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Saturday, February 20, 2016

New Cleansed Temple – Part 2



Merchandizers
     In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. John 2:13 Lambs, cattle and turtledoves were used as sacrifices to God. The turtledoves were the sacrifice of the poor. (See Leviticus 5:7) After John the Baptist declared Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the dove came down from heaven and rested upon Jesus and the Father attested that Jesus was indeed His Beloved Son. The Lamb and the Dove were the sacrifices for atonement for sin. The Jews present should have recognized these signs that Jesus is soon to fulfill the requirement for atonement for sin as the Lamb of God. Then He will send the Holy Spirit from heaven symbolized by the dove.
Background of Passover
     At the first Passover in Exodus, the Lord instructed the Israelites through Moses to take a year-old lamb from their own flock without spot or blemish, kill it and spread its blood on the two sides and tops of their doorframes of their homes. This lamb would come from their own flock. The blood would be the way God would identify His own so when the angel of death came, the angel would pass over the homes with the blood. Hence the name Passover. Thereafter, the Israelites would celebrate Passover every spring in the temple in Jerusalem by shedding the blood of a lamb, bull or two turtledoves without spot or blemish in remembrance of God’s salvation and deliverance from their bondage in Egypt. At the yearly Passover, the head of the household would tell the story of God’s redemption and deliverance.

     Jesus is the fulfillment of the Lamb without spot or blemish, the shed blood and the door through which we must pass in order to come to the Father. He came from Israel’s own flock through a woman from the tribe of Judah. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to all who believe in Him.
 Jesus is our redeemer and deliverer.           
     Animals for sacrifice would be needed for the offerings to God. These animals were to be without spot or blemish, so they would be inspected by the priests and declared acceptable or unacceptable for sacrifice. Instead of doing this freely in service to God and His people, the priests were charging a fee, and the merchandizers charged for animals that had already passed inspection.
Passover Cleansing of the House
            According to the Older Testament, every Jewish household must be cleansed of all things made of yeast just before Passover. Jesus will cleanse His Father’s house of all impurity (sin symbolized by leaven) before Passover. Instead of worship according to God, the temple court was full of sin! Jesus who is the authority over His Father’s house must cleanse it.
            Jesus wants His disciples to guard against false teaching and seek out pure truth. Those who have made Jesus Lord of their lives will want Jesus and the Holy Spirit to cleanse them of all impurity. Yeast in scripture symbolizes sin and false teaching. Jesus warned in Matthew 16:11b, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  When He said this, His disciples realized that He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (see v12) Jesus does not compromise with sin, evil and false teaching. Jesus only spoke pure Truth, had no sin and never compromised with the Evil One. Jesus is the living, pure, perfect, eternal Passover Lamb who will cleanse the world of sin, not in a temple made with human hands but in Him -- the pure, living, eternal Temple of God. Once we are living in the eternal, holy New Jerusalem, a physical temple will not be necessary. Revelation 21:22 says, "I did not see a temple in the City, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its lamp. Today, Christ's Body of believers are to be the light of the world as we reflect the Light of Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Place of Worship Turned into a Marketplace
            God’s house was to be a place of sacrifice, worship and prayer, but these merchandizers and moneychangers had turned it into a marketplace where they were fleecing God’s worshipers. They were charging exorbitant prices for the animals for sacrifice and to exchange foreign money for a Jewish shekel which is the only coin acceptable in the temple. According to God’s instruction, every male 20 years or older had to pay a half shekel of silver to the Lord as a ransom for his life. (See Exodus 30:12-15) Ransom in Hebrew is kopher which means price of life. It is also the same word for atonement. This half shekel is referred to as the Temple Tax. All – rich or poor – paid the same amount for life and atonement. This money would be used for the maintenance of the temple. Only the Jewish shekel could be used. Other coins would have the face of the emperor on them and would be considered idolatrous. Since many of the believers came from foreign countries and Jerusalem was under Roman authority at the time of Jesus, the worshipers would have to exchange their foreign currency for Jewish shekels. By charging exorbitant prices to exchange the money, the moneychangers were filling their own pockets as well of the pockets of the Roman rulers and Jewish priests. These merchandizers, moneychangers, priests and rulers were profiting off of God’s ordained requirements for sacrifice. The whole system was corrupt. The sacrificial animals brought from the worshipers’ flock would be rejected declaring them unworthy and forcing the believer to buy one from these merchandizers at an inflated price. These corrupt religious leaders were more interested in getting rich than serving God in holiness.
            Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the requirements for atonement and the ransom payment. Jesus declares the unworthy worthy! Only Jesus who was, is and will ever be holy could pay the ransom and atonement for the sin of the world. He is the sacrifice who paid for our spiritual, eternal life. He paid the price for all, and made every believer in Him the temple of God.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 Our spiritual, eternal life was bought with the price of Christ’s life and shed sinless blood. “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 The prophet Hosea spoke of a time when God would ransom His people from death and redeem them. (see Hosea 13:14) Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise! All of the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ. (See 2 Corinthians 1:20)
            With all of the noise and commotion of the sheep baaing, cattle mooing, doves cooing and the bargaining between the buyers and sellers, worship and prayer would be impossible. God had told Solomon that the temple was to be built in silence. The temple of God was too sacred for noise and animal dung. It was a holy place, so we can see why Jesus was so upset at what He found. In the spiritual, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are silently working to build God’s temple in the hearts of those who believe in Him. As Solomon had every stone cut and chiseled outside of the temple and then fit each one in place next to another to build the earthly temple in Jerusalem, Jesus and the Holy Spirit cut and measure every believer and set them in place next to each other in their God-given position to carry out the work of God’s House and Kingdom, and establish it on earth as it is in heaven.
     Jesus must rid God’s house of this exploitation of His people. Jesus came to possess what belongs to Him. He has all authority over His Father’s house to purge it of all unrighteousness. Jesus must rid the temple of this sinful practice.
(Next week: Jesus’ righteous anger, demand for a sign and the heart of man)

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