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Jesus has a message for me. The house of God is a place of prayer, for everyone. It is not a place for the religious and religious elites. The house of God is open to everyone. It is where we can connect with God in prayer.

  • The house of God is definitely not a religious mall with books to be sold in the bookstore.
  • It is not a restaurant with meals to sold in the food court.
  • It is not a coffee shop with cappuccino to be enjoyed.
  • It is not an fitness center where I can work out.

It is none of those things.

It is to be a house of prayer. 

They arrived at Jerusalem. Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. He didn’t let anyone even carry a basket through the Temple. And then he taught them, quoting this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations;
You’ve turned it into a hangout for thieves.

The high priests and religion scholars heard what was going on and plotted how they might get rid of him. They panicked, for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching. | Mark 11:15-18 (The Message Bible)

Mark especially mentioned the people who sold doves. The dove was one of the few sacrifices that the poor people could afford. It was the sacrifice Joseph and Mary brought when they dedicated Jesus in the temple. Even the poor people were victimized by the merchants in the temple, and this in itself must have grieved the Master Jesus, for He was always sensitive to the poor.

Jesus quoted two Scriptures to defend what He did—Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. At the same time, He exposed the sins of the religious leaders and elites. The Jews looked on the temple primarily as a place of sacrifice, but Jesus saw it as a place of prayer. True prayer is in itself a sacrifice to God. Jesus had a spiritual view of the Jewish religion, while the leaders promoted a traditional view that was cluttered with rules and regulations.

Campbell Morgan points out that “a den of thieves” is the place to which thieves run when they want to hide. The chief priests and scribes were using the temple and its religious services to “cover up” their sin and hypocrisy. Both Isaiah (Isa. 1:10–17) and Jeremiah (Jer. 7:1–16) had warned the people of their day that the presence of the physical temple was no guarantee of blessing from God. It was what the people did in the temple from their hearts that was really important. The nation had not heeded the warning of the prophets, nor would they heed our Master’s warning.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 151). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.