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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
August 12, 2012
Central Passage
Luke 19:41-48
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

The temple in Jerusalem had become a temple full of thieves. But they were not stealing people’s money, they were robbing the people of the kingdom of God.
 
The temple was thriving in Jesus’ time. People from all over were flocking to Jerusalem and to the temple. It was a time of prosperity for the temple and the priests. But prosperity breeds fear. What if the people stop coming? What if they find something new and better? What if they won’t get up on Sunday and come? What if they replace the temple with golf or TV or mowing their lawn? What if they simply don’t see the point? So the priests safeguarded against this attitude. They began to sell sacrificial animals at the temple so people had to come to the temple to get the right animal for the right sacrifice. They were trying to shore up their walls, strengthen their stakes, and make the fortune of tomorrow a sure thing.
 
And they lost it all. They had zeal for God but not knowledge. They had made the temple of God, the house of the Lord, something that it wasn’t. They had made it a place for sacrifice when it is written that the house of the Lord is to be a house of prayer.
 
The sacrifices instituted by Moses and carried on by the priests was not the point. They weren’t the point of the tabernacle in the wilderness and they weren’t the point of the temple in Jerusalem. They were the effect of what the real point: prayer. The temple was the place of God’s dwelling. It was where prayers were offered, which was the point of incense. It was the sensory proof that prayers were being offered by the priests for the people. Intercession was being made. Not that the people couldn’t and didn’t offer prayers at other places, like before battle or out in the fields, or wherever, but that this place was the house of prayer. Prayer for you and your family and your good was always and certainly being offered at the temple.
 
The temple was where people went to be with God and to hear God and to be blessed by God. Not a generic blessing of well-wishing like saying “God bless you” after a sneeze, or by reminding people of all the good in their lives and how God has blessed them with the things of this life. No, they blessed them with the blessing of Aaron, the benediction, the same blessing you receive today from your High Priest, Jesus: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
 
The point of the temple was to have a place from where God would bless them with the blessings of body and soul. So the priests were blessed with food from the sacrifices and the people also ate of many of the sacrifices. So that when people gathered at the temple of God, the house of the Lord, they were fed and sustained by the presence of God both in this life and in the life to come.
The long and short of it is exactly what Jesus teaches as He overthrew the money changers and drove out the buyers and sellers: “My house is a house of prayer!”
 
So what of the sacrifice? It was the reason prayer would be heard. Without the sacrifice of atonement, which was the promise of God to forgive the sins of the people, without blood poured out, the prayers would not be heard. That is because sinful men cannot enter the presence of God and speak with Him or be blessed by Him. They must be cleansed. So the priests would be sprinkled with blood at their ordination to be cleansed, to be made pure by the blood. And the people would be sprinkled with blood to purify them and make them clean by the blood. This corresponds to Baptism wherein you are sprinkled by the blood of Jesus and made pure. It is not of your doing or of your desire, but by the desire of God. It is not your blood that is poured out but the blood of the Lamb, the sacrifice that makes you clean. And having been purified by the blood, having been forgiven all your sins and reconciled to God by the blood of the Lamb of God, you are free to pray without fear, holy and righteous in His sight all the days of your lives.
 
But the sacrifice was not the point of the temple. Prayer was the point of the temple. Intercession for all people. And prayer is still the point of the temple. Still God puts His name in His temple. Still He blesses His people from His temple and in His temple. Still the people of God gather to the temple to offer prayer and right sacrifices of thanksgiving for all people. Still the temple is the presence of God among men.
 
Only the temple is not brick and mortar and it is not located only in Jerusalem or some other ancient city. The temple is the Body of Christ wherein God dwells. You are the temple of God, the dwelling place of the Most High. Not because you are called Christian, since many people call themselves “Christian” but do not gather to hear Christ or receive His blessings. You are the dwelling place of the Most High because the Lord Jesus has placed His name on you and makes His dwelling place with you, the Body of Christ. So you eat of the altar to participate in Christ as St. Paul says, so that you would be and remain one body, having eaten of the one bread that is Christ.
And if you are the temple of God, if you are the dwelling place of the Most High, and you are, then the point of you is not sacrifice but prayer. That is how the temple priests and scribes were robbing the people of the kingdom of God. They made it all about sacrifice and neglected the actual duty of the priests, which is prayer.
 
We often make it all about sacrifice though, don’t we? Mostly we want people to sacrifice time and money for the church. And we think that if this isn’t the main point of our preaching and teaching then people will leave and we won’t have any money or church or congregation and we’ll have to close our doors and go somewhere else with our tail tucked between our legs. So we do what the priests of old did. We make the temple of God into something that it is not. We make a place of sacrifice instead of a house of prayer.
 
We promise people that if they just sacrifice their time and money then they will be blessed, they will learn that it is the better way. If they sacrifice the right time and the right money for the right things – namely, church – then God will bless them. And we threaten them by saying that if they don’t sacrifice time and money, then they will fall away and be lost. And we who are priests of the Most High rob the people of the kingdom of God.
 
The sacrifice has been made. And by the blood of Jesus we have peace with God. Not only so, but we are the Body of Christ, the temple of the Most High. From our gathering comes the blessings of God on Hoisington and on all people as our Lord has said, “Is it not written that my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations?” We interceded and pray for all people and the Lord hears our prayers because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. And the people are blessed by us and through us, the royal priesthood of God. Not only spiritual blessings, but the blessing of this life.
 
When the priests of God do their duty and make intercession and pray for all people then we begin to care for all people. And hospitals are built. Food banks are opened. Houses are rebuilt. Bread is given away. Diapers are purchased for the poor. In other words, when we priests do our job and intercede, then the naked are clothed and the homeless find a dwelling to live in. Not only so, but then they attach themselves to us because the blessing of God come from us and through us.
 
But if becomes all about sacrifice, then we will loose it all. If we have zeal for God but not knowledge, then we will try so desperately to hold on to what we have and maintain it by telling everyone what they must sacrifice and how they must do it and when they must do it, and how they have failed to do it, we will rob the people of the kingdom of heaven and the blessings of the Lord. And the Lord will come in the anger of the Lord and drive us from His temple.
 
But let us instead gathering in His temple and pray. Let us learn from Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Let us give as it has been given and forgive as we have been forgiven. Let us be who we are in Christ, built on the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, the living temple of the Most High God from where the blessings of God are bestowed on His people and overflow into the streets and highways and byways, becoming a blessing for all people.
 
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +