30th Dec, 2008

A House of Prayer

God keeps bringing me back to the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple. His anger burned so hot against the money changers and the salesmen in the temple.

In case you don’t know the context, understand that the Jewish temple was fully operational at this time. People came from all over Israel, and even from outside of Israel, to make ceremonial sacrifices in accordance with the Levitical Law. Because people traveled long distances to make the sacrifices, they would not bring animals with them; instead, they puchased the sacrifice onsite. The priests allowed salesmen to provide animals for sale at the temple. Of course, there was a lot of money that exchanged hands to make this service possible – like at a mall today – and thus the costs to the “worshipper” were high.

Additionally, the temple had its own currency, which is why there were “moneychangers.” To make a sacrifice one had to pay a temple tax in the temple currency. Just like the moneychangers you can find in an airport, these guys put a high premium on their ability to turn peoples drachmas and dollars into temple funds.

What I keep noticing, as I read through the story, is that Jesus reminds them, and all of us, that his temple will be a “house of prayer for all nations.” He quotes Isaiah 56:7.

Because most of us associate the temple with a church building and think of church as a place we go to on Sundays, it is easy to translate this passage into a story about church today. We need to make sure that our church buildings are houses of prayer – that’s what we think about. But I see a deeper implication.

What is God’s temple now that Christ is risen? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. I am the temple. You are the temple. God lives in us. We are to honor Him with all that we are. And, Jesus reminds us vividly that His temple is to be a house of prayer for all the nations.

Are you a house of prayer for all the nations? Do you find your heart constantly praying to God? Depending on Him? Beseeching Him on behalf of all the nations of the earth?

I am not. I fail miserably at this. I can’t believe I am not more passionate about the very thing that angered Jesus so much He overturned tables. Instead I, like those salesman and moneychangers, often find myself much more interested in acquiring something less than God than I do in finding ways to bring justice and peace to the nations and having His heart as my own.

Oh, Jesus, turn over the tables I’ve set up in my own heart. May I be a house of prayer for all the nations. May my heart burn brightly for the very things that your heart does.

Responses

Everyone assumes that Jesus was angry when He “cleansed the temple”. I don’t.

I think the reason we presume that is that we’d never take such radical action unless we “lost it” in anger; Jesus, however, was under no such constraint. He simply always did the right thing.

And what’s worse, to me, is people selling things in church lobbies. Before and after services, like visiting musicians. Not only do we NOT do anything about that, but we tell folks to go buy something, to “invest in their ministry”.

My response, when I walk in for a service and there’s the group selling CD’s in the lobby, is to turn around and leave. Jesus may decide one day to show up and do something about it, and I don’t want to be there when it happens.

Bob Cleveland’s last blog post..You Pick A Caption

It’s also a shame the way the body, the temple of the living God, is treated when we abuse it the way we are apt to do.
When we really do appropriate Christ in us, the hope of glory, it changes how this physical body is valued.

Jerald’s last blog post..Revealing God’s Glory –

I definitely think Jesus was angry. Anger is a human emotion, created by God. It clearly has good purposes, but most of the time our old man selves, marred with sin, use anger in the wrong way. I think He was angry; He just didn’t “lose it” like we do because He was motivated by love, even while having the emotion of anger.

Jerald,

You are very right. The video is pretty graphic – taken from Jesus Christ Superstar. I think it illustrates well the way we treat our body. We fill our hearts with all kinds of adulterants.

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