God’s Word for You
Luke 19:45-46 a den of robbers
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 30, 2019
The Cleansing of the Temple
Years before in his first visit to the temple during his ministry, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove the salesmen and their sheep and cattle out of the temple, overturning their tables and shouting, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:15-16). Now in the final week of his ministry, the salesmen and their animals were still there.
45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling. 46 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it ‘a den of robbers!’”
Passover was less than a week away, and business in the temple was booming. Jews filled the Court of the Gentiles to such an extent that it’s impossible to imagine any Gentile convert who would have been able to worship or pray there in any manner at all, and this was the only place in the temple where they were permitted. Everywhere in this outer court there were tables, pens, lowing cattle, bleating sheep and screaming goats. Piles of coins were on every table, since the priests and Levites insisted on a temple coin rather than any foreign piece of currency. Haggling, dickering, arguing, pleading and various shouts and sobs mixed with the animal noises in what must have sounded like a riot. The praises of the crowds that accompanied Jesus in his donkey ride were at an end, replaced now by the roar of human and animal voices in the temple of the Living God.
Everyone was able to bring his own animal for sacrifice at the Passover, but there was no guarantee that a priest would allow one’s animal to pass inspection. We wonder if some priests, tempted by the silver and gold coins everywhere, might have rejected acceptable animals, forcing pilgrims to buy what was on hand, since the sale would line a priest’s pocket, too. Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, had the final say in what happened here in the temple, and therefore they, too, were having their pockets filled with a good share of the gold.
Jesus exploded with words from the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. “My house will be a house of prayer” is from Isaiah 56:7. In fact, the Lord’s words in Isaiah are about the Gentiles: “Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him… these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer… for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:6-7). The Savior was applying the gospel proclaimed through Isaiah as the law condemning the Jews of Jerusalem.
To this, the Lord added, “a den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11), which is from a call to repentance in the days of the Babylonian captivity. It was at that time that God warned: “Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’” (Jeremiah 7:4). They were treating the temple as a lucky charm and not as God’s true house.
Notice what Jesus did. Of first importance:
1, He gave glory to God his Father and ours.
2, He based his attitude on the word of God, the Scriptures, even though he himself is God.
3, He showed that God wants his house used for worship unmixed with false teaching. Acts or words that seem religious but are not, are abhorrent to him.
Of secondary importance:
1, He wants his house to be a place of prayer available to all who worship him as the true and only God.
2, He encourages mission work to the nations and wants his people to invite all people into his kingdom.
3, He does not need us to “make money” for the church. He wants us to give out of thanks, but it is not the church’s business to be a fund-raising machine for God. As the poet-musician Bono said to the Televangelists: “The God I worship isn’t short of cash, mister.”
We should also be careful to note: Jesus drove out people who were sinning because of their sins against God, and his Father’s holy church, the place of worship. The noise itself, although we imagine that it was very loud, is not addressed, and concerns that some Christians bring today about “loud preservice music” or people who talk with one another before worship begins, are concerns that are usually out of place. God does not want us to be stoic or to avoid contact with one another. Churches are gathering places, hospitals for the spiritually sick. The church is the place where we meet to glorify God, learn about him, and enjoy the fellowship we have with one another. Church is especially the place where we can devote ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV).
Jesus was not angry with the people of the temple who were buying animals for sacrifices. They were doing their best to worship. His wrath was poured out on the spiritual leaders. “Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?” (Ezekiel 34:2). When he said, “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion” (Zechariah 1:14) he didn’t mean that he cared about the hill or the stones, but for the people who were there who trusted in him. There was his house, the place of worship that would stand until Christ came, where his holy word would be preserved.
Jesus speaks to us from out of this violent and disturbing scene. You who worship, you who are led and guided in your faith, remember that your faith is a treasure no one should ever step on, or take away from you. Let no one bruise your faith with wild claims about what they think God says or God means. Trust in the word of God, in the words of the Bible, and let your faith in Jesus carry you along, your whole life through. “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10). The name of the Lord is Jesus, Jesus our Savior, Jesus Christ our King.
Pastor Timothy Smith