When God enters his holy dwelling place, he brings a lot of change. This is the sanctification of the Christian life—the transformation of mind and heart.
Part of that transformation is mopping up the dirty parts.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Before the incarnation, before Pentecost, God dwelled in the tabernacle and in the temple. The temple was known as God’s “house.”
In Christ, God came to dwell, enfleshed in space and time, within and among his creation (John 1:14). Jesus “houses” God because Jesus is God, the incarnate diety.
And in the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s “house” is no longer a temple, nor is it a holy mountain or a church building; it’s the person of Jesus and the hearts of his people.
Solomon’s Temple was only a foreshadowing of the more intimate, accessible, personal temple of Christian persons. For in Christ we, the Church (not the building), “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).
And in the same way that Jesus cleansed the physical temple when he entered the courts to the sight of profiteering businessmen and swindlers, he is also interested in cleansing each of us of the “robbers” within us.
God purifies his dwelling place. He does not desire that it becomes again a den of robbers.
What tables must be overturned in our hearts? What dove-selling and money-changing must be flipped and discarded so that we ourselves can be houses of prayer—or intimate communion with God himself?
The story of Jesus in the temple courts is a fascinating one. It reveals his righteous anger. It reveals his desire to protect and purify God’s house.
And so it is for us, our bodies and minds and souls. God cannot permit thieves in us, his earthly temple, any more than he could permit thieves in heaven. The same protection and purification extends over the temple courts of our own lives. Let not these embodied houses of prayer become dens of robbers.