Cleanse My Temple


And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." (John 2:14-16)

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a 'robbers' den.'" And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant. (Matthew 21:12-15)

When Jesus cleansed the temple, it was clearly symbolic of His desire to do a similar thing in each one of our lives. We are a sanctuary for God to dwell in, yet He is not going to force us to let Him stay without our permission. He may confront us about all the clutter and obstacles that inhibit His ability to rest in our heart, for the very meaning of sanctuary is a safe place to hang out. But it is up to us whether He will be able to clean His own house and remain or whether He will ultimately be forced to leave.

It occurred to me this morning that the significance of the things Jesus cleansed from the temple correlate to the three counterfeit foundations of civilization: economics, hierarchy and law.

Clearly Jesus cleansed out a system of economics that had so saturated the temple courtyard that it had become difficult for most people to enter and worship God freely in the temple. Likewise, the whole system of artificial and improper valuation of people and things greatly inhibits our own ability to think and function in the ways that God originally designed for us to live.

Secondly, Jesus dismantled the system of hierarchy that had become a stranglehold of power within the temple. The abuse of authority demanded control over the worshipers through means of economics, intimidation and misrepresentations of God. The power brokers who had come to be in charge and who were profiteering from the activities of worship suddenly lost their superficial piety, and when thus exposed they were seen fleeing from the temple in terror trying to escape the presence of God.

But what about the system of artificial law? Did Jesus address this false foundation of human civilization too when He cleansed the temple?

The Jewish leaders had long ago figured out how to manipulate law over the years so that they could situate themselves advantageously at the expense of everyone else. They had piled up regulations, petty rules and traditions to the point that it became impossible for anyone to feel like they could ever be good enough to earn the favor of God. Yet those in authority kept demanding perfect obedience to all these multiplied rules and petty regulations as conditions that God demanded of them before He would accept or bless them. Jesus found Himself up against a massive wall of legal inhibitions that He chose to expose and confront repeatedly throughout His ministry.

When Jesus came into the temple and challenged the intimidating arrangements He found there, He was confronting an entire system based on artificial laws and petty regulations never given by God. By cleansing the entire system of false expectations, inhibitions and demanding regulations, He leveled the playing field so that the common people could feel free to enter into God's house without fear of legal repercussions – at least as long as Jesus was present.

Sadly though, we know that in both instances of when Jesus cleansed the temple, that it was not long before the corruption and intimidation and exploitation were re-introduced and the beautiful experiences of free and spontaneous worship and praise that occurred briefly there quickly evaporated under the scowling intimidation of the authorities.

We each face a similar situation in our own lives. God comes to each one of us desiring to remove the many obstacles, fears and lies about Him that prevent us from seeing His beautiful face and resting in His unconditional, passionate love for us. He desires to dismantle all the false systems and disarm all the powers that prevent us from trusting in His heart, so He brings us into situations that make it clear that all these things are just flimsy excuses of worship compared to the intimacy He longs for us to share with Him. And the control that much of religion holds over our lives is based on false authority and man-made rules that are like paper tigers that prevent us from enjoying true worship.

Like in the temple of old, if we do not recognize, appreciate and embrace the beautiful experience He brings to our hearts and make a choice to turn away from all the shallow and empty traditions of religion to what He has for us, then He will be forced to respect our choice and will sadly give us over to our own preferences. But the outcome is never pretty, for as seen in the result of the Jewish nation's rejection of Jesus' offer to bring in a new way of worship resulted in the murder of the Son of God. And a similar result can happen in our own situation if we will not take seriously the offer of Jesus to similarly cleanse our soul of all that keeps us from resting in His love.

Father, this is not just a nice analogy You are showing me here, this is a reality that I face myself. Please keep me awake to the new reality You are showing me each day and put in me a responsive, obedient heart to submit fully to Your Spirit's leading in my life instead of clinging to my old familiar ways of doing things. Bring to full completion the work of cleansing You have been doing for so long in me and do not hesitate to do whatever it takes to challenge or overturn any obstacle that I allow to remain in place that blocks Your will for me.
Cleanse me of the artificial ways of thinking and the false priorities that economics causes me to have. Refute and dismantle all notions of superiority or inferiority that the ways of hierarchy has caused in my perceptions and that have blocked my ability to love others as You love. And cleanse me of all the fears that have paralyzed me from following You joyfully brought about through the rules and traditions of men, that prevent me from embracing and living in harmony with Your principles that bring me true freedom.
Jesus said that He came to set captives free and heal all who need it and provide deliverance to all who are in bondage. I am certainly one of those in desperate need of healing, deliverance and clear vision. Continue Your work of cleansing in my mind and my heart so that all may be able to see what You can do and so Your reputation can be exalted by dwelling in my sanctuary.
Make me a safe place for You to hang out all the time.

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