Lessons from Jesus

House of Prayer

Matthew 21:13 – He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you make it a den of robbers.”

This event took place during a time of Passover in Jerusalem. People came from every region to celebrate Israel’s deliverance by observing this appointed feast of the LORD. Offerings and sacrifices would be made at the temple. Those who were travelling a good distance would probably not bring animals with them for fear of being robbed on the way. Instead, once they arrived in Jerusalem, they would buy a suitable animal at the market and at the appropriate time, take it to the temple.

There were those who saw an opportunity to extort money and line their own pockets. It was simply supply and demand. Worshippers needed a lamb or a pigeon and possibly the right coinage for the temple offering, so why sit in the market when you could sit in the temple courtyard and be as close as possible to all those needy people. John’s record of the event tells us, “In the temple he (Jesus) found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.” A place where people came to pray, listen to the scriptures, worship and give thanks to God had effectively turned into a trader’s fairground.

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with and sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade… It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you make it a den of robbers.”

My thoughts went to those who wanted to thank God with the best that they could offer and had managed to gather enough money to buy a lamb as their offering. Then, they find that the sellers are charging so much that they can only afford a pigeon, maybe two. Not only are the traders robbing the people, they are also robbing God of his deserved sacrifice. Could this have contributed to the anger Jesus felt? Those who loved God were taken advantage of and his Father was being dishonoured. In Malachi 3 the LORD says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me…”

The outer court of the tabernacle was such a special place. A place of repentance, sacrifice and reconciliation; a place in which you could physically draw near to the presence of God. Likewise today, the buildings that we use for the church to come together in worship and praise, are special places of fellowship and communion.

I believe the lesson in this is to be careful what we use the House of God for. It should be a place of hope and comfort to all who enter. A place to commune with God and to share fellowship with one another. A place where His work is carried out for the furtherance of His kingdom. A place that brings glory to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And above all else, a House of Prayer.

Isaiah 56:6,7 – [those] who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

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