Matthew 21

21 Perverting the sacrifice

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (vs. 12,13)

For years I stumbled over the meaning of this passage, supposing only that Jesus was teaching them respect for the House of God, and of the fact that we do not make it a place of merchandise, but then, what would the reference to thieves mean? These were (supposedly) legitimate businessmen, simply plying their trade in the wrong place. That, no doubt, is something for us to learn and practice, but I believe there is something more to this passage than what meets the eye. I believe that the Lord has shown me something here that I have never seen in commentaries, or heard from a pulpit, but it affects the very core of the sacrifice.
You see, one needs to understand first how important the sacrifice was to the Jew. It was everything Christ is to us! It was precious, and Holy, and the total consummation of all that is good and right. It was a sacred thing, and not to be tampered with, nor made light of, nor was it to be blemished by dishonesty or deceit, especially for personal gain. Secondly, a sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless there is some loss or suffering involved. Remember the “widows’ mite” in the temple? She gave from her poverty, while other gave of their wealth. She would miss her contribution much more than the others would miss theirs. That is sacrifice.

Now that we understand somewhat the importance of the sacrifice, let me explain what I believe was going on here. The sacrifice was to be a lamb without blemish, of the first year, etc., but some could not afford a lamb, so the poor mans sacrifice was turtle doves or pigeons (Lk. 2:24). These men in the temple were selling the poor mans sacrifice, to those who could afford better. They made available the least, when God asked for the best. This was a direct blow against the sacrifice, and the God of the sacrifice, and it went on inside the temple as well. The people, though they might afford better, were tempted to “side-step” the law, and do just enough to get by in offering the poor mans sacrifice. It is symbolic of soothing our own consciences with our service, and not giving our all.
Jesus gave His all for us, so it is not unreasonable that He exact the same from us. Men often try to do just enough to be “legal”, to say “I have done my duty and made my offering,” but he likes to do it his way, the convenient way, and not God’s way. I believe that is the message for us here.

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