– Don’t Rob God!
& Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 05 May 2013
Then Jesus entered into the temple of God
threw out all who were selling and buying in the temple
the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of the ones who sell doves.
and He says to them, “It was written, ‘My house will be called a house of
but y’all – y’all have
made it a den of robbers.”
21:14 Then lame men and blind men approached Him in the
temple, and He healed them!
But after seeing the marvels which He did
and the children crying
out in the temple saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,”
the chief priests and the
scribes became indignant,
and they said to Him, “Are you listening? What are these guys saying?”
Jesus says to them, “Yes. So haven’t you ever read that, ‘out of the mouth of
babies and breast-feeding [children] you have fixed up praise for yourself?’”
And after taking His leave of them, He exited out of the city into Bethany and camped out there.
- On the first day of the holy week (Sunday), we
had the triumphal entry. The Gospel of Mark says that after the people
hailed Jesus and said, “‘Blessed is
the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!’ Jesus
entered Jerusalem and came
into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late. On the next day, when they had left Bethany… He entered the temple and
began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple…” (Mark
- So we will be looking now at the second day,
Monday, and we see two things that made Jesus mad. I want to learn from
these episodes the things that we should avoid doing, so that He does not
become upset with us too!
- In both episodes – The disruption of the market
in the temple, and the reproving of the chief priests and scribes who
didn’t want kids praising Jesus, (and also in the cursing of the fruitless
fig tree afterwards), we see instances where God is not given what He
- It reminds me of the prophecy of Malachi 3 “…the
Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger
of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who
can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For
He is like a refiner's fire… and He will purify the sons of Levi and
refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in
righteousness… Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we
robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you
are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the
storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in
this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open
for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it
overflows… ” (NASB)
- In Malachi’s day it was tithes and offerings,
which are a part of worship, but in Jesus day it was praise and prayer
from the sick, the foreigners, and the children. Let us look in Matthew 21
at these ways God was robbed, starting with verse…
21:12 Then Jesus entered into the temple of God and threw out
all who were selling and buying in the temple and overturned the tables of the
moneychangers and the chairs of the ones who sell doves.
Ιησους εις το
ιερον [του θεου]
τω ‘ιερω και τας
- Mark’s gospel
(11:16) adds that “He would not allow any one to even carry an item
through the temple!” (NAW) Whoah!
What’s gone wrong?
- This event in the
Gospels is the only place in the Greek Bible that this word for “moneychangers”
appears. There were people from all over the world who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover holiday, and they were carrying money from lots of different
countries. Moneychangers made their services available – for a fee, to exchange
the foreign coins for Israelite coins so that people could buy stuff locally
and pay their temple tax.
- In Deut.
14:22-26, the Mosaic law reads, “You shall surely tithe all the produce
from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year… your grain,
your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so
that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. If the
distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring [it]… then you
shall exchange it for money,
and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or
sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there
you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (NASB)
- So, in they come
from all over the world to Passover with money in hand, as God instructed,
and they buy a lamb – or if they are too poor, they can buy pigeons or
doves as an alternative to sacrifice to the Lord.
God was not against buying and selling sheep and birds per se.
He was upset about HOW and WHERE it was being done.
- There was a problem
with HOW the Jews were selling the sheep and doves: the salesmen were
charging unfair prices because there was nowhere else that these
foreigners could buy sacrificial animals.
- A. Edersheim, in
his book, The Life and Times of Jesus
the Messiah, explained that the merchants in the temple paid
the priests for their concessions, and then the priests would
automatically approve the animals purchased from the temple market,
- but if a worshipper
brought an animal from home, the priest might disapprove of the animal, forcing
the worshipper to buy an animal from the temple market after all. People
likely had to pay twice what the lamb was worth or risk not having a
Passover lamb for the feast.
- Jesus uses the term
“robbers” to refer to the merchants, and that was obviously part of what
made Him mad.
- But there is another
reason Jesus was mad, and that was WHERE the marketplace was located: in
the temple courtyard.
- A couple of Passovers ago when Jesus took a whip and cleared the
vendors out of the temple in a similar way, He gave an important command:
“make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” (John 2:17, ATR) The place of worship was not to be filled
up with business transactions – even if they were buying and selling
items for use in worship!
- However, they did
not reform their ways after that first prophetic rebuke, so Jesus is now
giving them a second chance. Note that Jesus did not throw out everyone,
just the ones who were buying and selling in the temple.
Buying and selling was not wrong, but doing it on the temple grounds
was what incensed Jesus.
did He get away with clearing away the market like that? He was a popular
figure, and also the people hated being scalped in the temple market
so the crowds were supporting Jesus, and the priests were afraid to start
a riot by doing anything to Him.
- The first time Jesus
cleared out the temple, He had stated negatively that the temple
was not for buying and selling; this second time, Jesus states positively
what the place of worship IS for, and that is to be a house of prayer!
21:13 and He says to them, “It was written, ‘My house will be
called a house of prayer,’ but y’all – y’all have made it a den of robbers.
Γεγραπται ‘Ο ‘οικος
‘υμεις δε αυτον
- Back in 2 Chronicles
6, King Solomon had dedicated his newly-built temple with a prayer which
stated specifically that the temple was to be a focal point for prayer to
- When Jesus drove
the buyers and sellers out of the temple, He quoted
from Isaiah 56:7; here’s the larger context: “Also the foreigners
who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to
love the name of the LORD,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And
holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And
make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and
their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be
called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of
Israel, declares, “Yet others
I will gather to them, to those already
gathered.” (Isa. 56:6-8, NASB)
- The phrase “for all
the nations” is not included in Matthew’s account, but Mark indicates that
Jesus did include it in His quote (11:17). Possibly Matthew is trying to
go easy on his Jewish audience and not unnecessarily confront their
ethnocentricity with a truth that was not his main point here.
- To be ‘called a
house of prayer’ means that prayer is the main thing. Prayer should be the
first thing that jumps to mind when you think of the temple. And “prayer”
here stands for the whole worship of God.
- Where is the temple
now? Ezra and Nehemiah’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and a Muslim
mosque stands in its place.
- However, God’s word
says that your body is now His temple: 1 Cor. 6:19 “… your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…”?
- Is the way you talk
with God the first thing that jumps to mind when other people think of
you? Are you a “house of prayer,” or does something else characterize
- When people thought
of the temple on Passover lamb selection day (Ex. 12:3), a mall is
what came to mind, with all the excitement of a wheelin’ dealin’ flea
market! It was hardly a house of
- Furthermore, the
temple had become a place where people who lived like the devil all week
came on Sabbath to find cheap forgiveness – where the grace of God’s
forgiveness was being dishonored by people who didn’t care about God’s
righteousness, but just wanted easy absolution for disobeying God when
they weren’t at church.
- The prophet
Jeremiah wrote, “Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear
falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you
have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is
called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all
these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den
of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the LORD. “But go now to
My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first,
and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.” (Jer 7:9-12, NASB)
- Jesus pulls His “den
of robbers” phrase from Jeremiah’s prophecy,
both reprimanding the Jews of His day for their rebellion that dishonored
God’s grace, and warning the Jews of His day that just as God had exiled
and wiped out Israel in the past for their unfaithfulness to Him, He
would do it again if they did not repent.
- Most of the Jews of Jesus’ day did not repent. In fact, Mark
(11:18) and Luke (19:47) tell us that “the chief priests and scribes
began seeking how they might destroy Him.” So God made good on His threat,
and Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D.
- A den is a hiding place. (We get the word “spelunking” – caving
from this Greek word.) Caves were where people hid out and kept secrets,
and where the dead were buried – the total opposite of what God wanted for
house should be a place where the truth is revealed, where evil
is exposed, and where life is on display.
- You want to make God mad? Then turn church into
a place where sin is covered up, where the truth is not
proclaimed, and where spiritual deadness prevails. That will turn a church into a den of
robbers, and who wants to attend church with a bunch of cheats and
- The word for “thieves/robbers” suggests not just
a petty thief who had stolen an apple from the market, but a gang of bandits,
crooks, and thugs who made their living off of plundering hapless
victims. Matthew uses this same word to describe what the two other men
crucified with Jesus had done to deserve such a terrible execution (Mt.
27:38 & 44).
- How was this robbing?
I suggest it was robbing God of glory by turning away people who might
otherwise worship Him. Notice that once the marketplace is dismantled, a
new set of people begins to come to Jesus.
- Matthew mentions
lame and blind men,
- but John also
mentions that gentile Greeks came to hear Jesus too!
- The outer enclosure
of the temple that He had cleared out was called the “Court of the
Gentiles” because it was the only part of the temple that non-Jews could
enter. Jesus’ actions cleared the way for the Gentiles to come and hear
- and, according to
the gospel of John, when the Gentiles came to hear Jesus, that’s when
Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!”
21:14 Then lame men and blind men
approached Him in the temple, and He healed them!
τυφλοι εν τω
ιερω και εθεραπευσεν
- The Levitical law
prohibited blind and lame priests from officiating over the sacrificial
ceremonies (Lev 21:16-18), but it’s possible that the custom of the day extended
this principle to also prevent laymen who were blind or lame from
offering sacrifices. In that case, the marketplace which had been erected
in the temple’s outer court would have prevented not only Gentiles
but also these handicapped people from being able to worship God at
- Jesus was heavyhanded
with those who would profane His temple and He expelled them, but, at the
same time, He was very gracious with those who humbly seek Him, and He
answered the prayers of the handicapped people by healing them.
- Such public miracles
also furnished undeniable proof that Jesus is the Messiah. Nobody was left
with the excuse that they didn’t know He had the power of God to heal.
- As usual,
Jesus combined His deeds of healing with the ministry of His word.
- Luke (19:47-48)
mentions that “He was teaching in the temple each day” that week, and
“the people all hung upon Him, listening.”
- The Gospel of John explains further that the
results were mixed, most of “the people did not believe on Him… however,
many, even of the ruling class did believe on Him” (12:37 & 42). John
even records some of the things Jesus taught that week in
the temple, such as, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all
men unto myself” (12:32), and “While you have the light, believe on the
light, that you may become sons of light” (12:36).
- Now we know what
made Jesus mad. Next we see what made the Jewish leaders “sore displeased”
(to use King James language), and that was miracles in the temple and
children proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah and asking Jesus to save
21:15 But after seeing the marvels which He did and the
children crying out in the temple saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the
chief priests and the scribes became indignant,
αρχιερεις και ‘οι
τω ‘ιερω και
τω ‘υιω Δαυιδ
- Now, it’s O.K. to be
indignant – greatly grieved over sin, but these religions leaders were
confused as to what was right and what was wrong, and they were getting
upset about the wrong thing. We all need to be careful about not getting
hot under the collar until we are sure our sense of outrage is calibrated
properly to God’s word.
- I find it
interesting that the only time in the Bible when it says that Jesus
was “indignant” is when Jesus saw the disciples sending away the people who
wanted Jesus to bless their children. Mark 10:14 says that He became indignant
and said, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the
kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Seeing
children worship Jesus made the false religionists indignant, but
seeing children prevented from worshipping Him is what made Jesus indignant
– same Greek word.
21:16 and they said to Him, “Are you listening? What are
these guys saying?”
And Jesus says to them, “Yes. So haven’t you ever read that, ‘out of the mouth
of babies and breast-feeding [children] you have fixed up praise for yourself?’”
και ειπον αυτω Ακουεις τί οὗτοι λεγουσιν ‘ο δε Ιησους λεγει αυτοις Ναι, ουδεποτε ανεγνωτε ‘οτι Εκ στοματος νηπιων και θηλαζοντων
- The very spiritual
leaders who had turned the temple into a den of robbers and who were
looking for a way to kill Jesus are now accusing the children of
dishonoring God! Funny how often people
accuse others of the very thing that they themselves are guilty of.
- Jesus shows a bit of
good humor here. Instead of answering the implied question, “How can you
allow these children to say such blasphemy?” He answers the literal
question, “Why, yes, I hear the children; my hearing is fine.”
- And after this
tongue-in-cheek answer, He follows up with a question just as insulting to
them as the one they were asking of him, “By the way, you haven’t happened
to have exegeted Psalm 8, have you?” And the grammar He uses in this retort
(ou + indicative verb)
assumes that they have read Psalm 8 and that they should know
better than to get their knickers in a knot over this.
- Psalm 8 starts out,
“O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is thy name in all the earth! for thy
magnificence is exalted above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and
sucklings hast thou perfected praise, because of thine enemies; that thou
mightest put down the enemy and avenger.” (Brenton)
- “Some think [this
verse originally] refers to the children’s joining in the acclamations of
the people, and the women’s songs with which David was honored when he
returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, and therefore is very
fitly applied here to the Hosannas with which the Son of David was
saluted.” ~Matthew Henry
15 of Matthew 21 uses the word paidas
to describe the children. Then Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 in Greek, which uses
the words nepiwn
(babies/infants – that’s newborns) and thelazontwn
(sucklings/nursing children – babies less than two years old who are still
breast-feeding). Jesus used nepiwn
once before in Matthew 11, when He said to His heavenly Father concerning
the significance of His miracles and the faith-filled response to the call
of the Gospel, “11:25b “you hid these things from wise and smart men and
revealed these things to babies.” We might be tempted to say that the word
“babies” was merely figurative there in chapter 11, but here in chapter
21, we can’t say that. The people who got it right and were
praising Jesus were little kids – and there were adults present who were
- The Greek word for
was used as a title in the Septuagint for the Psalms of “Praise” (Psalms 91,
93, and 95),
- and it brings to mind another occasion in the
book of Chronicles when people were in the temple “praising” King Joash, who
was going to restore the line of David, and then the usurper queen
Athaliah objected because she wanted to stay in power! I wonder if
the chief priests caught that comparison between themselves and wicked
- I also
wonder if the priests caught the parallel between themselves and the next
phrase of Psalm 8 that Jesus didn’t quote, “praise to silence the foe
and the vengeful man.”
- The Greek verb
explaining what the children’s praise was purposed to do is intriguing. It
is kateresw – “fixed up”
also translated perfectedKJV/ preparedNAS,ESV/ ordainedNIV.
When we look at how this word is used in scripture,
- About a third of
its occurrences are in the book of Ezra,
referring to the rebuilding
of the city of Jerusalem and the temple after the Persians had destroyed
it. (Ezra 4:12 let it
be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us
at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are
finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. + 7 other
citations in Ezra)
- The next thirty
percent are found in the Psalms,
- Either speaking of
God’s creation of things in
nature which He upholds,
29:9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer
to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything
74:16 Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared
the light and the sun.
89:37 It shall be established forever like the moon,
And the witness in the sky is faithful.
Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared
by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things
which are visible.
Heb. 10:5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE
NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME”
- Or speaking of spiritual revival
11:3 If the foundations [or those things which were repaired]
are destroyed, What can the righteous do?"
17:5 My steps have held fast [or repaired] to Your paths.
My feet have not slipped.
18:33 He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And
sets me upon my high places.
- Ps. 40:6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have
not desired; My ears You have opened; Burnt offering and sin
offering You have not required.
68:9 You shed abroad a plentiful rain, O God; You confirmed Your
inheritance when it was parched.
- Ps. 80:15 Even the shoot which Your right hand
has planted, And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
- And the last third
is found in the New Testament,
- Fishermen mending their nets
- Matt. 4:21 Going on from there He saw
two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in
the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called
them. (cf. Mark 1:19)
- And of Spiritual
leaders (even God Himself) correcting
ignorance, restoring sinners, and conducting training:
6:40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully
trained, will be like his teacher.
1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that
you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
(cf. 2Cor. 13:11)
6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any
trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit
of gentleness; each
one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
- Or 1Thess. 3:10, where Paul expresses his desire to get back
to Thessalonica and teach the church there: “as we night
and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete
what is lacking in your faith”
13:21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in
us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom
be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
5:10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace,
who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect,
confirm, strengthen and establish you.
even of God setting up the wicked for
- Rom. 9:22 What if God,
although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known,
endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for
- So here’s a question: In what way can little children
fix up, repair, or complete God’s praise?
- I suggest that, in
one sense, children help complete the picture of all the categories
of people who should praise God.
- Psalm 148 says, “rulers
and judges, both young men and maidens, old men and children, let them
praise the Lord.” The command of
Psalm 148 to praise the Lord is not fulfilled until the youth and
children join in the praise.
- “[I]t has a
peculiar tendency to the honour and glory of God for little children to
join in His praises; the praise would be accounted defective and
imperfect, if they had not their share in it…” ~Matthew Henry
- And typically, the
faith of a child follows after some adult has told them the
gospel, so the praise of children could, in a sense, be the capstone of
praise, indicating that both old and young have responded in faith.
- So here we have
children in the temple shouting the words they heard their parents say
the day before: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
- In another
sense, children have an ability to believe which can inspire those of us
who are older to a renewal of our faith and increase our resolve to
- I may be having a
frustrating day, and then I walk by my little daughter who is playing in
a corner in her own little world singing “Jesus Loves Me,” and it
restores perspective for me. “Yes! Jesus loves me!”
my kids pray for things, not knowing – like I who am older and wiser in
the ways of the world than they – how utterly impossible it would be for
such a thing to happen, and then when I hear them pray for such things, I
am stricken at my lack of faith in God and I say, “Yes. O.K. I believe
God can do that after all!” When the
adults aren’t up to it, God often raises up children!
- And there were
certainly adults in the leadership of the temple that day who needed to
be taught a lesson of faith in Jesus by these children!
21:17 And after taking His leave of them, He exited out of
the city into Bethany and camped out there.
εξω της πολεως
- What made Jesus
leave? The pride of the religious leaders, the fickleness of the
followers, and their complicity in excluding from the worship of God those
who were weak and small. Why would
Jesus want to stick around a church like that?
In what ways do we fall into the
same error that the Jews in the temple market did? How can we be the kind of
church where Jesus would want to stick around?
- Before we launch a crusade against church
bookstores, consider this: If our body is now the temple of God’s Spirit, any busy-ness we have which crowds out prayer and God’s word from our lives is
the same thing as what those merchants in the temple were doing. They were robbing and crowding out true worship.
Let us not rob God of the glory of the
nations by cluttering up our lives with busyness and sin.
- When Jesus encountered this problem in Mary’s
life during one of those evenings in Bethany outside Jerusalem, He
attacked it as well, “Martha, you are busy with so many things, but one
thing is lacking, which Mary has found” (Paraphrase by Ken Medema), and
that was sitting at Jesus’ feet. Let
us be faithful to do only what we really must do, and keep our lives
uncluttered so that we are available to God!
- This will take vigilance and periodic
re-evaluation. Just as Jesus cleared out the temple vendors on two
different occasions, and even that didn’t put a permanent end to
the temple marketplace, so we need to regularly take inventory of our
lives and get rid of the junk that is distracting us from honoring God.
As Matthew Henry put it, “Lawful things, ill timed and ill placed,
may become sinful things… [They] will return and nestle
there again, if there be not a continual care and oversight to prevent
it, and if the blow be not followed and often repeated.”
- In place of the clutter, let us occupy
ourselves with prayer.
Let us not rob God of praise
coming from children
- Prayer, of course doesn’t have to be done with
your eyes closed and your hands folded; prayer can flow all day long from
a mind that is
- aware of God’s continual presence,
- aware of our continual need for Him,
- and alert to speak with God and make requests
concerning all that is going on around us.
- Let each one of us
grow to be characterized as a “house of prayer” a people who pray!
- Adults, bring children in on worship times, both
in your home and at church: “It is good to bring children betimes to the
house of prayer, for of such is the kingdom of heaven…” ~Matthew Henry
- Also, you big people, set an example of prayer
and praise that the younger ones would do well to follow.
- “Little children say and do as they hear others
say and… do… and therefore great care must be taken to set them good
examples and not bad ones…. Children will learn of those that are with
them – either to curse and swear, or to pray and praise.” ~Matthew Henry
- Mom, Dad, big sister, big
brother, what are they learning from you?
- And all you little children, do you see from
this Bible story that Jesus likes to hear you praise Him? When we recite
our creeds and sing our songs and read the Bible and pray in church and
in family devotions, join in with the big people and let God hear your
voice too! Your voices fix up the
worship to make it complete!