God Keeps a Clean House
GOD KEEPS A CLEAN HOUSE Daniel Lange October 8, 2017 KNOCK, KNOCK! “Come on in,” said the man. But just as the gentleman began to walk in, the homeowner stopped him dead in his tracks, “Wait! You’re going to need to take those muddy shoes off before you step into this house. We like to keep a clean house here.” People like to keep a clean house. Why? I’m not sure. I suppose most people just like it that way. There are probably some good reasons for it though that we just forget about over time. We like to keep a clean house, because it avoids certain smells, it avoids certain unwelcome bugs and creatures from outside. It also helps to keep things efficient. I don’t want to be walking around the house tripping and slipping on every little thing that is two feet in front of me. In other words, it helps to keep my home functioning in the way that I intended it. But a lot of it just boils down to this: I like to be clean, therefore, I like to keep my house clean. Did you know that God likes to keep a clean house? Why? I’m not sure. I don’t know the rhyme and reason to everything that God does. That is why He is God, and I am not. But I do know that He likes to keep things clean in His house. And I believe that if there were at least one reason I had to give for why that is, a lot of it would boil down just to this: God is clean, therefore, God likes to keep a clean house. As it is written: “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet. 1:15 In the twenty-first chapter of Matthew, along with Mark 11, Luke 19, and a very similar but what I believe to be a previous occasion, John chapter two, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, is found “cleaning house.” The Scriptures tell us that after His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went into the temple, drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, overturned the table of the money changers, as well as the seats of those who sold doves, and Mark tells us that He no longer allowed anyone to carry around those jar like vessels that were being used to further the business exchanges of animals and sacrifices in the temple of God. Let me ask you something. If Jesus were to come back today and clean house, what do you think He’d be overturning? Obviously, it wouldn’t be tables where merchants are selling bulls and doves, and other kinds of sacrifices that were used in the Jewish Temple. That temple perished in A.D. 70, and since that time, it is Jesus’ spiritual temple that has been reigning and ruling in the hearts and minds of men, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Mat. 16:18 But just as it was in the days of the Jewish Temple, there are those who continue to defile the temple of Christ. There are those who are walking around with muddy shoes. There are those who are making Jesus’ house a “den of thieves.” The Covetous Defile God’s House Today There is a reason why our Lord accused those money changers and sellers of doves of making His house a den of thieves. They were stealing from the people! Now there are some who would suggest that the temple business was perfectly fine and within scriptural boundary lines. After all the Law did plainly state in Deuteronomy 14:24ff, “But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” Deu. 14:24-26 Makes perfect sense to me then that one might journey on to the temple with cash in his hands, and hopefully expect to find some kind of seller in or around the temple who might sell you an oxen or a dove, whatever it may be that you can afford and offer to God. Furthermore, there is no law to my knowledge that forbade the selling of these sacrifices on the temple grounds. Some say it must have had something to do with where it was sold. But after all, would that not be the most logical place to do it? Nothing in the law to my knowledge prohibited it. So what then would’ve Jesus’ condemnation been all about? Some would tell you it only had to do Jesus showing Himself to be the authoritative Son of God, and His revelation of the temple’s eventual destruction. In other words, it was all just show. The Messiah was just putting on a show so that people would see His true identity. Now while that may sound good and all, it ignores the fact that Jesus is making a very serious and threatening charge. Imagine the people in Jesus time if all that had been going on was in perfect keeping with the law and the word of God. Then here comes Jesus, flipping over tables, knocking over chairs, driving people out of the temple, all just to put on a show that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. I don’t think it wouldn’t have been long before some of the people started thinking, “Maybe those people who said Jesus was mad were right. Maybe this Man is crazy?!” Here’s a better explanation. Let’s just take Jesus’ words at face value. There was thievery going on in the temple! One man put it this way, “What had begun as a service and convenience for visitors from other lands soon turned into a lucrative business.” Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 77. That makes a lot more sense to me. This scriptural service had eventuated into something covetous, and something that had surely taken advantage of the people’s goods. In fact, I came across the ancient writings of one rabbi, by the name of Rabbi Simeon, who complained about a pair of birds in Jerusalem going up to the price of a golden denar, and said that he would not rest until it was made to sell at a silver denar. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 838. I know how you feel Rabbi Simeon, because that’s exactly what I feel every time I go to one of those carnivals or county fairs. Corn dog on a stick, $5. I can buy a box of corn dogs for less than $5 in the grocery store! Yes, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what was going on in that temple. Simple thievery. That’s what it was. But I’m glad to know that there are no merchants and sellers in Jesus’ church today, stealing, and taking advantage of the people… wrong! Maybe we should be reading our Bibles and studying our world today a little more carefully. I remember what Paul told the church at Corinth, “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God.” 2 Cor. 2:17 One version says, “Hucksters who preach for personal profit.” Like the small business man they go from house to house promoting and selling their own version of the word of God. These hucksters like to personalize their ministry and brand it under their own name. Then they will set themselves up as the head of this corporation, pocketing for themselves millions of dollars. They have no connection to the outside world other than with that assembled body of people who regularly come to listen to them, benefit from them, and maybe if they’re lucky they get to partially participate in their ministry. Their influence may stretch across the world through writings, radio programs, television, and social media, but you will not find them at every street corner. You will not find them in every city. You will not find them in every state, or in every province, at the same time and at the same place, because everything is built around them. They alone are the authors of this show. And while they might be easy to identify at the latter stage of the game, beware, because each of them has a beginning, each of them starts out small. They are zealous in their ambitions, but not for God. They have eyes full of want and desire, but not for God. They seek the promotion, but not from God. They seek the hundred-lot acreage, but not God’s acreage. They seek the big mansions, but not God’s mansions. Listen to me, I’m not telling you to stand in the place of God and act like your judge. Some men and women are sincere and full of ambition. In their work for God, they have become very successful, and God has blessed them with an overabundance. But what I am telling you is the very thing Paul said, that there are many who are peddling the word of God. And if Jesus were to come back today, there would be a lot of church buildings bulldozed over. If Jesus were to come back today there would be a lot of Christian book sale tables knocked over. If Jesus were to come back today there would be a lot of pastors, priests, and preachers who profess to minister the gospel in God’s house that would be driven away. Because they peddle not for the souls of men, but they peddle for the stuff of men. All you hucksters out there, beware! God keeps a clean house. He’s coming to throw you away! You know what else defiles God’s house? The Careless Defile God’s House If there has ever been someone in your house who really didn’t care about keeping things in order, putting the trash where it’s supposed to go, respecting general upkeep of things, then you know just how unclean that person can be. When I was growing up in my Grandmother’s house, she taught me to always pick up after myself. I learned to respect my Grandmother’s house, and I learned to respect her. When I hear my Lord say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” I’m reminded whose house I’m living in. Isa. 56:7 I need to learn to respect My Lord’s House. I need to learn to respect Him. This isn’t my house, this is God’s house! I think that was one of the great confusions among God’s people. Even in Isaiah’s time, the Lord was warning them about their careless behavior. The people in Isaiah’s time were acting as if the temple, the temple, the temple was their temple. They were acting as if it belonged to them. In the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah’s vision, Isaiah prophesies of the Lord welcoming the foreigner into His house someday. Beginning in Isaiah 56:6, ““Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isa. 56:6-8 Whose mountain did you say that is Lord? Mine! Whose altar did you say that is Lord? Mine! Whose house did you say that is Lord? Mine! Mine! Mine! This is My house! This is My altar! This is My holy mountain! There is something that tells me many of the Jews did not like hearing that. And they especially did not like hearing that someday there would be foreigners coming in and out of God’s holy temple. But guess what Israel?! If you’ll just pardon my childishness for a moment, “NA-NA-NA-NA-BOO-BOO.” It’s not your house Israel! It’s God’s house! Respect Him! Are men respecting God’s house today the way they ought? I think it should go without saying that when men are found peddling the word of God, they are not respecting the house of God. But that’s not the only irreverent behavior we see in God’s house today. Learn another lesson from what the Lord had to say to the church at Corinth. When men began to divide His house by factions and parties, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas,” God threw His hand down. Stop it! Stop it! You are God’s field! You are God’s building! No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ! God was saying the same thing to the church as He said so long ago to Israel. This is My mountain! This is My altar! This is My house! And you know what the Lord went on to say to the church? “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy Him.” 1 Cor. 3:17 In other words, God’s coming to clean house you careless one! He’s coming to throw you away! If you wear the name of a man on your sleeve or on your church building sign, you better get a trash bucket out. If you describe yourself or your church in ways that separate, or divide, or cause you to appear as if you’re just another type of flavor of Christianity sitting in the marketplace, waiting to be selected by others who would choose your brand, you better get a trash bucket out. It’s time to throw that shirt, that sign, that concept in the trash. That’s exactly what Hezekiah, the king of Israel did. In the first year of his reign, in the first month of his reign, he opened the doors of the Lord’s house. Then he brought the priests and told them, “Listen up! Sanctify yourselves! Sanctify the house of God! And carry out this rubbish from the holy place.” 2 Chr. 29:5 Clean yourselves up, and clean out God’s house. Get this filth out of here. Throw it in the thrash! So that’s exactly what they did. They went into God’s house and cleaned it up. Got rid of all the debris that was in there and took it to the Brook Kidron, the place where Jews would throw out all their refuse East of the Jerusalem city. They threw it out. They got rid of it. It was of no more use to them, because it was of no use to God. All Things Corrupted Defile God’s House When Jesus was teaching His disciples that these money changers were making His house a den of thieves, He wasn’t just referring to their covetous and careless ways, although He was, but it wasn’t just that. Jesus was ultimately pointing to the impurity that was staining God’s holy temple. It was this “clean cup on the outside, but dirty cup on the inside,” that had become so visible in Jesus’ time that when Jesus had come in and turned over their tables, the people knew exactly how Jesus felt and why. The religious elites were corrupted, and by them, the people were also becoming corrupt. The people were becoming just as those who Jeremiah prophesied to in Jer. 7:9, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.” Jer. 7:9-11 “Do you dare come into My house,” says the Lord, “while you’re out there hating, and cheating, and lying, and worshipping other gods, and then come here and worship Me? Don’t you know that I, yes, I have seen? Yes, I have seen.” “Thoroughly amen your ways,” says the Lord. Jer. 7:5 Purify your souls in obedience. 1 Pet. 1:22 Sanctify yourselves, you holy ones! Clean house, clean house… Conclusion Throughout this study we have been making reference to Jesus’ house, although the house that would appear to be in view from our Scripture reading is that of the Father’s house. In John 2:16 Jesus does call it, “My Father’s house.” But later Jesus also says, “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father,” and that the Father has “committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” John 5 And thus it is both the Father’s house, but also the Son’s house. And that house exists today no longer through those who are born of Abrahamic descent and circumcision, but through those whose hearts have been circumcised through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. As the rightful heir and owner over the house of God today, Jesus says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls.” He has built a new house. He has laid the foundation. He is the door. The only steps required are that one believe His word, turn from sin, and be baptized in His name for the forgiveness of sins. He is returning someday to His house again, like a man returning from his wedding. Those found faithful to Him will be gathered. Those who are not will be cleaned out.