Palm Sunday..will we heed its warning?
Palm Sunday, a day of great significance in the world and the church, for we celebrate the triumphant arrival of Christ in to Jerusalem, and the beginning of the Passion Week, which culminates in His crucifixion and resurrection. It is a day that helps remind us of His return, and perhaps even its timing. So it is most appropriate to join with the multitude and say, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
And yet, we often forget another significant event that occurred in the original Palm Sunday, one where Jesus Christ once again revealed what He would do to prepare for His return, while also protesting against what religious spirits and mankind had done to His house. Perhaps reflecting on the prophetic words of the Old Testament prophets as He witnessed what was going on in the temple, with people and priests seeking profits from worship, and more concerned with commercial opportunity than respecting that this is the holy House of Almighty God, our Lord Jesus was moved with great passion for His Father, and His Bride to be.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Mark 11:15–19; Luke 19:45–48; John 2:13–22) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.’ ” (Matthew 21:12-13)
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God”. (Luke 16:13-15)
No longer was this temple of God truly His house of prayer, rather it had become a den of covetousness, where making money, and self gain were one of the principal goals. No wonder He responded with such anger, and sought to cleanse the House of such iniquity. Yet, have we learnt from the mistake of the past? Does the ‘church’ truly serve only one God, or is money the other master? In truth we know the answer. The church as man has made it has become again a den of thieves, however the true Body of Christ, the ekkelsia, is still indeed the House of prayer. Christ will again expose this truth, as He readies for His return, and will remove the former to restore the latter. Again the temple of man will fall, but the House of God will rise above all other houses.
Many years before God had prophesied this issue through Micah. And again the challenge came to this generation in the times of Christ’s first coming, and now also to ours. Rather than serving God in obedience to His call, and trusting in His provision, the priest and prophets had forsaken the worship of God for that of money. Sadly, many of the people of the day loved it so in Micah’s day, also in the time Jesus ministered on earth, and it would seem do so now. Today, preachers and pastors seems to see no issue with charging to hear the word preached through online and physical resources, and conference, making profit from that which was given freely by God. So called ‘prophets’ require you to subscribe to a video feed, or buy a book before you are able to access the prophetic word God apparently provided them. Arguing a servant is worthy of His keep, these minister have mistaken God’s provision for the spirit of the world. Seeking the exchange of money in the church in order to worship God, or to hear His word.
But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: Her heads judge for a bribe, Her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us.” Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. (Micah 3:8-12)
Now, many churches are geared around maximising financial giving, significant tithing messages provided to their congregation, emphasis placed on support for the ministers and the buildings, and significant focus on financial prosperity as a sign of God’s goodness. The wealth gained for the church, and its control and support, instead of looking also to the needs of their congregation members, and their community. Minsters, fearing the loss of stipend, remain silent when they see doctrine compromised by their denominational leaders, willing to sacrifice truth for the sake of financial security. This is of course not true for all churches, but certainly the focus on the dollar and the transactional nature of ministry, has grown through the recent years, as to the fear of man.
Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord. “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. (Jeremiah 7:11-12)
God spoke through Jeremiah, and also Jesus, the destruction of the temple, and called to memory the failings on the past. When the Tabernacle of Moses no longer existed at Shiloh, it was clear the sins of the religious leaders, and actions of the people of Israel, were responsible for its eventual demise. God in His grace raised up David to rebuild the Tabernacle, and his son Solomon to build the temple. That temple fell, thanks to the people turning it into a den of thieves. Our Lord Jesus prophesies this truth to us, and so the second temple is also destroyed in less that 40 years after His time on earth in His first coming. The second temple rebuilt under inspiration of God, as had occurred with the first, but the failings of the people of God were their undoing…and resulted in the temples eventual destruction.
Now in the times of the New Covenant in Christ, the temple was rebuilt by God not through bricks and mortar, rather by building His house in the lives of believers as He makes His home in those who know Christ. The church (actually the ekklesia) built on the revelation of Christ, with Him as the only Head. And, yet two thousand years later so much of the talk about church now is about the physical building, other assets, and its resources/finances. The focus of where the money goes clearly demonstrating the underlying priority of the leadership, and many in the congregation, that is in the administration of church, the associated structures of man. No wonder, the ‘church’, as defined by man, has yet again come under the spell of the god of mammon, and the spirits of the world…for it is no different…looking to ourselves first rather than to God.
This ‘church’ to will go before the coming of Christ, and the shaking has already begun to see it pull down. In the past reformations provided great shocks to the establishment, and this is occurring again, but it will be different in due time. Fresh inspiration will see a return to the truer church, and the forsaking of mammon, but greater quakes will come that will see all man made elements collapse. For the love of Christ demands it so. His love for His bride is overwhelming, and His purpose to purify it all part of His preparation for His second coming. Jesus once again calls to us to turn afresh to Him, and His actions of Palm Sunday, where He drove out those money changers, should cause us to bow our knees to Him again. In recent days we have seen the church humbled by the pandemic, a chance to reflect on what is important, and yet many continued in there behaviours unabated.
This is not something only religious leaders will be held account for, rather all of us in the church. For we are the temple of the Lord, and He calls us to be a holy temple. Do we believe our desire for monetary gain, or the building of our asset base, is for God’s glory or for ours? Is it driven by selflessness or selfishness? When we receive insights from God, or resources from above, do we seek to leverage it for personal gain? By God’s mercy He will not let us go who truly believe in Him, and so we too will be shaken as He seeks to remove that which is the house we built in our lives that is contrary to us becoming His home.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. (Micah 4:1-5)
But God, in His mercy, will not forsake His church, and will build in to His house. He will establish His house of prayer on the highest mountain, and gather all those given to Christ in to this refuge and strong tower. This church is purified by His fire, and holy. It is made ready for the Bridegroom, not built around the structures of man, centred on Jesus, and the revelation of the Christ, filled with His Spirit, and moving in the power of His love. Many will cry as they see existing church structures fall away, and perhaps even do so now as they the size of many churches diminish…and wonder why is this so. Let us look again to the past, and learn from the history of fallen temples, and turn afresh to the revelations of Christ, fleeing the spirits of the world and the modern Babylon. God is preparing His Bride for the coming of Christ.
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” (Isaiah 56:7-8)
So come, let us all return to the foot of the cross of Christ, and as He examines our hearts, seek His forgiveness in Christ, and turn afresh to the simple truth that our hope and truth is found in the Messiah, and it is He who speaks to all of us now. He calls us to recognise He is a selfish God and seeks all of us, and freely extends His grace to us for salvation. We are to trust Him for our provision. By His Spirit we can have triumph over the influence of finances, selfish gain, and ‘worldly’ desire. By faith in Christ, and trust in God, turning our beings into a selfless house of prayer, the very dwelling place of our Lord. God will have His way.