Read His Words Before Ours!
“In the temple [Jesus] found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, ‘Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!’ And his disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:14-17, emphasis mine)
When I first read this passage, I struggled to understand Jesus’ reaction.
Why was Jesus so angry these people were selling stuff inside the temple?
Weren’t they providing needed sacrifices to those without?
Thankfully, God placed some mature Christians in my life who taught me it’s ok to ask questions when we don’t understand, regardless of how long we’ve been following Jesus!
So, I asked questions about this passage, and learned Jesus was angry for a couple of reasons. First, the “marketplace” was located in the outermost court of the temple, which is where the Gentiles (non-Jewish believers) and Jewish women came to worship. A busy market made it impossible for these men and women to properly worship God.
Second, Jesus saw the motivation behind the selling of sacrifices, self-profit.
Sellers overcharged needy worshipers, making a huge profit from those traveling to the temple to worship. Consider the modern-day analogy of attending a sporting event. You wait in line to purchase a bottle of water, only to discover they cost $6.00/bottle. Vendors have a captive and thirsty audience, and they know we will pay the price. We may complain, but most will usually end up paying because of the need to quench our thirst.
So, what does this mean for us today? In order to answer that question, let’s dig a little deeper and understand the heart behind Jesus’ anger.
Exodus 20:4-6 tells us not to make or worship idols, for “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” Thus, we see Jesus’ righteous, jealous anger when He witnessed people worshiping money and profit over His Father, God. The same is true for us today. If we are honest, we all tend to create idols we worship more than God.
Pastor, speaker, and author Dr. Paul David Tripp explains,
“We are all worshipers, and we all attach our identity, our hopes and dreams, our sense of well-being and our meaning and purpose to something.
We all give functional control of our hearts to something.
We all live after something.
We all tend to surrender to serve what we think will give us life.”
While our idols may look different from those in the Old Testament (think cell phones and sports teams rather than golden calves and Baals), we all have them, because anything or anyone we place before God is an idol.
I just returned from a week of summer camp with students from church. With the prompt for this study on my mind, I entered into our first night of corporate worship. God, as He so often does, met me right where I was with questions and unexpected conviction. As I sang loudly, hands raised, thrilled to be back at camp after last year’s covid-cancellation, His gentle question hit me like a ton of bricks, “Hey Lori, are you worshiping Me, or are you worshiping camp and the experience it brings?”
What?! As I pondered this question, I had to admit my worship was misplaced. At that moment, I was not worshiping Jesus, but the experience I had been craving for over a year.
Matthew 22:37 echoes the first commandment given to Moses hundreds of years earlier, instructing us to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. God desires all our worship and praise, because He knows how fickle our wandering hearts really are. He gives us these instructions to keep us focused on Him and the eternal, versus the worldly and temporary.
Today, I urge each of us to honestly ask ourselves if we’re worshiping someone or something other than God. Let’s pursue God’s heart on this with thought and prayer, because, as I recently learned, it’s easy for seemingly good and right things to sneak in and steal our worship away from Jesus.
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?
Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure
or weighed the mountains on a balance
and the hills on the scales?” (Isaiah 40:12)
Would you join me in digging into these chapters, asking God to show us our idols, and then worshiping Him alone?
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!