Cleansing the Temple

After He entered Jerusalem Jesus went to the temple area. As the center of Jewish life, it only made sense for him to go there. No doubt many expected him to make his claim for the throne of his father David there as well. But that isn’t what Jesus did…

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; 16 and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

(Mark 11:15-19)

This is not, however, the first time that the temple area had been cleansed. Back in the days of the Kingdom of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity, another son of David entered the temple area to cleanse it of its evil. In this instance it was King Josiah:

And the king commanded Hilki′ah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Ba′al, for Ashe′rah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Ba′al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Ashe′rah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Ashe′rah.

(2 Kings 23:4-7)

This was a shocking passage when I re-read it a few months ago. The notion of prostitution going on inside the temple area, the “House of the Lord”, is in some respects unbelievable. And yet, is it really all that hard to imagine? Perversion of proper worship of the Lord will invariably lead in that direction, and so it should be no surprise that it ended up happening. What got me thinking is how what is going on nowadays in many churches isn’t far off from what happened back then. As far as I can tell, the only real difference between then and now is that back then the idolaters weren’t hiding their activities. Such openness of sin isn’t the norm right now. At least, not yet….

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8 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Sin, Temptation, The Church

8 responses to “Cleansing the Temple

  1. Michael Schleyer

    Unfortunately, the openness seems to be starting. Too many once faithful have fallen sway to the bitter promises of the devil and their faith has withered as a result. Even Rome is corrupted by the secular influences of modernity. Shameful times we live in, yet we should not give up hope. Always keep the faith.

    Great blog, by the way!

    God bless.

  2. Good post.
    But sadly, I would argue in some places…it has already reached that point.

  3. Jenny

    I remember how awful i thought it was that bible people sacrificed their babies, then i realized how we as a society sacrificed our babies too in the name of female independence. I think the word prostitution is used to mean worshipping other gods, so if people in the church are worshipping other gods like money, career, then they would be prostituting themselves.

  4. Random Angeleno

    I have a slight preference for the version found in John 2 which describes him making a whip (scourge in some transations) from the materials at hand and then doing the Lord’s business in the temple.

    I always tell people who think of the wishy washy Jesus to read this episode. One of my favorite stories. Righteous anger has its place.

  5. @ Michael

    Yes, the openness is definitely starting. Some of the more liberal congregations have been engaged in this for decades now. But it is definitely going mainstream.

    @ LLB7

    No disagreement here.

    @ Jenny

    I’m not sure that idolatry was what we referred to there, as other references were made to idolatrous activity without that kind of metaphor. Its tough to be sure about it. What does matter is that perversion was definitely going on inside the temple.

    @ Random Angeleno

    Yes, I like that touch as well. Righteous Anger is something we don’t see enough of these days.

  6. The unusual aspect of this record isn’t the degradation of the temple, but its cleansing. There’s a reason God calls Israel “stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart.” They had a lousy track record when it came to believing God.

    Prostitution in the O.T. is an interesting subject. The word most frequently translated “harlot,” etc., really means “wanton.” A slut. No cash required.

    I wonder how many churches today are completely free of fornication, adultery, single-motherhood, and divorce? Does your church openly condemn such goings-on? If not, then expressing outrage over the problems in the temple is a teensy bit hypocritical.

  7. This is an aspect of Christ the church goes out of its way to hide. Same for how Christ will behave when He returns. The church fears masculinty and cannot survive men acting like this Christ.

  8. femininebutnotfeminist

    I was just going to mention the part about Jesus making a whip but it seems Random Angeleno beat me to it. (I would quote that part of the passage here but I’m not home at the moment so I don’t have a Bible handy). That is one of the things about this passage that interests me so much just because it tells something about Jesus’s anger… I mean, think about how long it would’ve taken Him to make a whip from scratch. Not a super long time, I know. But long enough to show that He knew darn well what He was about to do, He didn’t just have a quick flash of losing His temper and running crazy through the temple. He calmly (I suppose) took the time to make His whip, THEN went running crazy through the temple. He was totally in control of Himself while expressing His anger, even though He was like a bull in a china shop while doing so. This I think proves that righteous anger, and even expressing it (so long as you are in control of yourself while doing it) can in fact be good and Godly, because Jesus did it and He never commited a sin. Just a theory.

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