Cleaning House (Matthew 21:12)

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

Matthew 21:12

It is entirely possible that the dove sellers began with the best of intentions. It may be that recent proselytes did not know all of the specifics about what had to be true of a sacrifice and that those who sold the doves originally got into the business to enable people to worship. I would like to think that some of them, at least, began with such noble intent; that they came to the temple with extra animals and took only what the animal was worth so that they could replace it for their own worship later on. I would like to think well of their original intent, but thinking that also brings with it the difficulty of realizing that they also did not end well. I can think of no altruistic reason for the money changers to have started their business.

Regardless of whether or not anyone in this scenario began with good intentions, they were in a place where they were making merchandise of the worship of God. People came to the temple in order to meet with God and they were met, instead, with shysters. They brought their sacrifices to God only to be told that their best was not good enough, but that they could upgrade their best to better for a fee. They were told that their money was not even acceptable, but had to be converted. It was like they had gone to a foreign land just by crossing the threshold of the temple. And this turned people away from God.

Jesus came on the scene and cleaned house. He drove out the money changers and the sellers of doves and other sacrificial animals. John’s account has Jesus throwing tables and braiding a whip out of whatever was handy. God is not tolerant where perversion of His worship is concerned. He is zealous.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Worship of God is now carried out in temples of flesh and bone. The sacrifices are now of our metaphorical “sacred cows” rather than literal heifers. While some things have changed, others have not. God is still intolerant of perversion of worship and He will not abide intruders within His temple.

What I come away with this morning is the impression that God wants to clean house in me. It is not so much that I think I am a horrible person — I am good at being a person, but not so great at being a child of God. I know that there are other things in my mind and in my heart that vie for my attention. Some of these are valid — my wife and children, for example — while others are usurpers — such as selfish pursuits and sinful desires. Christ cleaned house more than once in the pages of the gospels. He drove out everything and everyone who did not belong in the temple. Not once does the account record Him driving out a worshiper. Not once does it record anyone being turned off by His zeal. He cleans house and reiterates that the temple; the house of God is a house of prayer; a place where people can meet with God and hear from Him and pour out their heart to Him.

Jesus, be invited to clean house in me today. Throw tables and whip usurpers and drive out the things that simply do not belong; the things that hinder my worship of You. Reestablish the purpose of me as the temple of Your Holy Spirit. May my heart be hallowed ground whereupon we may commune.

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