Summary: Jesus was clear that he saw God’s house differently than many who were in it.
House of Prayer- Cornwall
September 4, 2004
On two occasions, Jesus called attention to the state of the worship that occurred in and around the Temple in Jerusalem. From each, we learn something of great value to us, as we gather to worship God today, here in Cornwall, Ontario, in Canada. The messages of the Bible- and the Holy Scriptures are very relevant to us- this is a lesson that we need constant assurance of and which we need to not let slip.
Please turn to Matthew 21.12 and 13.
Jesus’ action and words were prophetic, and emphasized a change coming in the entire system. He quoted two OT passages- Isa.56.7- where he omitted key words “for all nations”, which Jewish readers would know, and he quoted Jer.7.11. Readers, of the time, would recognize that Jesus’ actions happened in the ‘court of the Gentiles’, where moneychangers changed foreign coins for those in which the Temple dues might be paid, and, presumably, they made a lot of money through doing this. “Those who sold pigeons” did so to the poor as offerings, so the poor could offer the poorest acceptable offering in this sacrificial system.
Jesus is pointing out, as Matt.12.43 ultimately emphasizes, that there will be a replacement of the old system by the new.
People had developed one idea about God’s house. God wanted something more. Let’s read Jer.7.11- this tells us that God sees.
Jesus’ warning is relevant for us, today, as well. In His day, many did not see the centre of worship as He saw it. For them, it became a centre for themselves and for their advancement, and others accepted this. Those who came, even, as worshippers, did not cast out the moneychangers and sellers of pigeons, but they accepted what occurred and, probably, thought it was something that had to be tolerated. However, Jesus, the owner of the Temple, thought otherwise. What do we accept that is unacceptable? What do we do that we might feel is acceptable, but which we need to challenge so God’s house- “My house”- to quote Jesus’ words- is what Jesus has in mind?
Let’s think about it. This is to be a ‘house of prayer’. This is a centre for worship. Do we come with that in mind? Do we come focused on ‘I, me, my’, or on “You, Your”? Do we come to honour God, or to get something for ourselves, or to tolerate something that ought not to be tolerated? This is to be a centre for worship, which happens in many different ways, but we have to begin by coming here with a sense of awe about the One we are coming to worship. We do not want to be cast out because we’re involved in our matters and ourselves, as were the moneychangers and sellers of pigeons.
Two practices need to be considered at this time:
1. Do you come prepared to worship? Do you prepare to worship? You, and I, need a few minutes before the service begins, to prepare to worship. You cannot come in at the last minute and expect to connect with God in the corporate worship service. Don’t arrive late. It’s as easy to come 10 minutes earlier as it is to come right ‘on time’, or a few minutes late. Dean Wilson, Regional Director for the churches in Canada in 1975, when I began in ministry, taught us that ‘on time is 30 minutes early’. You have to build in allowance for a flat tire or for bad traffic. Too, it’s a matter of respect. If I come in late, to a seminar or lecture or to hear a speaker, it says to that person, or gathering, that I am more important- it marks disrespect- do we recognize this? Let us not show disrespect toward God.
2. When worship begins, be quiet. It is not uncommon for us to carry on worship unrelated conversations when songs begin or even during a prayer. If you come in late, be quiet about it. If you’re here to worship, be sure to wind up other conversations a couple of minutes ahead of the beginning of the worship time, so you can ‘be quiet before the Lord’ and prepare to worship. This is a good lesson for all of us- you children can learn this, too, and can practice this, even as we adults can. You’re here to worship God, too, maybe because your parents bring you or make you, or, hopefully, because you want to be here before your God. It isn’t necessary for children to be hopping around during the service- I understand the matter of energy, and that’s good, but I have, also, along with my wife, had 3 of our 4 daughters reasonably quiet during 2 hour services, that we used to have. I don’t believe they’re scarred for life because of it. This is one important lesson to learn- it’s a lesson of discipline, which prepares one to accomplish more in life- and can be one great benefit from being involved in regular worship toward God.