It was just another day in the Temple Courts. The priests and Levites were in their places helping worshipers prepare and present their sacrifices. The blood of many lambs and goats and pigeons splattered on the smooth paving stones. It was noisy and out of order. If anyone had come to pray, God was the only One who could have heard them. The solemn ceremonies from Sinai had become big business and small politics. Profit not prophesies was the indecent order of the day.
Into this melee came a man with fire in His eyes, a whip in His hands, and a trumpet for a voice.
This Temple was His Father’s House and Jesus declared it thus. Tables were overturned. Wooden cages broke open and doves escaped to the skies. Animals broke free from the merchants who had hoped to sell them. The whip in Jesus’ hand found its mark time and again scattering coins and merchants trying to recover them. The random noise in the Temple courts now had a focal point—Jesus of Nazareth!—the gentle teacher and tender healer, the forgiver of sins and encourager of the depressed. They had heard his gentle words and now they saw the fire of judgment in His every move.
What was His issue?
“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’
but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”
Jesus was quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah’s word for prayer was the Hebrew word meaning hymn. What was His issue?
- They were selling, not singing.
- They were profiting, not praying.
- The nature and purpose of the place of public worship had been desecrated.
God Wants His People to Sing!
Singing praise to God is a joyful mandate, not a pleasant option. To my knowledge singing is the only art demanded of all people by the Word of God. It isn’t a generational command, but is issued to all ages. It isn’t limited to a particular musical system or style or selection. There are two requirements for the songs we sing to God: Spirit and Truth:
- They must be sung from the heart, emanating from deep in the human spirit as empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.
- They must speak the truth about God and about us.
This is the setting or the Lord’s Day: the People of God sing to the Lord. Oh, there will be a preacher because we have a story to tell. There will be masters of ceremony because we have been conditioned to expect them. There will be worship leaders singing and playing to lead us because we need them. There will be announcements even though we don’t need them.
Hopefully all this will happen “decently and in order.” How can we know what is decent and orderly? Ask these questions:
- Is this music about Jesus or about me?
- Does this music allow me to praise, worship, and pray from my heart?
- Does the presence of the Lord fill the house and my heart?
The point of it all is to minister to the Lord with our personal sacrificial songs of praise, worship and prayer.
Don’t let another opportunity to sing to the Lord with the saints of God pass you by!
- Whether you know or like the chosen songs—sing!
- If you think you have a wonderful voice—sing!
- If you are sure you have a terrible voice—sing all the more!
- Forget about what people might think of you—sing great stuff about Jesus!
- When the song is a praise song—sing your praise!
- When the song is a prayer song—sing your prayer!
- When it is time to wait on God in silence—sing silently!
It is the Father’s house, but the song is ours to sing!
Be joyful in God, all you lands; sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down before you, sings to you, sings out your Name.” Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people. He turned the sea into dry land, so that they went through the water on foot, and there we rejoiced in him. In his might he rules for ever; his eyes keep watch over the nations; let no rebel rise up against him. Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard; Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us just as silver is tried. You brought us into the snare; you laid heavy burdens upon our backs. You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; but you brought us out into a place of refreshment. I will enter your house with burnt-offerings and will pay you my vows, which I promised with my lips and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble. …Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. I called out to him with my mouth, and his praise was on my tongue. If I had found evil in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me; But in truth God has heard me; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld his love from me.
Isaiah 56:6-7 NIV
…all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant — these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. (OT:8605 tephillah (tef-il-law’); intercession, supplication; by implication, a hymn)
Jeremiah 7:8-11 NKJV
“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 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.
Luke 19:45-46 NKJV
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”
Song of the Sanctuary
Words and Music: Israel Houghton
Now is the time for all people from every land to come together
Now is the moment for worship, we enter in withholding nothing.
He’s worthy, exalted, He’s high and lifted up!
Sing, sing unto the Lord. Open up your heart; make a joyful noise in the sanctuary.
Sing, sing unto the Lord. Lavish Him with love; Let the praises ring in the sanctuary, sing!
Gotta open up your mouth and give Him praise
Open up your heart and give Him praise
Lift up holy hands, unashamed in the sanctuary.
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
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