“And (Jesus) entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”
Picture yourself entering the temple, first through the court of the gentiles, standing with Jesus.
Instead of prayers, hear sheep bleating.
Instead of worship, hear birds screeching.
In the place of God’s Word, hear salesmen calling out the cheapest prices – the best deals – in what was supposed to be a sacred place.
In place of teaching, hear coins dropped into metal plates and people bickering over exchange plates.
Now it is easy to understand why Jesus acted.
There were other places that animals could be sold…there were other places where coins could be exchanged. At some point in Israel’s history, all of this commotion was in another part of Jerusalem.
Maybe it was just a matter of convenience that motivated them to bring it into the temple. Maybe no Gentiles really ever showed up to pray, to worship, to hear God’s word.
Whatever the case, the Jews, according to the theologian Darrell Bock, “turned the temple into exactly the opposite of what it was designed to be…In the very presence of God, as it prepares for worship, the nation dishonors its God”.*
By putting money changers in the Court of the Gentiles, the priests and other leaders are limiting the Gentile’s access to God. What was to be a place of worship became a den of robbers. Jesus was forced into action because of the gulf between what was supposed to happen in worship and what was currently happening in their place of worship.
Today, are we innocent of this crime? How have we turned our worship into the opposite of what it was designed to be?
Unfortunately, I think the answer is obvious. We turn worship into the exact opposite of what it was intended to be by making worship all about ourselves.
A confession is in order from me. Just as Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 – that he was the foremost of sinners… on this topic, I am the foremost among sinners.
The problem with serving at one church since you were 25 is that it is hard to shake a reputation that you earn when you are young and foolish. I earned the reputation on staff at our church to dislike a certain style of worship – so any time our church brought in someone who led a special event, but did so with southern gospel music – I, and I am embarrassed about it now – made my disinterest in attending well known to the pastor.
The litmus test for whether or not one can worship has nothing…NOTHING…to do with worship style. It has everything to do with the heart of the music and the heart of the worshiper.
Remember the story of Cain and Able? It’s no big deal if you don’t. The story of their life is found in Genesis 4, which is the 4th chapter of the first book of the Bible.
Cain and Able are brothers – in fact they are the first children born to Adam and Eve. Cain farms. Able shepherds.
They both bring a sacrifice to God – with a grateful heart, Able brings the best of his flock to sacrifice. Cain, with a begrudging heart, brings only what is left over. God accepts Able’s sacrifice, but rejects Cain’s. God tested their heart and found Cain’s worship lacking…
If the music has at its heart to glorify our God – to glorify Jesus Christ – and to glorify the Holy Spirit, each and every Christian should be able to worship regardless of style.
When a Christian makes worship all about their worship style preference, that Christian is making worship all about themselves, when it should be all about God. As we worship, do we honor God – whether or not the worship style meets our preference? Or do we dishonor God, and only have ourselves in mind – when we refuse to worship to a music style that is not our favorite?
Worship must be centered on glorifying Christ Jesus – anything else is just about glorifying ourselves. By placing the money changers and sacrifice sellers in the court of the gentiles, the Jews made worship all about themselves. We must make sure we don’t fall into the same sin when we worship by insisting on a style that meets our desires.
*Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke, 1572.