“It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” – Matt. 21:13 NIV
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Jesus Christ had just been honoured by a crowd of people who on seeing him ride on a donkey whilst entering Jerusalem concluded that he was the long awaited king who was coming to save them from the oppressive government of the Romans and their Jewish collaborators. They had on that occasion, laid their garments on the floor for him to ride on and with palm fronds in their hands were encouraging him to carry out his mission by chanting Hossanah to him whom they called at that time, “the son of David” – Matt. 21:1-11.
On entering Jerusalem and probably guided by the need to put God first in all things, decided on visiting the temple only to see the temple courts dominated by the activities of traders in doves and money exchangers, who were carrying out their transactions right inside the temple courts – Matt. 21:12. The scripture notes that he over-turned the tables of all these traders in anger and in the scripture that is the foundation of today’s Devotional reminded them that the house of the Lord must be associated with the single act of prayer rather than “a den of robbers”, which is what those he met there on that occasion had turned it into.
It must be noted that the services of these traders was very much needed by the people who visited the temple in those days. Firstly, there was hardly any visitor to the temple in those days that will not have to offer one form of animal sacrifice or the other the common and most handy animal for that was the dove. With the intense desire of the people to always seek the face of the Lord and particularly the need to be cleansed of transgressions before any meaningful interaction can be had with the Almighty God through His Priests, the business of buying and selling of doves was one that was lucrative and several people, believers and non-believers alike cashed in on this huge economic advantage. Most of those traders were no longer in the temple courts for reasons of worship of the Almighty God but more for the economic opportunity that their presence in the temple provided them. No wonder the Priests could not rest during their period of service as they kept on shuttling between the temple gate and the altar, taking each person’s dove or any other sacrificial animal and shedding its blood at the altar – Lev. 1:1-7:37. All thanks to Jesus Christ as he offered himself in a single and very efficient sacrificial process that brought rest, not only to him as the High Priest but also to all who accept him as Lord and Saviour, as their was no other sacrifice required for the remission of sins.
Secondly and in relation to the money changers, they also had an important service to provide. Moses had instructed the Israelites to ensure that all their tithes must be brought into the house of the Lord – Deut. 14:22-23. However, if the location of the house of the Lord is distant and the blessing is so much that transporting it could be a huge challenge, then they could exchange the tithe for silver and take such silver to the temple where they had the option of buying cattle, sheep, wine, other fermented drink or anything they wished and eat such in the presence of the Lord – Deut. 14:24-29. These money-changers provided this service to such people expectedly at a premium and due to the level of compliance of the people, this also became very lucrative and attracted many people to the temple, not necessarily to worship the Almighty God but to make quick financial gains from these transactions.
These group of people had gradually formed the larger population of those around the temple and had turned it more into trading location rather than its primary role of being a location for presenting supplications to the Lord. There was definitely the need to bring back some sanity to the activities in and around the temple and the compromised and corrupt temple leaders had lost the moral authority to do that since it seems they were also benefitting either directly or indirectly from the trading activities. They could not stop or caution Jesus Christ however since they knew he was doing the right thing even though it displeased them.
Jesus may have cleaned up the temple courts during his time but it seems trading has gradually returned to the modern day temple courts and probably at a level more intense than what Jesus Christ witnessed and tried to correct. Today’s Christian and their leaders have not only deepened trading activities but have expanded its boundaries such that articles to be sold are not just materials required in the course of worship but anything, moral or immoral, that can generate income.
Whereas, those in the time of Jesus Christ operated within the temple courts, the present day Christians and believers, operate right inside the temple just as type of wares on offer now includes the selling of conscience and soul. Leadership positions are not exempted as they are made available only to the highest bidders, their level of spirituality not withstanding. Economic advantage rather than soul winning has become the sole determinant in decision making processes as priorities are given to the material comfort of Christian leaders rather than faith building activities of the followers. It has become so financially successful that temple building is now suggested and considered among the first set of options when business ideas are being sought just as majority of people who are in today’s temple are there for economic purposes rather than an opportunity to meet with the Lord. Leaders and followers alike schedule business meetings for temples and the sole reason for being in the temple is no longer to serve the Almighty God but to meet financial goals.
Christians in particular need to be conscious of the reality that Jesus is indeed coming back and he will definitely be visiting the temple in his usual pattern – 1Pet. 4:17. One only wonders what his reaction will be like when he sees the state of the Church today. Most locations that are called temples have lost everything that can qualifies them to be so described which is probably why regular visits to that location called “House of God” has not yielded the expected result that prayer should bring. The truth is that it is no longer a house of prayer but as Jesus Christ said, has become a “den of robbers”.
He may not have flushed them out yet but until he does that, that expected miracle may never be experienced. Until he cleared the temple of these traders during his own time, the blind could not be healed just as several others could not receive their miracle and same is happening today – Matt. 21:14-15.
Stop wasting your time in that business location called temple. Yes! You may be able to make financial success attending those locations due to the knowledge of business principles that are made available there but it is supposed to be a temple and not a business school.
Like the traders and the money exchangers, the economic service is required but it should not be the main reason for being at that temple location. Re-order your priorities today before he returns to sweep you out. For the one that is seeking a miraculous intervention in a situation, you will need to review your stay in that location as such expectations are achieved in the realm of the spiritual and not at the natural human level. May God guide us all to identify and do the needful in Jesus name. Amen.
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