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The Zeal of the Lord



And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:15-17 ESV).


Is this the Jesus you know?


The Son of man has been painted in many lights over the centuries, often in the form that best suits the man holding the brush. The image of a blonde haired, blue eyed Jesus holding a lamb comes to mind. With a stoic face, this Jesus sets smugly upon His throne, His hands slow to move. This is not the Jesus of Scripture; and thank God it isn’t, for we need a Jesus that flips over tables.

To be clear, I wish not to portray Jesus as vindictive, blood-thirsty, or abusive, for this is also incorrect. What He truly is, is Jealous. It’s His very name.

 

“For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14 ESV).

 

Jealousy is not envy. Envy is the corrupt longing for that which doesn’t belong to you. Jealousy is the holy longing for that which is yours by covenant. If a wife leaves her husband for another man, the husband should rightfully be overcome by a feeling of jealousy. To not would reveal a serious issue in the relationship. Jealousy, rightly understood in its purest form, is desire fueled by love.


With this in mind, we can begin to see what is truly going on at the temple in John 2. “Do not make My Father's house a house of trade.” The Temple did not belong to man but to God. It was His house, but man had hijacked God’s intent for the Temple, making it into their own image and preference. Jesus was jealous to reclaim His Father’s House. This jealous zeal manifested itself in the passionate flipping over of tables. This reveals not hatred on the part of God, but rather intense care. The sound of the money-changers’ coins clattering to the ground ring out the goodness of God . He came to get His house back. This is still His longing.

           

Going a step further, we can see ourselves in the narrative of John 2. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. The Temple, while glorious and sacred, was but a shadow which points to God’s ultimate desire—to make His home in us. We are the dwelling place that the Father, Son, and Spirit yearn to make their own. Like the temple, we have fallen far from our original intent, but Christ has come and is still coming with His zealous Spirit to make us fit for this glorious purpose.

 

"Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose, “He jealously desires the Spirit whom He has made to dwell in us?” (James 4:5 NASB 2020)

 

One of the great hindrances to fulfilling such a purpose in fullness is the temptation of the Pharisee to clean the outside of the cup while leaving the inside ignored and untouched. Men especially are prone to fall into this cycle as most would rather die than expose their broken internal world. Instead, we’ll pay whatever price is required at the money-changers table of religious routine. Just don’t make us be vulnerable. But without such vulnerability, there can be no true healing, and there can be no authentic intimacy.

           

Many more are paralyzed by feelings of guilt and shame due to the duplicity within their hearts. With their lips, multitudes cry “Jesus, You’re everything” on Sunday mornings then give Him next to none of their attention throughout the week. Passionless, the silent majority feel like phonies in the presence of God. They see with painful clarity their overwhelming weakness and are repulsed by it. They can’t help but question: surely, God is as well?

           

But what if He isn’t? What if Jesus is, in fact, the man of zeal revealed crashing through the temple in John 2? What if the nature of God is not to run from His broken dwelling place but towards it? If this is true, if Christ is consumed with jealous zeal for His house, for us, then we have great reason to hope.


Hear today the voice of the Father—“How can I give you up? How can I hand you over? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8 ESV paraphrase). He is not indifferent towards your pain. He has not left you forsaken in your duplicity and weakness. He is not stoic, setting smugly upon His throne. No, the God revealed in Jesus is one whose heart leaps with zeal towards you. He is the God of passion, and He would have you zealous too—for Him, for His house, for His Kingdom to come in the earth.

Passion in the human heart is kindled and sustained by His passion for us. His Spirit is at work within His people, jealous to transform us into the very image of God. So may we be vulnerable. May we surrender every weight that is not ours to carry and, in turn, receive the weight of glory that we were made for. May we give ourselves in full yieldedness to the zealous love of God, a love that is guaranteed to never fail.

 

Pray with me:  Jesus, I confess my need for your passionate love in my life. I open up the doors of my heart and welcome You in. Today I give You full permission to flip over every table in my soul that stands against Your will for me. Keep my heart pure. Keep my heart burning. Keep me. Amen.



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