. What a strong and perfect line to sum it up! Your animals sure are lucky to have you as their caretaker – you communicate such love and affection for them.

    1. For all they teach me Ms. Candyce, and the myriad of ways God uses them to do that, I’m the one loved my friend. I do hope that my caring for them reflects the love and care that God gives to His children. I think somehow that all Christians are meant to be an extension of our Father’s love, in that we pour out all that He pours into us in this life. I’m sure glad to see the examples you set for us ma’am. God’s blessings.

  8. Oh, J.D., this is stunningly beautiful and so well said, my friend. The image of you feeding your “babies” on the ranch along with the picture you painted of true spiritual gatekeepers, spoke to my heart. It’s such a powerful reminder. I want to stay a watchman looking for Jesus’ return and help those who stray from the fold.

  9. “Be strong, vigilant, humble, righteous, and gracious; but above all be God’s.” You have given us a challenge and we, as God’s people, need to lift His banner high and take up the full armor of God as we serve Him. As always, your messages gleaned from the Cross-Dubya resonate like a trumpet call. Thank you, my friend. May God bless you in your role as Gatekeeper.

    1. It’s a challenge I try also to live out Ms. Katherine. What a blessing it is to be able to share our challenges with wonderful friends like you ma’am. Thank you so much for your friendship, encouragement, and guidance.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. Ms. Diane gets the credit for naming (most of the time). Most of our livestock is named after various family members she has loved through the years. I got to name a few though (Phil, destined to fill our freezer; Giblets, born just before we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner; Lucky, the 13th calf born here at the Cross-Dubya, a few others). 😀 Am so glad you enjoyed the post ma’am; I hope as much as I enjoy yours.

  10. “Be strong, vigilant, humble, righteous, and gracious; but above all be God’s.”
    Perfect ending to a wonderful and inspiring post. More than inspiring, actually.
    I love this, J.D.
    Thank you.

    1. Awww shucks. And Ms. Diane and I love you and Mr. Guy Ms. Connie. Thank you so much for your kind words ma’am. Praying you’re up and moving about; getting stronger each day ma’am. God’s blessings my gentle friend.

  11. Exceptional Bible study this week, J.D. Italian? Your talents never cease to amaze me. It takes so many gatekeepers and watchmen to cover the walls on all sides. We all have a role to play but must be vigilant about it. Thanks for standing strong.

  12. After reading the second sentence, I knew exactly where you were headed! Only you could make such a beautiful comparison to God’s gatekeepers and steers of all things. Gotta love it. The Italian is a nice touch, Mr. Man-of-Many-Talents. (Hey, I’m sorry to be so late in reading and responding. Life has been throwing some time-consuming challenges of late.)

    1. Just said a quick prayer for balance in your life. It’s amazing how it seems that when we think we’ve gotten to a place where we have everything handled and life is in balance, God tosses one more ball into the mix to keep growing and grooming us. I’m so glad to be keeping the gates with you dear friend.

  13. J.D.,
    I’m a bit late to comment but I’m so glad I finally took the time to read. This post resonated with me as the Lord impressed upon me a Scripture to pray for 2020: “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. ” Habakkuk 2:1

    May we all continue to follow the example of “gatekeeper” you have so beautifully illustrated here.

    Blessings!

    1. Amen Ms. Beckie. And you’re not late at all my friend; you read it when God was ready for you to do so. Thank you so much for your faithfulness to read and comment. Such a blessing ma’am.

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