15 They came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to throw out those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple. 17 He was teaching them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” 18 The chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to kill him. For they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was astonished by his teaching. 19 Whenever evening came, they would go out of the city. — Mark 11:15-19
What Does God Think of Our Worship?
by Ken Parker
Being evaluated by others is a common aspect of life. Students get grades. Employees receive performance evaluations. Coaches and athletes receive either cheers or jeers. What about how we worship? Of course, only God truly knows the condition of our hearts and minds as we offer our worship. What kind of worship delights Him? What kind of worship displeases Him?
After spending the night of what we call Palm Sunday in the village of Bethany, Jesus returned to Jerusalem on Monday. When He came to the temple complex, He took several actions.
He drove out those who were selling and buying animals for sacrifices (11:15). He also “overturned the tables of the moneychangers” (11:15) who charged a fee to provide Jewish coins to pay the annual temple tax. Finally, Jesus would not allow anyone to use the temple grounds as a shortcut from one part of the city to another (11:16). Why did Jesus take these dramatic steps?
The temple complex consisted of the temple building surrounded by a series of courtyards. The largest courtyard was the courtyard of the Gentiles where anyone, Jew or Gentile, could come and worship. However, this is the area in which the merchants had set up their stalls and tables and which some were using as a shortcut. How could anyone focus on God in this environment?
Jesus explained His actions by quoting two Old Testament passages. The first passage was from Isaiah 56:7—“My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” But how could the Gentiles—the other “nations”—offer their prayers when the space set aside for them was filled with a market atmosphere and throngs of uninterested pedestrians?
The second passage Jesus cited was from Jeremiah 7:11. The context from chapter 7 shows that the people of Jeremiah’s time thought they could disobey God’s law and then come into the temple, do the required rituals, and still feel as if they were in some kind of safe room. The result was that God’s special place of worship had become “a den of robbers.” In Jesus’ day, the “robbers” probably included the sellers who were charging exorbitant rates. Not only were the merchants not there to worship, they were hindering those who came to worship.
- What does God say about your worship?
- Is your worship based on merely going through some religious motions in a religious place, or is it based on a personal relationship with God through your faith in Jesus?
- Are confession and repentance regular parts of your weekly and daily worship?
- How often do you offer God praise for who He is and thanksgiving for what He has done?
- Does your worship include opening the way for others to know and worship Him?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.