Sheep bleated. Doves fluttered. Tables slammed to the ground. People scattered before the man like the coins clinking and rolling across the courtyard.
Within minutes, the crowded market fell silent before the solitary figure.
“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13 NIV)
Holy ground had been taken over by commerce.
That of God’s chosen ones. The ones who were to lead the world to God by their faith.
Temple access was limited. Restricted. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies. Once. A year.
Priests served in the Holy place where the table of showbread and altar of incense rested.
Priests served at the sacrificial altar and basin. Levites and Israelite men also had access here.
Israelite women could go as far as the court of the women.
The outer court was open to everyone. Here, foreigners could pray to and learn about the God of Israel. Creator. Ruler of all. The great I AM.
Except they couldn’t.
The outer court had turned into a combination of stockyard, superstore, and bank. Any Israelite coming for worship could change his money for temple currency—for a small fee. He could buy supplies for offerings. There were even birds and animals for sacrifice. All conveniently located on the Temple grounds. Other merchants used the outer court as a shortcut from one part of the city to another.
No wonder Jesus was ticked.
Jesus accused the people of making the temple courts a den of thieves.
A hiding place.
A safe refuge for criminals. The context of the verse in Jeremiah is that, though Israel practiced idolatry, they clung to the temple. It was their lucky charm. Their four-leaf clover. Their rabbit’s foot. A safeguard against harm.
Today, our New Testament tells us we are the temple. The Holy of Holies. Where God’s Spirit lives.
And that’s true. (1 Cor. 3:16)
So, how does my temple shape up?
Am I keeping the holy places pure while the outer courts are full of, well, everything that goes with a stockyard?
Am I living any way I please and expecting my daily quiet time to protect me from the fallout of bad choices?
Let’s consult the Trainer:
- If I’m a temple of the Holy Spirit, in what condition are my outer courts?
- Have worldly things replaced godly ones?
- Is there blatant sin where there should be holiness? What’s been corrupted and how?
- Will I work with Jesus on the cleanup? I’d rather work with Him than have Him come in and ransack the place because I was too stubborn to yield.
This passage convicts me. I strive for consistency with God in the Holy places, but if I’m honest, what people see in the outer courts isn’t always pretty.
Jesus, let’s flip some tables.
Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.
Workout of the Week: Temple Cleansing
Memory Verse: ” ‘Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:11 (NIV)
Just Do It: Flip some tables.