The Bible is full of surprises.
One of the most shocking stories in all of Scripture is the account recorded in three different gospels where Jesus cleanses the temple of the money changers. He made a whip out of cords, which he used on people and animals alike, turned over their tables, scattered their money around the temple, and accused them of making the temple a “den of robbers.” It was nothing short of a violent display.
It’s not exactly a picture of the meek and lowly Jesus that we come to expect from reading the rest of the gospels. And it’s certainly not the picture that some in our day would paint of a Savior who is so gracious and merciful that He would never condemn or judge sin.
However, amidst the seeming incongruence and surprise of the passage, there are several lessons we can learn from that occasion. For one, we see how “righteous indignation” works; that is, contrary to what some have taught, anger is not wrong, when it is channeled against things that are wrong. Some things should make us mad, but how we respond to those things is the key. That’s why Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Be angry, and do not sin.” There is a way to do both. Jesus was angered that those who were selling their goods in the temple courts had turned His Father’s house into a market, and He showed it. “My house will be called a house of prayer,” He proclaimed.
Accordingly, there is another lesson that many in today’s church would do well to understand: compromising the place where God is to be honored with the pursuit of making a buck is never something He approves of. Greed and God do not go together. Jesus was angered when he saw people trying to use religion to make money. And I can only imagine what He thinks of those in the church today that do the same.
The lesson that I have focused on personally of late is the need to clear the temple of those things that do not belong, so that the presence of God can be fully experienced. My devotional readings over the past week have been from 1 Corinthians, and the Lord has reminded me of a couple of familiar passages that Paul wrote that basically say the same thing, though one is singular and the other plural. The point of both: as followers of Christ, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us, whom we have received from God. (1 Cor. 3:16-17, 6:19-20)
That was and is such a significant statement because it reminds us that God’s presence does not dwell in a building made of hands, but in people who have placed their faith in Him, through His Son Jesus Christ. That means, among other things, that there is nothing particularly holy about our warehouses at Shelby Crossings, but there is something holy contained in the people inside it.
And practically speaking for myself, I have been trying to be like Jesus in clearing the temple that is my body of anything that would compromise or distract from His presence. That can be sin that I need to repent of, however blatant or subtle; but it also means the daily clutter and busyness and anything else that keeps me from giving my full attention to God. I need to ruthlessly take a whip to those things and turn over the tables of my own life to make sure His presence gets my undivided attention.
Like the temple in Jerusalem, my prayer is that my body, which is His temple today, would be “a house of prayer,” constantly in communion and communication with Him. That is my daily goal, moment by moment.
I suspect that some of you who read this need to consider your own temple cleansing, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your life with His presence. Some of the upheaval may be a little uncomfortable, but I assure you it will be worth it.
I am grateful for each of you and I pray that God is at work in your life this week. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.