Luke 19:46 \”It is written, he said to them, my house shall be called a \’house of prayer\’, but you have made it a \’den of robbers\’.\”
Was Jesus really talking about the sales going on in the house or was it something else? Just about every study bible will cross-reference this verse with the corresponding OT verses, since Jesus is quoting from the OT scriptures. Lets look at exactly what Jesus may have been saying to those he was driving out of the Temple area…
The first reference is found in Isaiah 56:7, which says, \”these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.\” Isaiah is speaking by the Spirit of God of a promise that God is making to Israel about restoration. Not only is the restorative work that takes place going to be Israel, but it will be other specific groups as well; the Eunuch and \”foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him [God].\” These two groups were those who weren\’t able to enter into true Temple worship because of imperfection or birth; God was about to change all that. The purpose of the Temple was to be a beacon of light to all nations, drawing them all to a single place of worshipping and serving God Almighty. God was expanding the borders of his own place of worship, to no longer be exclusively for the Jew (by birth) only, but to include everyone whose heart becomes transfixed upon God to worship and serve Him with everything that they have. In Jesus day, people were being robbed of their privilege to worship God. There was a distaste in the mouths of those who would come from near and far to bring sacrifices of worship to God. Because of the prices they would have to pay in order to purchase an animal fit for sacrificing. It had become a market of sorts that was based on \”market price\”; which is another way of saying what ever the money-changer determined to be the right price to be paid. Jesus was dealing with the usury that was being charged to the brethren, even though the law was clear that taking usury (interest) was wrong headed and evil in the eyes of God–taking advantage of the poor for any reason was shameful and needed to be dealt with.
The second reference is found in Jeremiah 7:11, which also says, \”Has this house which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.\” The context for the Lords question to Israel and Judah is concerning those who would go out and steal and murder, commit adultery, burn incense to baal and then come into His house and declare that they were/are safe. I would liken this to the 21st century misunderstanding of Grace. In reality its a picture of cheapened grace. Israel and Judah were committing idolatry at every level and then coming to give worship to God. He was less than a prostitute in the minds of the people. He served a purpose rather than their purpose being to worship and serve Him. It is a tragic misunderstanding of Grace at nearly every level from unmerited favor to enablement to accomplish what they otherwise couldn\’t on their own strength and ability; they had missed the point by miles. It is clear from Gods next few comments that the last group to think it was ok to live this way were removed and destroyed for it. Grace of God is not cheap, in fact it costs life for the grace…beginning with the figurative death of Isaac to blood of bulls and lambs to the life of Jesus being given to pay for it. God frowns upon with a deep graveness anyone who would mis-appropriate Grace.
So what is Jesus really talking about? In a word: ATTITUDE. Only a truly rebellious attitude would treat the sacrifices as a means of making money and extorting from the poor and abusing the Grace of God in this manner. The world was coming to bring sacrifices (those who were natural born and those who had been grafted in through the Laws means), and instead what they see is the people of God being \”raked over the coals\” and taken advantage of and nobody stopping it! People will always respond to the ceiling placed above them. What I mean by that is people ill always act according to what they discern to be acceptable behavior of those who are to be leading in any and every area. This was a discrediting and a driving out of poor leadership in the Temple and not driving out the marketplace mentality. Exchange was acceptable according to the Law of Moses, so their wasn\’t an issue with it per se. It was the attitude behind it that was the cause of Jesus frustration. Remember, scripture tells us that man looks on the outward appearance, but it is God who looks on the heart. This was a heart issue that needed remedy and quickly.
The question is, have we made the house of prayer a den of robbers by our attitudes towards worship of God in His own house?