Thursday, October 26, 2006

A House of Prayer

Question: When is a house of prayer a house of prayer? Answer: When Yahweh's people are redeemed.

In today's Western culture, we have mostly lost the use of symbolism to instruct, enlighten, and illicit change. But in the ancient world, lives were structured around, maintained, and altered through the power of symbolism. Yeshua is one person who showed himself a masterful artisan of symbol. Indeed, it appears to have been his primary method of interaction.

One symbol which Yeshua constantly dramatized in his life and words was that of restoration from exile. Even in those moments that might mistakenly be thought of as moralizing or ethical instruction, Yeshua was representing and enacting in present event a story tied to past history and looked for in future hope.
Then Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling things there, saying to them, “It is written, 'My house will be a house of prayer'”
--Luke 19:45-46a, NET
One might see in this statement a chastisement for corruption and the establishment of true piety. But this is was no plea for correct ritual. As Yeshua crossed the courts speaking of Yahweh's house as a house of prayer, he directly identified the eschatalogical promises of Isaiah 56 with his activity.
Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the son of man who holdeth it fast...

Unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

...even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer...

...for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

--Isaiah 56:1-2a, 5, 7a, c, ASV
Is the temple meant for prayer? Surely. The nation? Certainly. But prayer does not reach Yahweh when he has cast his people away from him because of their sin. A house of prayer is, therefore, a house redeemed. Those aware of symbol would hear in Yeshua's words the bold assurance that the days Israel once longed for in which she would throw off the yoke of her enemy and be restored to her God were occurring right then in her midst. They would hear a declaration that Yahweh's righteousness had now come to Israel. And they would be presented with a challenge to follow the one, this son of man, leading the way of return to Yahweh.


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