God had made a deal with Israel. He would bless them if they would teach the nations about his love and forgiveness.

God lived up to his part of the bargain. From that one childless couple, Abraham and Sarah, he raised up an entire nation. He delivered the people from slavery in Egypt. He established Israel in its own land.

Israel liked that part of the bargain. But the “stand apart and be different, light to the nations” part was another matter.

Israel was not willing to be different from the nations. Israel liked the fact that other nations had gods you could see. “Worshiping” on a hillside with a temple prostitute appealed to them. They envied the wealth of kings and the might of other armies.

Israel didn’t want to be different. They wanted to be like the other nations. Time and again they wandered away in search of pleasure, wealth, and might.

Israel wanted the benefits of being God’s chosen people without the responsibility of being a kingdom of priests. They wanted blessing without obedience. In the end, Israel was unwilling to carry the light of God’s love to the nations in darkness. Nowhere was their disobedience more evident than in the Temple at Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.

The Temple was composed of several courtyards.

The innermost court was the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest entered here, and then only once a year. Outside of that was the Holy Place, where the priests offered daily sacrifices. Beyond that was the Inner Court, which was divided into areas for the priests and Israelite men. Outside that was the Women’s Court. Encircling the entire Temple was the outer court, called the Court of the Peoples.

It was in this area alone that non-Jews could come to worship and be taught about God. Entering the inner courts was punishable by death. Signs were posted to warn gentiles to stay out.

It was to this court that Jesus came on the day he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But instead of a holy place filled with God-seekers from all over the world, he found a marketplace filled with money traders. Merchants selling animals for pilgrims to sacrifice.

The Court of the Peoples was supposed to be the world’s house of prayer. It symbolized Israel’s mission of bringing all the peoples of the world back to God. Yet it had been turned into a den of thieves, a symbol of Israel’s compromise with the world. In anger, Jesus cleared the court with a crude whip. He declared that the Kingdom would be taken away and given to a people who would produce the fruit of the Kingdom.

Israel had convinced themselves that God had chosen them because they were special, instead of the other way around. They prided themselves in being children of Abraham and heirs to the Promise. But they failed to realize that, to God, the purpose behind the promise was more important than the promise itself. They failed to comprehend that redeeming the world was all that mattered to God. His revolution would be completed at all cost, with or without Israel’s help.

God had been patient. Israel had been given many opportunities. And God decided to give them one last chance.

Read it for yourself!
1 Samuel 8.1-8; Matthew 21.33-46; Mark 11.15-18

Think about it!
In what ways do God’s people today still fail to be what God expects of his people?

Next installment
05 – God’s solution

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