“A house of prayer”
Our readings in the book of Numbers and the Gospel of Luke include references to cleansing. In Numbers we read yesterday how they consecrated the tabernacle now that it had been set up, offerings were made by each of the twelve tribes. It was about to be used for the first time to celebrate the Passover. It was now the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt (9:1-4). Today we read that the Levites who were to officiate over the Passover had to go through a cleansing process. Moses is to “sprinkle the water of purification upon them … wash their clothes and cleanse themselves” (8:7).
In our Luke reading we have the dramatic story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a colt. There is great rejoicing by the multitudes, but as the Master draws near to the city he weeps over it saying “would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace” (19:42). Then enters the temple, the place where God dwells, as the “tabernacle” had been over 1,500 years earlier.
Some urgent cleansing is needed!
“He 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” (verses 45,46).
We particularly note how Jesus calls it a “house of prayer” rather than a house of worship. What is the difference? Human attitudes create the difference. All too often places of worship centre on those officiating – and the pomp and ceremony involved.
It reminds me of the little story we read yesterday of the two men who went up to the temple, one was a Pharisee and he said in his prayer
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I get” (18:11,12).
He suffered from “I” trouble. It says he prayed with himself, his prayer just went round and came back to himself; it never went up to heaven. It illustrates that our hearts need cleansing when we come to worship and the wonderful temple yet to be built, as a “house of prayer” – what a purpose it will serve! But until then let us make sure our hearts are in a cleansed state each time we come together to sing praise and worship in whatever situation that may be. I hearts should have been cleansed by the personal prayer we offered this morning!