Spring is almost here. Next Sunday we switch back to Daylight Savings Time. The spring rains have already started. And in the next week or so I will be getting out the old lawn mower and start the weekly routine of mowing grass. And typical of this time of year, some are already thinking about that spring cleaning—putting away winter items, getting out the warm weather clothes, airing out the house, cleaning in the corners and under the furniture—and all the other things you ladies are more aware of than us men! And for many of us, it is time for the seasonal allergies to kick in! I often say during this time of the year that I feel great except when I have to breathe!
On a National level, we elected a President who promised to “drain the swamp.” And we are finding there has been a lot of stuff in that swamp. Whatever your opinions are about Washington D.C., I think we can all agree that our nation is in dire need of a real “House Cleaning” Revival.
And I would contend that the house cleaning our nation needs must begin in our churches. It is time of God’s People to pray Heaven down to earth! “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!”
Our scripture today describes a House cleaning orchestrated by Jesus. And this account reminds us that Jesus is concerned that we keep the Temple pure and devoted to the purpose for which it was established: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…But you have made it a den of robbers!”
As we seek to regain the Holy Fire of the formative years of our denomination—as Dr. Bresee so often declared: “Keep the Glory Down!”—let’s consider this account in the Gospel about Jesus and the Cleansing of the Temple.
I. THE TEMPLE: GOD’S DWELLING PLACE
a. In the understanding of the Jewish Worshippers, it was “The House of God.” It represented the Dwelling Place of God.
i. We know that God is “Omnipresent.” By that we understand that God is everywhere. The Psalmist wrote. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 7-10). God is everywhere—there is no escaping from His Presence, No hiding Place that will conceal us from Him.
ii. But It is the Manifest Presence of God that we seek—the Shekinah Glory that we must have. The Shekinah Glory signifies the Dwelling Place of God—the Place where God’s Presence is evident. It is the Shekinah Presence of God that brings conviction and repentance. It is the Shekinah Glory that moves on our hearts and that causes People to revel in His Presence and Power.
iii. It is said that during the Great Awakening that we read about in the history of our nation that accompanied John Whitefield’s Preaching, and the powerful ministries of men like Jonathan Edwards, that People would be walking down the streets and under conviction suddenly fall on their knees and cry out to God for forgiveness. I read somewhere that Jonathan Edwards would read his sermons in a monotone voice because he didn’t want people to be manipulated by human emotion but, rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And God moved and people’s lives were transformed. That is what we are seeking—not a man-manipulated emotional experience, but a moving of God that brings sinners to repentance, and humbles the proud, and empowers the Church: His Manifest Presence!
b. And the Temple was to be the visible dwelling place of the Invisible God, a place where People communicated with His Holy Presence in His Dwelling Place.
c. The Temple was different from the Synagogue. The Synagogues were gathering places in the towns and villages where the Jewish People lived. Rabbis would conduct services there. It was a place where community events were held. It was a place for schooling the children. Our churches are somewhat patterned after the Jewish Synagogues. But, periodically, on special days, the people were strongly encouraged to go to Jerusalem to the Temple because that was the House of God.
d. There were certain things that were to be done only in the Temple. Somehow we have the image that the House of God was squeaky clean. But in reality, it was the place where Sacrifices were to be made. Cattle and Sheep and Goats were brought to the house of God and slaughtered, the blood drained and sprinkled on the altar, the carcasses burned in a holy fire of sacrifice to God. I can only imagine the smells, the smoke, the sounds that were present—and watch your step—you know how animals are!
e. But the purpose was to come in to the Presence of God, confessing sins, dedicating lives, interceding for others– a House of Prayer for the Nations.
f. The Temple area included an entire Compound. Rabbis would be in the courtyards, teaching the Scriptures. That was where Jesus did much of His teaching when He was in Jerusalem. And later the early church would meet together on a covered area in the Temple compound called Solomon’s Porch to worship and pray and be taught by the Apostles.
g. But the Temple was destroyed. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. when Judea was conquered by the Babylonians. The Second Temple was rebuilt after the 70 year captivity and was improved upon over the centuries until the Time of Christ. Its beauty was legendary. But in spite of its beauty and the fact that it was to be a place of worship and a place of prayer for the nations, the corrupt Jewish leaders allowed the Temple to become a place to exploit people. Pilgrims who came to worship and offer sacrifices were required to exchange their Roman coins to a special Temple currency and the money changers often gave them coins that were worth far less than their secular coins. And because of travel obstacles, the pilgrims often had to buy the animals from the temple marketplaces—and again they were often over charged. The market practices became a place of great revenue for the corrupt leaders. That was the “swamp that needed to be drained” that caused Jesus to chase off these dishonest hucksters that made the temple experience anything but a worship experience. Unfortunately, the cleansing did not cure the corruption and in 70 A.D. this Temple was also destroyed—this time by the conquering Roman Armies that had come to put down the rebellion of the Jewish people. There was much historical detail behind all this, but the bottom line is that the Temple was destroyed and has not yet been rebuilt.
II. THE TRANSITION FROM JERUSALEM’S TEMPLE
a. We get a hint at least of God’s purpose when we read the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan Woman at the Well. In the course of their conversation we read in John 4: 19-24—“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. “Woman, “Jesus replied, “Believe me a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
b. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was preparation for the fulfillment of God’s Plan for our salvation. The Temple and all the ceremonial events laid the groundwork for the coming of Christ and the ultimate sacrifice—His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. The veil of the Temple that was torn at His crucifixion signified that no longer were we excluded from coming into the Holy Place. God through Jesus was opening the door for a new chapter, a new era, in our relationship with God.
c. Paul explains this new era in 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 this way: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Did you hear that: “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “ Rather than a building in Jerusalem, or in the Samaritans’ case, a temple on a Mountain in their region, God has chosen to make His Dwelling Place in our individual bodies. Our bodies are God’s Temple
III. JESUS STILL CLEANS HOUSES!
a. We might not have money changers and animals inside this temple we call our bodies. But the Bible clearly warns of the danger of allowing sin to creep into our lives, or the danger of neglecting our relationship and drifting from God. In Romans 2:1-3 we read, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, in what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? This salvation which was first announced by the Lord was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” Any boater will tell you, you never drift closer to your destination—you drift away from. It. That is why it is necessary to cast an anchor. In Hebrews 6:19 we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” That Anchor is Jesus!
b. But we need the continual cleansing that comes from “Walking in the Light.” We need the protection that comes from Putting on the “Whole Armor of God”. We need the energy that comes from God’s own Hand. We need the strength that comes from being in His Presence. And when we neglect these avenues of Grace that God has opened up for us, our spiritual life withers. In Matthew 24 as Jesus was giving predictions about the end of this age, He said in verse 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” Writing to the Church at Ephesians, the Risen Lord warned in Revelation 2: 4, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” In the Letter to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3: 15-16 the Risen Christ sent this warning: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
c. I would contend that, just as Jesus saw it necessary to cleanse the Temple in the Gospels, We need to have the temple cleansed anew. We need the fresh anointing of God on our lives. We need the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from the pollution of this world and its sin and pump spiritual life and vitality into us, making our hearts pure and holy. We need to be re-sensitized to the things of God. We need the fire of God in our lives afresh and anew!
Are you struggling in your spiritual walk?
Have you become de-sensitized to the sin all around us?
Does the pressure from the secular media no longer bother you?
Are you growing lax in your prayer and Bible reading?
Do you need the Spirit of Jesus to come and cleanse the temple of your body, soul and spirit and make His Temple a House of Prayer for the Nations?
Are you willing to let Jesus do that cleansing and renewing work in our heart?
Are you willing to humble yourself before Him right now?
Isn’t this a good time to seek His Presence and allow His fire to set your life aflame?