Friday, April 4, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 6, 2014

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JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE
(We are called to integrity and holiness)
(Mark 11:15-19, Isaiah 56:6-8, & Jeremiah 7:1-15)

Week in and week out I continue to see how we as a professed Christian body continue to go to GOD’s House and “play church” with each other. Our worship in the church is not really worship of GOD at all, but rather, it is just us getting together and entertaining ourselves under the guise that we are praising and worshipping GOD.
In Isaiah chapter 56, verses 6-8, because the Jews had rejected GOD, even in HIS OWN house, the prophet Isaiah delivers a message from GOD that HE will rain HIS special blessings upon all Gentiles who commit themselves to HIM, serve HIM, love HIS name, worship HIM, and do not desecrate HIS Sabbath day of rest. In other words, any Gentile who is willing to accept the covenant that HE made with the Jews, HE will honor them also with HIS blessing.
GOD goes on to also promise Gentiles that HE will bring them to HIS holy mountain of Jerusalem and fill them with joy in HIS “House of Prayer”. Here GOD declares that HIS temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations, not just HIS people in Israel.
In Jeremiah chapter 7, in the prophet’s brief “temple address”, verses 1-15, Jeremiah sternly warns the people about their wreckless disrespect of GOD’s temple. The temple, at that time, had become a place of superstitious fetishes, where false prophets tried to assure the people of Judah that they were safe there regardless of what they might do. They believed that GOD would never destroy the place where HE had placed HIS name here on earth. They believed that the church and Judah were completely safe from GOD’s judgment simply because they were GOD’s chosen nation.
Jeremiah’s sermon serves to do away with such foolishness and superstitions, that were by then, the beliefs of most of the faithful in the church community. Here GOD sought to warn the people of Judah, through Jeremiah, that their safety did not lie within the confines of their defiled temple, or their nation, but rather, it would depend upon the moral, social, and religious reforms, that, at that time, were sorely needed (Vs.6-10).
In this passage (v.11), GOD refers to the temple as a “den of thieves”, a place where robbers came to hang out and hide in search of new victims. It is a disturbing analogy, although it accurately described the activity in and around this, once sacred, edifice in Jerusalem.
In verse 12 GOD invites Judah to take a look at Shiloh and what happened to the tabernacle there, during the days of the Judges. At that time HE allowed the Philistines to capture the “Ark of the Covenant”, the most sacred object in Israel’s religion, and then, HE destroyed Shiloh itself.
This history lesson served to show the people of Judah that their confidence in the safety of the temple and Judah was sadly misplaced, and that GOD can and will destroy the temple, and Jerusalem, if they didn’t get their act together real soon.
All during the time when the Israelites were committing their evil deeds, the LORD had repeatedly spoken to them, through various prophets, however, HIS warnings went largely unheeded. In this instance in the book of Jeremiah, GOD was promising to send HIS beloved nation into exile for 70 years, which was one year for every “Sabbath Year Rest” (see Leviticus 25:1-7) that they had ignored, 70 violations in all, during a 490 year period. And as all of biblical history has shown, GOD always gives us numerous warnings, before HE exacts HIS punishment on us.
And finally we see in Mark chapter 11, verses 15-22, JESUS, the SON of the Most High GOD, arriving in Jerusalem, where HE went directly to the Temple and cast out the unsavory characters that could still be found within. And so we find that, just as HIS FATHER GOD had to do many years earlier, so too, JESUS had to also do at the Church House in HIS day. And just as man never learns, still the church must be cleansed again in this day and age, and, it will be.
In the Greek, the word New Testament writers sometimes use to describe GOD’s discipline, (as in “the goodness by which HE rebukes and disciplines us), is “agathosune” ( ag-ath-o-soo-nay). It is a word that does not occur in secular Greek. This is the word that applies to JESUS’ actions in verses 15-17, when HE ejected the robbers and moneychangers from the temple because they had desecrated GOD’s Holy Place.
By overcharging the people for animals, used to give as sacrifices to GOD at the Temple, and, by charging them too large of a fee to convert their money over to the proper local currency, they were, in effect, blocking these people from worshipping GOD. Here, JESUS seeks to remind us not to block anyone from worshipping GOD, and, that GOD loves, not just the Jews, but, all the nations of the world.
There is, perhaps, no other place in Scriptures, where we feel reminded, that we need to make a more conscious effort to be fair in our dealings with each other. There were many crooked people in the Temple Court that day, but there were also many others, whose hearts were set on GOD. The LORD will never hold blameless, those who make it hard, or impossible for others to worship HIM.
Oftentimes nowadays, many ministers of GOD, can be more concerned, with imposing their ways of doing things, on their congregation, than they are, with preaching and teaching the true word of GOD. Remember, JESUS didn’t send everyone in the temple away that day, but rather, it was only those who were blocking the worship of GOD, by making it difficult, or impossible for the poorest among them to afford animal sacrifices used in worship of HIM.
Man’s exploitation of man will always provoke the wrath of GOD, and especially when it is done under the guise of Christianity. “Need” is never sent away empty by CHRIST JESUS, and HIS anger is never “negative”. GOD’s anger is always geared toward the positive helping of those who are in need. Such will always be the way of GOD’s “agathosune” (discipline) upon mankind.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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