Holiness in God’s Temple

“And Jesus entered the temple and cast 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.” (Matthew 21:12-14)

We have visited the theme of needing to keep God’s temple holy before, but it seems the Bible is full of verses, which emphasize it over and over again. Therefore, I shall do the same. The main points to the above story are many. First, in the case of Jesus getting angry with the moneychangers that day, we learn that it is indeed possible to get angry, and not sin. This is a good lesson to learn, for how many times have been told, or somehow seduced, into thinking that anger, in and of itself, is wrong? The truth of the matter is that it is not wrong. But our usage of it can indeed be very wrong, at times. And this is what we need to watch out for. On this note, the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). So brethren, do not sin! But if the occasion presents itself (like we see here) where you feel you need to get angry, by all means, go ahead! Only, do it in the Lord, and as the Lord would have you.

Secondly, let’s now turn to the reason why Jesus got angry. He was angry because the temple was not clean; it was not holy. The purpose for which Jesus went in to drive out the moneychangers was therefore to make it holy. He wanted to make it holy, of course, so that God’s Spirit could dwell there once again (the temple was the place where God’s Spirit was supposed to dwell. However, God could obviously not do this if the temple was not clean in His sight). We read in Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2). The problem, therefore, was “unholiness in the temple.” Jesus came into the temple that day to literally drive out that unholiness and sin. How about us? Are we strict with sin? Are we willing to judge it in ourselves, so that our own “temple” (i.e. body, which is now the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit) can be clean? Sometimes we need to literally drive out that sin and take a very serious attitude towards it. The option is left up to us (rather than God) to do that. If we are unwilling to do that, unfortunately, other circumstances may come along in our lives which may force us to have to deal with it. Those circumstances can be a lot less friendly and likable than if we had first dealt with it ourselves. In a sense, these circumstances may not be “God”; they may simply be the natural result of not dealing with what we should have when we had the chance (so take the chance when you’ve got it, to deal with whatever is causing you to sin).

The third thing we see from this passage is the after effect of Jesus dealing with the problems (sinful ways) that existed in the temple. Look at verse 14! “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.” What a wonderful end result! Once again, after the sin had been dealt with, Jesus (God) was allowed once again to indwell the temple and to do His work there. Notice what He did: After dealing with the oppressors (moneychangers), He then healed those who were oppressed (the blind and the lame). Jesus desires to do that in every one of our lives: He wants to deal with our “oppressive ways” so that He can heal us where we have been oppressed. Don’t be fooled! Chances are that if a person is oppressed, some parts of him are also oppressive (and vice-versa). We need to recognize that there are oppressive ways in our lives, and ask God to help us deal with them.

Have we really let Jesus in to the full extent that He wants to in our lives? What needs to be judged by us (or dealt with by us), so that the Lord Himself won’t have to cause such a major upset sometime later on down the road? For we read in the Bible, “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32). Another way of saying this is, “God will deal with it if we don’t! But when God deals with it, at least He is dealing with it for our ultimate good, and not for the bad.” Nevertheless, we should take warning from this passage, because in it, we read that, because of God’s judgment upon their sinful ways, “a number sleep” (have died) (v. 30). Be warned! God is serious about your holiness, and He will not spare anything in order to see it formed in you! Another way to say this is that God is in the cleansing business. What Matthew 21:12-14 is therefore teaching is that we would all do well to “beat Him to the task,” as it were, so that we would not suffer undue hardship later on down the road, but rather, be healed. “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13).