House of prayer (part 2)
Jerusalem was abuzz with news of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into town. The next day Jesus shows, in dramatic fashion, that the nation’s idea of being religious was in need of reform:
Mark 11:15-17 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the complex.
Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?
Note that when Jesus was correcting the people, He referred them back to God’s Word. In this case, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah. The people present, especially the priests and scribes, would have instantly recognized Jesus’ reference:
Isaiah 56:1-3,6-7 This is what the Lord says: Preserve justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed. Happy is the man who does this, anyone who maintains this, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. No foreigner who has converted to the Lord should say, “The Lord will exclude me from His people”…
…And the foreigners who convert to the Lord, minister to Him, love the Lord’s name, and are His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it, and who hold firmly to My covenant – I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
God’s plan for His temple was to include those from other nations. Foreigners who submitted to the Lord didn’t need to worry about being excluded from fellowship with God just because they weren’t Jewish. Instead, God makes this incredible promise to them:
I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
God assures the believing foreigners that He will personally lead them to His temple, accept them and their sacrifices, and include them in the worship given by His chosen people, Israel. This was a huge blessing for God to give to those born outside of His covenant with Israel. As a result of this promise, there were many believing foreigners in Jerusalem at Passover.
With the religious economy the Jewish leaders had instituted within the temple complex, they were hindering the foreign believers from participating in worship at God’s house of prayer. The Jewish leaders were standing in the way of God’s promise to foreigners – no wonder Jesus was flipping tables and chairs!
In our own church gatherings, do our religious activities point others toward God…or do we hinder others from meeting with God?
If a foreigner came to us, would they recognize our church gatherings as God’s house of prayer, or something else?