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Lord’s Day 32, 2009

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

A Christian’s Prayer

Blessed God,


Ten thousand snares are mine without
and within,
            defend thou me;
When sloth and indolence seize me,
   give me views of heaven;
When sinners entice me,
   give me disrelish for their ways;
When sensual pleasures tempt me,
   purify and refine me;
When I desire worldly possessions,
   help me to be rich toward thee;
When the vanities of the world ensnare me,
   let me not plunge into guilt and ruin.
May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release,
   never be to busy to attend my soul,
   never be so engrossed with time
      that I neglect the things of eternity;
   thus may I not only live, but grow towards thee.
Form my mind to right notions of religion,
   that I may not judge of grace by wrong
   nor measure my spiritual advances by the efforts
      of my natural being.
May I seek after an increase of divine love to thee,
   after an unreserved resignation to thy will,
   after extensive benevolence to my fellow
   after a patience and fortitude of soul
   after a heavenly disposition
   after a concern that I may please thee in public
      and private.
Draw on my soul the lineaments of Christ,
   in every trace and feature of which thou wilt
   take delight, for I am
      thy workmanship, created in Christ Jesus,
      thy letter written in the Holy Spirit’s pen,
      thy tilled soil ready for sowing, then harvest.

—from The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).

imgJohn 2:12–25

   12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.
Christ Cleanses the Temple
   13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
   23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
imgThe second miracle which our Lord is recorded to have wrought demands our attention in these verses. Like the first miracle at Cana, it is eminently typical and significant of things yet to come. To attend a marriage feast, and cleanse the temple from profanation were among the first acts of our Lord’s ministry at His first coming. To purify the whole visible Church, and hold a marriage supper, will be among His first acts, when He comes again.
   We see, for one thing, in this passage, how much Christ disapproves all irreverent behavior in the house of God.
   We are told that He drove out of the temple those whom He found selling oxen and sheep and doves within its walls,—that He poured out the changers’ money and overthrew their tables,—and that He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things hence, make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise!” On no occasion in our Lord’s earthly ministry do we find Him acting so energetically, and exhibiting such righteous indignation, as on the occasion now before us. Nothing seems to have called from Him such a marked display of holy wrath as the gross irreverence which the priests permitted in the temple, notwithstanding all their boasted zeal for God’s law. Twice, it will be remembered, He discovered the same profanation of His Father’s house going on, within three years, once at the beginning of His ministry and once at the end. Twice we see Him expressing his displeasure in the strongest terms. “The thing is doubled” in order to impress a lesson more strongly on our minds.
   The passage is one that ought to raise deep searchings of heart in many quarters. Are there none who profess and call themselves Christians, behaving every Sunday just as badly as these Jews? Are there none who secretly bring into the house of God their money, their lands, their houses, their cattle, and a whole train of worldly affairs? Are there none who bring their bodies only into the place of worship, and allow their hearts to wander into the ends of the earth? Are there none who are “almost in all evil, in the midst of the congregation?” (Prov. v. 14.) These are serious questions! Multitudes, it may be feared, could not give them a satisfactory answer. Christian churches and chapels, no doubt, are very unlike the Jewish temple. They are not built after a divine pattern. They have no altars or holy places. Their furniture has no typical meaning. But they are places where God’s word is read, and where Christ is specially present. The man who professes to worship in them should surely behave with reverence and respect. The man who brings his worldly matters with him when he professes to worship, is doing that which is evidently most offensive to Christ. The words which Solomon wrote by the Holy Spirit are applicable to all times, “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.” (Eccles. v. 1.)
   We see, for another thing, in this passage, how men may remember words of religious truth long after they are spoken, and may one day see a meaning in those who at first they did not see.
   We are told that our Lord said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” St. John informs us distinctly that “He spake of the temple of His body,” that he referred to His own resurrection. Yet the meaning of the sentence was not understood by our Lord’s disciples at the time that it was spoken. It was not until “He was risen from the dead,” three years after the events here described, that the full significance of the sentence flashed on their hearts. For three years it was a dark and useless saying to them. For three years it lay sleeping in their minds, like a seed in a tomb, and bore no fruit. But at the end of that time the darkness passed away. They saw the application of their Master’s words, and as they saw it were confirmed in their faith. “They remembered that He had said this,” and as they remembered “they believed.”
   It is a comfortable and cheering thought, that the same kind of thing that happened to the disciples is often going on at the present day. The sermons that are preached to apparently heedless ears in churches, are not all lost and thrown away. The instruction that is given in schools and pastoral visits, is not all wasted and forgotten. The texts that are taught by parents to children are not all taught in vain. There is often a resurrection of sermons, and texts, and instruction, after an interval of many years. The good seed sometimes springs up after he that sowed it has been long dead and gone. Let preachers go on preaching, and teachers go on teaching, and parents go on training up children in the way they should go. Let them sow the good seed of Bible truth in faith and patience. Their labour is not in vain in the Lord. Their words are remembered far more than they think, and will yet spring up “after many days.” (1 Cor. xv. 58; Eccles. xi. 1.)
   We see, lastly, in this passage, how perfect is our Lord Jesus Christ’s knowledge of the human heart.
   We are told that when our Lord was at Jerusalem, the first time, He “did not commit Himself” to those who professed belief in Him. He knew that they were not to be depended on. They were astonished at the miracles which they saw Him work. They were even intellectually convinced that He was the Messiah, whom they had long expected. But they were not “disciples indeed.” (John viii. 31.) They were not converted, and true believers. Their hearts were not right in the sight of God, though their feelings were excited. Their inward man was not renewed, whatever they might profess with their lips. Our Lord knew that nearly all of them were stony-ground hearers. (Luke viii. 13.) As soon as tribulation or persecution arose because of the word, their so-called faith would probably wither away and come to an end. All this our Lord saw clearly, if others around Him did not. Andrew, and Peter, and John, and Philip, and Nathanael, perhaps wondered that their Master did not receive these seeming believers with open arms. But they could only judge things by the outward appearance. Their Master could read hearts. “He knew what was in man.”
   The truth now before us, is one which ought to make hypocrites and false professors tremble. They may deceive men, but they cannot deceive Christ. They may wear a cloak of religion, and appear, like whited sepulchers, beautiful in the eyes of men. But the eyes of Christ see their inward rottenness, and the judgment of Christ will surely overtake them, except they repent. Christ is already reading their hearts, and as He reads He is displeased. They are known in heaven, if they are not known on earth, and they will be known at length to their shame, before assembled worlds, if they die unchanged. It is written, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Rev. iii. 1.)
   But the truth before us has two sides, like the pillar of cloud and fire at the Red sea. (Exod. xiv. 20.) If it looks darkly on hypocrites, it looks brightly on true believers. If it threatens wrath to false professors, it speaks peace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. A real Christian may be weak, but he is true. One thing, at any rate, the servant of Christ can say, when cast down by a sense of his own infirmity, or pained by the slander of a lying world. He can say, “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but I am in earnest, I am true. Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. Thou knowest all hearts, and thou knowest that, weak as my heart is, it is a heart that cleaves to thee.” The false Christian shrinks from the eye of an all-seeing Saviour. The true Christian desires his Lord’s eye to be on him morning, noon, and night. He has nothing to hide.

—J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)], 3:102–106

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Alistair Begg
Bret Capranica
David Legge
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John MacArthur
John Piper
Mark Loughridge
Mark Dever
Michael Beasley
Paul Lamey
Paul W Martin
Phil Johnson
Phillip M Way
RC Sproul
Steve Weaver
Thabiti Abyabwile

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Posted  in: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day · The Valley of Vision
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