Have we straightened the overturned tables?

Matthew 21:12-13

12 Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer.  But you are making it a den of thieves!”

Jesus upset the system and caused disorder with His righteous anger.  What caused it?

I have always loved the definition of righteous anger as “You defending God, not yourself.”  We struggle with making the anger about ourselves.  But Jesus can do this perfectly because He is God.  In fact this is right after He claimed His authority, so He is defending himself.

Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, from Isaiah and Jeremiah:

“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? [Isaiah 56:6–8] But you have made it a den of robbers [Jeremiah 7:11].”

Let’s look at Isaiah 56:

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORDand to be his servants,

everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—

7  these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

8  The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,

“I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”


I love that Jesus quoted scripture when flipping over tables and chairs.  This chapter is speaking about foreigners who have joined themselves to the Lord and now have an everlasting name better than sons and daughters.  The Jewish people in front of Jesus have not used the temple as a place of prayer–a place to speak to God, but as a place of influence and power.  The city would have been full of travelers coming for Passover.  Because the Jews considered it “their” temple, they were using it against the “outsiders.”

“Their economic drive, and their false security in the temple as an emblem of blessing (Jeremiah 7:3–11), had crowded out space for the nations to draw near, and therefore Jesus was driving them out. The great sadness of this scene wasn’t so much the rows of product and price-gouging, but that all this left no room for the Gentiles and outcasts to come to God.”–Jonathan Parnell (Desiring God)

God’s intention for the temple is for those who join themselves to the LORDto come minister to Him, to love the name of the LORDand to be His servants, to keep the Sabbath and not profane it, hold fast to His covenant, to come together and have joyful worship where they belong.  He promises to make them joyful and that their offerings and sacrifices will be accepted.  God says He gathers the outcasts.  

But He also promises in Jeremiah 7 that if they continue to oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, shed innocent blood, go after other gods….and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all of your kinsman.

The main problem is their focus on themselves.  The Jews felt secure by their heritage.  They did not want to share the kingdom of God with anyone else.

I feel that way about the American church.  We feel that this “Christian Nation” is chosen and blessed just by heritage.  We have a false sense of security.  Our focus is not one of joining God, ministering, serving, holding fast to the covenant to be His people.  We have more of an attitude of entitlement, being served, consumerism, and elitism.  Sadly if we continue to stand before Him in His house and say “we are delivered” while doing these abominations, He will cast us out.  We need to have the attitude of the sojourner who chooses the things that please the Lord in His house of prayer.

Do we have room for the outcasts in our churches or have we straightened the tables?  What are we requiring of them in order to scoot over and make room for them?  Or do we want them at all?

Jesus loves the church,  let it be His church



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