A House Of Prayer
Matthew 21:12-13 21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves,
13 and said unto them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer,’ but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
As a child, my family lived in the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. My father was a merchant seaman and was a member of the Seafarers International Union. All of my family voted for candidates of the Democrat party. If at all possible, my father would not buy a product that was not union made. I remember when he would go to the local union hall and check for job openings. There were times when he would get hired on ships that would be gone for months at a time. I can remember when he walked picket lines in support of his union. He was a representative of his union and would encourage non-union company employees to organize a union. My father was a very honest man. Whenever he said something, it was the truth. As you read the remainder of this post, please understand that I have no ax to grind, other than the ax of truth.
During my growing up years, church was important to me. During times of worship, there was a great deal of reverence and respect for the place that we called “church.” Family funerals were times of remembrance for whomever had left this life. We prayed and cried, and thanked God for the life of the one who had now gone to be with Him. The pastor would tell us about the life of our deceased relative and would also remind us of that person’s life in Christ. A song was selected that would give honor to our Lord Jesus. The pastor would invite anyone who might not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to make that decision.
Scripture records two instances of Jesus finding a lack of reverence for God’s Temple. John 2:13-21 tells of the first instance, which took place in the year of 30 A.D. We will discuss the events of 33 A.D., which are shown in Matthew 21:12-13. In Matthew’s account, we see that Jesus went into “temple of God,” immediately after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as his final days of life were unwinding. The temples of God are identified as being, Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, Herod’s Temple, The Tribulation Temple, and The Millennial Temple. A temple of God is first and foremost a sanctuary and a symbolic dwelling place for God. The temple was established for the honor and glory of God, and for worship, adoration, praise, and prayer.
When Jesus entered the temple, he passed through a large gate that led to a series of courts. One of the most outermost courts was the court of the Gentiles. It was there, as opposed to the temple itself, that Jesus came upon people who were exchanging currency and were selling animals.
It was when Jesus had arrived at Jerusalem that the city had just started Passover, which was a week-long celebration. There were many foreigners in Jerusalem for Passover. They needed to exchange their own currency for the authorized coin that would be used for paying the temple tax; the money changers were present to meet that need. There were also those who had gone to Jerusalem to make burnt offerings. Many of them would take their animals for the sacrifice. Those who were poor would sacrifice doves. That is why Jesus found men selling doves in the court of the Gentiles.
The practice of exchanging currencies and providing animals for the religious ceremonies began with a good purpose in view. It was a service for those who were from out of town, especially for those who were poor, so that they could take care of their obligations. But, that procedure became greatly exploited. In order for travelers to exchange their currency for the local currency, there was a six percent exchange rate. If anyone did not have the exact change, they would have to pay another six per cent fee to resolve the problem. Then, they would have to buy the animals. The cost of a dove inside of the temple complex was fifty times more costly than it was on the street. Jesus was clearly displeased about such unfair practices when He said that the temple had been turned into a “den of thieves.”
There was more than one reason that Jesus was not happy about the situation in the temple. He was also upset because the temple’s function as a “house of prayer” was being set aside and being disturbed. In today’s church, we think of the basic, and most significant, function of our church building as being a place where we can meet and hear the Word of God proclaimed. But, remember also that Jesus did not call the temple a “house of preaching,” but a “house of prayer.” God’s people should go to “His house” for worship, teaching, and also for prayer. Our churches are not the only places for us to pray, but such sanctuaries need to be known as “houses of prayer.”
When Jesus saw the unholy practices of the money changers and animal merchants, and when He saw that God’s house of prayer was being used for other practices, He took quick and decisive action. He made a whip out of cords and drove out the merchants. He kicked over the tables of the money changers, while scattering their coins across the temple pavement. He knocked over the seats of those who were selling doves, sending the birds flying everywhere. This was a time of chaos. In the middle of it, while filled with righteous indignation, He was the Son of God; He was God.
Consider what this account of John tells us about Jesus. It tells us that He was not only capable of feeling anger, but also demonstrating anger. But, His anger was His Holy wrath. If ever there was a man who had the right to be angry, it was Jesus. He was witnessing the desecration of God’s house, His Father’s house.
The aspect of holiness in God’s house is something that is greatly forgotten when it comes to funerals of high profile political figures. Senator Paul Wellstone, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Michael Brown, and Elizabeth Edwards were aligned to the Democrat Party. When you view the video recordings of their funerals, with the exception of the memorial service for Elizabeth Edwards, it is easy to see that the respective planners of those funerals forgot that they were in God’s House, and instead of giving honor and praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus, they were turned those funerals into pep rallies for the Democrat Party. In the case of Elizabeth Edwards, her memorial service was held at a Methodist church in Raleigh, North Carolina. The service was viewed around the world. Politicians and dignitaries were present. As opposed to the way that the other named memorial services were conducted, the pastor told the story of Elizabeth Edwards, and of her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. He told of the struggles that she had to endure after the death of her son, and how it affected her relationship with God. But, he also told about how she dealt with that that tragedy and regained a close relationship with Jesus. With all that Elizabeth Edwards had to deal with, as it related to her deceased son, and her husband; who was an attorney, former U.S. Senator, Vice Presidential and Presidential hopeful, and who had been unfaithful to her; she finally had her day. That day allowed the whole world to be told the salvation story that is available through Jesus. There were no speeches of anger and hate; there was only a message of the love of God and of forgiveness. That Methodist church in Raleigh, North Carolina was truly a house of prayer.
Let me tell you about another funeral. A friend of mine, who is known as “Pastor Ed,” performed the memorial service for another friend of mine, who was lovingly known as “Sister Mary.” In that memorial service, Pastor Ed told about the life that Sister Mary had lived. He talked about the many benevolent things that she had done during her life; he also told about her relationship with Jesus. Then, he invited anybody who might not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to make that decision for an eternal life of joy with God, as opposed to having an eternal life of torment with Satan. Pastor Ed made sure that his congregation was in a house of prayer.
It is very sad that pastors of some churches allow such hallowed times as funerals to be turned into political events. Let us, who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, be voices of reason. Let us not be counted with the crowd of people who take away from the holiness that should be present during the time of memory of those who have departed this life. We, who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, are given scriptural direction for our life, as it relates to our relationship with God; we can’t straddle the fence.
1 Peter 1:16 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Philippians 4:8 Living Bible (TLB)
8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.
Consider the aspect of holiness of worship in the following video that is presented by Paul Wilbur. Draw close to our Lord Jesus.
For Your Name Is Holy – I Enter The Holy Of Holies
References: St. Andrews’s Expositional Commentaries, Matthew and John, R.C. Sproul – Author; The Reformation Study Bible, R.C. Sproul – General Editor; Scofield Study Bible; Mac Arthur Study Bible; Holman Christian Standard Bible; Ryrie Study Bible; Key Word Hebrew-Greek Study Bible; The Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah; Zola Levitt Video Teachings Of The Temples; Jimmy De Young’s Daily Devotionals, Ezra; Bible Gateway.com
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