Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Welcome to the house of the Lord! Every Sunday I greet you with these words. But why does God need a house? In truth, He doesn't need a home for Himself. All heaven and earth is filled with His presence. The house of God is for us. God has invited us to meet to confess our faith publicly as a witness to the world around us, where God is present to give us His Holy Spirit in the Word and the sacraments as the people of God. And as human beings, we need a place for our meetings.
The Israelites in the Old Testament had a special place, a house for all the people to come together for worship, prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord. In the beginning that place was a tent, a mobile temple, built in front of Mount Sinai under the direction of Moses. This tabernacle served the people on their pilgrimage in the desert. When the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, the tabernacle remained for many years in the city of Shiloh, then in Jerusalem. King Solomon replaced the tabernacle with the first temple of wood and stone a thousand years before Christ.
The first temple is the house of Jehovah the prophet Jeremiah refers to in our reading of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7: 1-11). “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah, saying: Stand at the gate of the house of the Lord, and preach this word there, and say: Hear the word of the Lord, all Judah, you who enter through these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Improve your ways and your works, and I will make you dwell in this place. Trust not false words, saying, This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, this is the temple of the Lord. " Not all had gone well. People had forgotten that it was not the size and rich furnishings that made the temple the house of the Lord, but the sincere worship of the Lord. They followed the letter of divine law, but worshiped idols in their hearts. They listened to false prophets, not the Word of God.
Then the Lord said to them, “But if you thoroughly improve your ways and your works; If you do justice between man and his neighbor, and do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your evil; then I will make you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever. Behold, you trust false words, which do not profit. Will you keep stealing, killing, adulterating, swearing falsely, and burning incense to Baal, and walking after other gods you did not know? And will you come and stand before me in this house that is called by my name, and will you say: We are freed; to do all these abominations? Is this house, upon which my name is invoked, a den of thieves before your eyes? "
The tabernacle with the Arch of the Covenant was removed from Shiloh and the city in northern Israel was destroyed. And the Lord warned them in the following verses, “Now therefore, go to my place in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works, says Jehovah, and well I spoke to you, getting up early to speak, you did not hear, and I called you, and you did not answer; I will also make this house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and this place that I gave to you and your parents, as I did to Shiloh; That I will drive you out of my presence as I cast out all your brothers, all the descendants of Ephraim. "
But the people did not listen to Jeremiah and during the same time, the first temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.
But, the Lord did not forget his promise to King David that the Messiah would come from his lineage. So, by God's grace, the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple and the city of David about 500 years before Christ. Fifty years before Christ, King Herod the Great began a renovation and expansion of the temple complex, to the end that by the period of our text for today, the temple was larger than ever.
So when did our text occur? On Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem the last time, sitting on a donkey and people throwing their palms and cloaks in his path, shouting "Hosanna!"
“And when he came near the city, seeing it, he wept over it, saying: Oh if you had known, even you, at least in this your day, what touches your peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, that your enemies will surround you with a fence, and will surround you, and will make you strait on all sides, and will bring you down to the ground, and your children within you; and they will not leave stone upon stone in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation. "
Because nothing had changed. The temple, the house of Jehovah, was once again a den of thieves. The priests allowed the peddlers to sell animals for sacrifices and exchange the pilgrims' currency inside the temple to earn money for themselves, although the place for business should be in the Jerusalem market. The house of the Lord is not a place of business, but a house of prayer and a refuge for the afflicted.
God had fulfilled all the promises He made to Abraham, Moses, and King David in the life and work of Jesus. That is why Jesus prophesied again the total destruction of the temple that was done by the hands of the Roman Empire in 70 AD. And the great temple in Jerusalem has never been rebuilt in nearly two thousand years.
Our Lord cleaned the temple twice, early in his public ministry and during Holy Week. Also in the 16th century, God cleansed the church through Doctor Martin Luther. The hierarchy of Rome was not preaching the forgiveness of sins by faith, but was selling indulgences for relief from the suffering of souls in purgatory (a false doctrine). For what purpose? To collect funds for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Our Lord continues to cleanse his church today in baptism, he grants us his grace, his forgiveness. He dresses us in fine linen. He also invites us to his table to receive his body and his blood through which he strengthens us and helps us to remain in the faith; the church belongs to Christ, he is the one who sustains it and has promised to keep it until his coming.
Trusting in his promise, we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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