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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Thieves in the House of God

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17, NIV)

We mistake the meaning of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple if we assume He forbids resources to be made available to worshippers.

For example, churches that ban the sale of books and music on their premises on the basis of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple misunderstand what the event was all about.

The money changers and dove sellers of the temple did their business in the Court of the Gentiles, the only place of access for non-Jewish pilgrims. The transformation of that Court into a commercial center for profit prevented the Gentiles from having the opportunity to worship. How could they praise the One True God when all around them were the sounds of sellers hawking their wares, turning the temple area into a place of crass commercialization!

Several years ago I climbed Mt. Sinai, the spot where tradition holds Moses received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was very early in the morning when we reached the top. I expected to have a few moments of prayer and sacred reflection. Imagine my disappointment when my eyes fell on nothing but vast amounts of litter left by others who had climbed before me.

The experience was a huge disappointment. I had come to relive the moments when Moses received the Law; instead, I couldn’t focus on anything but the trash.

That’s the context for the Gentiles coming into the Court of the Gentiles. They wanted to meet with the God of Israel but instead were assaulted by the noise of the profit centers.

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7, which foretold the day when foreigners would come with joy to Jerusalem and the temple would be called a house of prayer for all nations. When the exiles of Israel returned, God also promised through Isaiah, “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered” (56:6-8). In cleansing the Court of the Gentiles, Jesus was essentially saying, “The day Isaiah looked toward has come — the day in which God is gathering the ‘others.’”

In calling the merchandisers “a den of robbers” Jesus takes the phrase out of Jeremiah 7:11. That verse closes with the Lord saying through Jeremiah, “But I have been watching! declares the Lord.”

Jesus indeed had been watching. On Palm Sunday when He entered the temple, He had “looked around” (11:11); now, He acts.

Jesus’ actions are a lesson for His Church as well. Too often the church becomes an in-club. It does not assess its meetings by how they might affect non-Christians. We must be sensitive whenever we gather that we provide an atmosphere where non-Christians know and feel they are welcome. The Lord never called us to be an exclusive club that makes difficult the inclusion of those who seek Him.

We must also recognize that there are among us those who use the gospel to enrich themselves, who live extravagant lifestyles supported by the offerings of widows who falsely think they are giving to extend the gospel. Instead, their offerings simply provide for another mansion or luxury automobile for the “ministry” they so sacrificially support. Just as Jesus cleansed the temple, so also a day of judgment will come for those who abuse the trust placed in them by God’s people.

A prayer of response
Search me, O God. Cleanse me from every wicked thought and way. May I serve You with pure heart and noble purpose.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2008 On Your Mark

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