“The offerings and sacrifices they place on my altar will please me, because my Temple will be called a house for prayer for people from all nations.” — (Isaiah 56:7b NCV)
[Jesus] said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” — (Matthew 21:13 NLT)
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Join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.
YOU CAN JUST SEE JESUS GROWING ANGRIER BY THE MOMENT.
He has completed his triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, which fulfilled Scripture (Zachariah 9:9), while His faithful followers called out Hosannas, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38 NIV).
Then He enters the Temple and clears out the money changers and sellers of animals for ritual sacrifice.
“It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:46 NIV)
Not only were the moneychangers gouging the poor Jews who scrapped together pennies to purchase an offering at an exorbitant rate, but the location of the transactions shut out the non-Jews from gathering in the Temple’s outer courtyard for prayer.
Jesus came to add the non-Jews to his sheepfold.
This clearly violated God’s intent that His Word, given to the Jews, was to be given through them to the other nations (Genesis 12:2-3; Isaiah 42:6; John 10:16). God’s vision was not to be short-stopped by the Jews and kept to themselves like a secret.
The Jews were to be a beacon to the world. They were to share the blessings of God’s message to the pagan world. Again, they were failing miserably.
LET’S LOOK AT SOME OF GOD’S TEACHING.
In Genesis 12:2-3, God issues a covenant with Abraham (known then as Abram) in which he declares he will bless the “peoples on earth” (NIV) through him. Other translations say “families of the earth” (ESV) or “all the nations” (GNT) or “[e]veryone on earth” (CEV).
“All nations” meant “all nations,” as is ALL. God meant “all” people groups, races, and ethnicities, regardless of sex or socioeconomic conditions, or whether slave or free. It meant all individuals, too, not just the educated ones or the wealthy ones or the well-dressed ones. It meant “everyone” was eligible for God’s blessing.
The blessing was not limited to Israel.
The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 42:6b (NIV) said, “I [God] will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.” The LORD promised to sendHis “servant,” who was Jesus, to “bring justice to the nations.” (Isa. 42:1b NIV)
Then Jesus, in His earthly ministry, proclaims His goal of bringing Gentiles and Jews together into one flock: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16 NIV)
Once again, God meant “everyone.”
HOW DID WE GET FROM THOSE promises from God to this situation, where “those people” were excluded from gathering in worship with “our people”?
How did the Jews — really the people to whom God entrusted the Law and the prophets — fail completely to see their mission was not about keeping themselves from being soiled or contaminated by the outsiders but was to incorporate the outsiders into their fellowship?
Possibly it’s the same reason that people today — throughout the world — have difficulty assimilating with different groups — our Creator loves diversity and variety more than does His creation.
How does One get the attention of fallen mankind, which repeatedly fails to see God’sloving and merciful hand moving through history? What action will get their attention when the main character faces crucifixion within days?
So Jesus clears the moneychangers from the Temple, showing His outrage at the synagogue leaders who were gouging faithful Jews who came to atone for their sin while, at the same time, excluding non-Jews from praying in the outer courtyard.
GOD’S HOUSE OF PRAYER IS A SAFETY ZONE.
His house of prayer is a refuge from trouble, an oasis to refresh our souls, a place to unburden ourselves from sin, an energy pack to rejuvenate ourselves
It’s where can we can feel safe, yet how can that happen when the institutional leaders stage a flea market atmosphere on the Temple grounds?
What about now? What about our space? What about our hearts? Do we welcome the
stranger who sits in our row, do we extend the hand of fellowship to those we meet, or do we hurry along to our special places, sit in our regular spot, and dare anyone to intrude?
Jesus was angry when the Jewish leaders misused His house of prayer and turned it into a den of thieves, thus robbing the populace of what was rightfully theirs.
We may rob ourselves of the pleasure of prayer, too, if:
- We approach the Throne with a sense of dread or duty or obligation,
- We doubt our prayers will be answered or even heard,
- We feel unworthy and reject God’s invitation to heal our broken hearts, or
- We feel proud and arrogant and believe our good fortune results from our concerted effort and not from God’s grace.
There’s an earlier part to that quote from Isaiah 56:7 that tops this meditation: “I will bring these people to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.”
God says he will bring these people … from all nations … to His “holy mountain” and will “give them joy in [His] house of prayer.”
What a privilege to dwell in God’s House of Prayer! Let’s open the doors to the world. Let’s invite everyone in! Let’s welcome them!
Let’s open our hearts to those who accept the invitation. We know our LORD is pleased to see all of His people joined together in prayer.
PRAYER: Dear LORD, we are sorry that we do not appreciate the great gift You offer of residing on Your holy mountain, of finding solace in Your house of prayer. Forgive us for our arrogance and forgetfulness. Strengthen us to find the pleasure, the joy, and the peace You have promised through prayer. LORD, we want to dwell in Your house forever. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
- When we feel uncomfortable, is it because, like Jesus, we see someone violating God’s laws … or is it because we see someone violating our own laws? Our personal space? Our comfort zone? Is it possible that, unlike Jesus, we’re only offended by disregard for our laws?
- Do you see your church as a friendly arena for deep prayer? Have you developed a prayer routine at home? Does it include family members or friends? Or is this your private alone time with God? Is this an area where you could use some encouragement?
- Have you ever, or do you now, own and use a prayer journal? If so, do you find it a helpful spiritual discipline? Do you refer back to prior entries to track your spiritual growth and see how God has answered prayer? Is this an area where you could use encouragement?