Zeal For Your House Part 1: The Individual
John 2:17 NASB “His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR THY HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” (Psalm 69:9 quotation of the LXX version)
I saw this verse referenced the other day on John Piper’s wall and it was further fueled by the Holy Spirit. I was suddenly reminded of Paul’s references to the temple of the Lord in 1 Corinthians in chapters 3 and 6, one to the Body and one to the individual. Then my mind raced back to the scene in the temple where Jesus is known to have constructed a “scourge of cords” and proceeded to let all Holy Ghost fire break loose. Out with the beasts (some blind and maimed), out with the money changers (with their false weights and measures) and out with their tables. OUT!
Wow, really? Jesus? Little-kids-sit-on-His-lap Jesus? And how about this word “zeal”? It has broad application depending on context but comes from a word that has the idea of being hot enough to boil liquid or make solids glow in its heat. It burned in Him to the extent that commonly held institutions and public opinion from the powers that be could not have sway with Him. This is a relentless passion and drive for the sanctity of The Father’s house and most importantly for its intended purpose. He got to the point where He was unperturbed by the possibility of any backlash or consequence and He simply had to do what He did. Keep in mind, this is a building made with human hands. Yes, assembled at the command of God but still a human construction…and this is Christ’s zeal for this place because of what it was meant to be as a witness to the nations. When His witness is tarnished even by institutions that He Himself has decreed should exist, He will stop at nothing to clean it up or perhaps destroy it, as this temple was 40 years later, but I digress. I have hope of glory for the Church at the end of time rather than an expectation of cataclysmic judgment upon it, though I’m not deaf to the warnings in Revelation to the churches listed there who were told to repent “or else”.
So how should this affect us, this knowledge of Christ’s zeal for His house? Let me begin by stating that the temple of the Lord is now the individual and the corporate Body of Christ according to statements made by the apostle Paul (Eph. 2:22 in addition to the previously referenced verses in 1 Corinthians 3, and 6). I believe that this was always God’s intention.
Now, if Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever”, then has His zeal waned? If His zeal for a house of stone and gold and nicely woven curtains of extravagant physical beauty that was sanctified by the blood of animals was this intense, then how much more the temple (you!) that has been sanctified by His blood and Spirit? Consider Hebrews 10:26-31:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY ” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NASB)
Indeed, Jesus is still very much about the business of temple maintenance. He paid a very heavy price for each and every temple of His. I would like to consider, briefly, a few moments in Israel’s history that show us how His tabernacle/temple was defiled and how God dealt with it.
First Samuel 2:12-17, 22 shows us a shocking bit of activity in God’s tabernacle. Eli the priest had two sons who had sex with the women who served at the doorway to the Tent of Meeting and were not eating the portions of sacrifices that were set aside for them in the Law of God but instead were in essence asking for the filet mignon. If anyone protested or desired to stick with the protocol of God they were threatened. God’s response to Eli was grave: “You will not have an old man in your lineage and I’m going to kill both of your sons on the same day and in their place I will raise up a faithful priest.” How ironic that this faithful priest was the young boy Samuel whom Eli had charge over and did himself also issue a stern prophetic word to Eli regarding his wretched fathering and what was to come of it.
The symbol of the (realistically, the actual) presence of God was the Ark of the Covenant. Nothing in all of Israel was more precious than God Himself in their midst. At least nothing should have been more precious. As you read on in chapter 4 you will see God not allowing Israel to live in sin and use the Ark as a good luck token and He lets it go into the hands of the Philistines and hands defeat to Israel while carrying out the rest of His proclamation against Eli and his sons. We know from Jeremiah that, in fact, this tabernacle known as Shiloh was eventually destroyed for Israel’s idolatry and Jeremiah points this out to them because of their protest that God could never destroy His own temple. God was quick to assert that, in fact, you cannot have a dirty life and a clean temple at the same time: the former negates the latter.
Since I basically combined epochs from Samuel and Jeremiah together, I will end with Ezekiel’s vision in chapters 8-10 (be sure and take a look at chapter 52 in Jeremiah to see how that all went down).
In verses 5-6, 10-12, 14 and 16 we see the progression of idolatry in God’s temple. In verse 14 there were women mourning, ritualistically, for the fertility god Tammuz. In verse 16 they finally got to a place were they had actually turned their backs on God. They had already in spirit but now the posture reflected it and their worship went toward the sun instead of the glory of God. Moving into chapter 10 we then see the Lord, great in patience and mercy, moving out of His temple in degrees. First, He left the Ark from between the cherubim and went to the temple threshold (vs 4). Then, as if He had been waiting for repentance and change but saw none, He finally left altogether (vs 18-19). Judgment is pronounced in chapters 11-16 but a promise of eventual restoration is given in verse 60-63 of chapter 16. But we can see pretty clearly that God will stop at nothing to have a clean house, a clean people and hearts devoted to Him and Him alone. He won’t have “roommates”.
Some may object to referencing “the Old Testament God” to speak about New Testament realities. He is not a new God, this Jesus character. He’s not an improvement upon that nasty old Yahweh. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His character doesn’t change, His outlook on life doesn’t change, His righteousness doesn’t change, His belief that only He is worthy of praise, worship and glory has not changed. Even in the old economy He was just as rich with mercy then as now. It took Him an awfully long time to become offended and angered enough to banish His people and destroy His temple and its priesthood. It wasn’t a whim, it was long suffering that finally reached a cut off point and then something had to be done for the sake of His name.
Do You Have Idols In Your Life?
So what about you? Do you burn incense to other gods (what do you listen to or watch?)? Do you weep over fallen gods? Really, who gives a rip about these dumb “reality” shows and who is a singing/dancing star or who lost the most recent UFC match? Have you turned your back on God to worship the sun? If your heart affections were a pie graph, who/what has the largest percentage of your love? Are you discontent with what God has given you and feel the need to connive for more through dishonesty as Eli’s sons did? They had wives already, but took other women who were not theirs. You may not transgress in that way, but do you cross boundaries like this in your heart? Are you simply not satisfied with God’s design and construct for ministerial function and so you invent your own “cool, relevant” way that makes Jesus easier to accept? The list of applications from these stories is endless, the principles are eternal and will always apply to some kind of situation in our daily lives.
God is slow to anger. That was a huge part of the revealing of His Name to Moses. Let us rejoice in this but let us not take it for granted as Israel did. God waited for a long time before sending Jesus to cleanse that temple. It’s not like it got dirty overnight, it had been on the decline for some time. I deduce that fact from the fact that God is slow to anger and judgment. But Jesus did go and handle some business. I believe He actually did it twice; once at the beginning of His ministry and then right before His crucifixion. While you may not agree with the entirety of this article, at least pay attention to the case he makes for the belief in 2 cleansings and the significance of the Levitical law of “leprosy/corruption” in a house.
So, rather than getting a fear trip out of all of this, pull from this that Jesus is serious about anything in which He dwells. When He chooses to dwell in a thing/person, then the witness of that thing/person is of great import because it is directly tied to people’s perception of Him. In times past we see God angered over His enemies being given occasion to blaspheme Him because of human conduct that is supposed to reflect the Real God.
To this day, the thing that is supposed to be The Church is impotent, largely….well, maybe just in U.K., Canada and America. So if you’re in a third world country, nevermind all this, you’re probably okay. For the rest of us, let’s make sure nothing in our lives/minds bears any resemblance to those things in Eli’s sons or in the temple priesthood of Ezekiel’s day or Jesus’ day. Let’s not offer lame sacrifices. Let’s make sure that all “exchanges” are fair and just whether they be verbal exchanges or goods and services. Let’s give Jesus our best…our BEST! He will give us His in return.
For a recent Fire On Your Head podcast related to the themes mentioned in today’s article, check out “Keeping Ourselves From Idols“