TWO PIECES OF NEWS on the Internet have raised the following question in my mind: “What is God’s Sanctuary meant for?”
The first is the recent news about Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in the United States, who rode a zip-line to the pulpit during his church service and sparked comparisons to a circus.
This incident reminded me of the event in 2008 as reported by the Kokomo Tribune in the US, where Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor of Crossroads Community Church, lost control of a motorcycle while using it in a sermon illustration. He inadvertently drove it off the church stage into the first row of seating, fortunately into empty seats and narrowly missing his wife. He suffered a broken wrist and head lacerations.
The Sanctuary of God (also known as the Temple of God or the House of God) is meant for worship, witness and every spiritual activity connected to them. People who worshiped in the Temple saw the Glory of God. Isaiah 6 gives a glorious picture of that worship. There was a kind of reverential fear during worship.
The psalmist said in Psalm 84:4 “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Lonely and restless people find rest and peace in the presence of God, like the sparrow and swallow in Psalm 84:3. Also, the temple was meant to fulfil God’s purposes, particularly the missionary purpose of God. This applies to any Sanctuary or place of Christian worship.
But during the time of Jesus, the Temple had lost its intended purposes. The temple court was meant for the Gentiles to come and worship. However, people turned the court into a place for profit-making commercial enterprise. By doing so, the temple authorities denied the worship of the Gentiles. Worship was hindered. The animals and the people in the place of worship defiled the sanctity of the House of God. There was more noise than praise. The religious leaders of those days were to be blamed for drifting away from God’s missionary purposes.
God was not pleased at the way the temple was functioning. Our God is zealous about His house. He wants His holy purposes to be fulfilled. So He cleansed the temple and wanted to bring back true worship in the house of God. Jesus asked, “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ ” (Mark 11:17)
Let us remember that as the people of God we are to worship Him in Spirit and truth, and fulfil His mission in His Sanctuary with reverence.
The Rev R. Prabhu is the President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference.