“A Den of Robbers?”

How would you describe your place of worship?  In my last post I noted the assessment of Jesus of the temple built in Jerusalem as a “house of prayer for all nations.”  As Jesus entered this worship centre on Monday of ‘Holy Week,’ he exposed the repurposing which had been permitted to happen through the neglect of spiritual leaders.

The temple was a place of sacrifice and those coming from a distance to offer themselves to the LORD would use some of their own financial resources, purchase a sacrifice suited to their economic ability and offer it as an act of atonement.  Since most would not bring animals or birds with them, this convenience was permitted.  Over time the money changers and the dove sellers had moved their wares from outside the temple to inside.  They had desecrated the holy place by ignoring God’s standards and asserting their own freedom.  The priests and high priest had obviously turned a blind eye to the practic and allowed God’s standard to be lowered once again.

As Jesus cleaned out this desecration overturning the tables and driving out the misusers of God’s prayer centre, he brilliantly wove together two prophetic texts.  Acting on the authority of his Father’s word, he chose part of Isaiah 56:7 and combined it with part of Jeremiah 7:11.

I’m not sure I noted Jeremiah 7:11 in my own study of this passage.  Jeremiah is a prophet providing God’s assessment of His own people who were neglecting God’s standard in the 7th and 6th centuries before Christ.  Lest I take a verse out of context let me cite the entire paragraph.

“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” –safe to do all these detestable things?  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! Declares the LORD.”  (Jer. 7:9-11)

Talk about direct!  Talk about speaking THE TRUTH in LOVE!  How can God’s people sin with abandonment and then show up for worship and assume God is blind?  Why do we ‘sow our wild oats’ on Saturday night and then ‘pray for a crop failure’ Sunday morning?  Galatians 6 reminds all of us that we will REAP what we SOW.

The LORD was watching during Jeremiah’s time, during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and in 2016.   As Peter asserted in his letter to the first century Christ-followers – “It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

By the way, if you’ve never watched Jim Cymbala’s message connected to the cleansing of the temple – take look at this link. A profitable exhortation!

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