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And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
To reform brings the sense of putting something back into its original state, which presumes it has become altered from that state.
Social reform presupposes a wrongness in need of righting.
Grandpa Simpson and others of his generation are often heard to say "It wasn't like this in my day". There is a sense that, as time goes on, things get worse, until they need 'reforming'. When God created everything, he declared it was all good. Humanity's decision to turn away from God allowed bad in we use the phrase " and sin entered the world."
Ever since then this badness has resulted in people hardening their hearts against God and doing bad things to each other. It's like a blindness that affects a whole society. Eventually the corruption weakens the social fabric to the point where the society is destroyed, as happened with the Greeks and the Romans and with Sodom and Gomorrah.
But our God is a loving and forgiving God. The society may be saved if someone who loves God enough to stand up for him comes along and tells people that what they are doing is wrong, and that they should stop reform their ways and try to get back to the clean, honest, right way that God set up in the first place.
Throughout Biblical history we see a cycle of corruption and reform. A nation looked to its leadership for moral guidance, and when the leadership was weak, the people were also weak, and became less focussed on God and began to worship their neighbour's gods.
God would then send a reformer (called a prophet) to warn the leadership that they had strayed, and that they must return to the way they were or face the consequences. But people rarely accept correction with good grace, and rulers of nations even less so.
Sometimes the nation would repent, and God would relent, sometimes the people were stubborn and refused, and God would smite them.
In more recent times, a prominent reformer was William Wilberforce, who spent most of his life working to abolish slavery, then a mainstay of the British economy.
Ten days before his death, an elderly John Wesley wrote to the young Wilberforce: "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you who can be against you." God was indeed with him. Wilberforce persisted through vicious insults and physical assaults before he finally succeeded in his crusade 46 years later, only three days before his own death.
Wilberforce is remembered for the abolition of slavery, but he is also credited with establishing the Victorian virtues of character, morality and justice (John Pollock).
He was an ardent follower of Jesus, and lived in community with a group of fellow believers known as the 'Clapham Fellowship'.
A vital component to Wilberforce's success in his battle against slavery was the support provided by his community of friends in the Clapham Fellowship. His biographer John Pollock wrote, "Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone."
In Clapham, a town a few miles south of London, Wilberforce and his closest friends lived together in community. Among those who lived in Clapham were spiritual advisors and colleagues in Parliament such as John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace," George Whitefield, John Wesley, Henry Thornton and their families. Their houses were joined by a garden that none of the families bothered to divide. Each family lived by an open-door policy. The families often shared meals together, housed guests, and watched their children play with one another.
One of those children recalled his upbringing: "It was needless for them to preach to us. Their lives spoke far more plainly and convincingly than any words. We saw their patience, cheerfulness, generosity, wisdom and activity daily before us, and we knew and felt that all this was only the natural expression of hearts given to the service of God."
There were at least three qualities of the Clapham Fellowship that contributed to their incredible success.
First, they were radically committed to, and unified in, the person of Jesus Christ. Wilberforce and his colleagues were motivated by a robust personal belief in a living God who is concerned with individual human lives, justice, and the transformation of societies."
Their intense focus on Jesus Christ also prevented denominational differences, not to mention personal ambition and ego, from dividing the community. The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley's maxim: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."
Second, their relationships with one another were their greatest resource. Their colleagues in Parliament described Wilberforce and his cohort as "The Saints," a term that mixed derision and respect. The Saints--once described as "a meeting that never adjourned"--provided one another strength, accountability and vision.
Dr. Richard C. Halverson said: "There is no limit, no limit, to what God Almighty can do through a group of two or three people who are committed to loving God and one another for life."
Third, the Clapham Fellowship had a clearly defined vision for cultural engagement. "I am in hopes that some good may come out of the Clapham system," Clapham resident and MP Henry Thornton wrote, with some understatement. Thornton understood that an individual who engages the culture apart from community is as impotent as a community that does not engage the culture.
(Extract from 'Every arrow needs a bow' by John Hart)
The transforming power of God comes through love, not laws. As important as they are, just laws cannot substitute for a government which loves justice. Laws do not exercise jurisdiction over the soul - only love can do that. Boris Pasternak wrote: "It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but someone's soul, inspired and ablaze."
Jesus didn't attempt to change social or political structures of his day in the normal sense of 'reform'. He taught the ordinary folk rather than the leaders. He fed the hungry on a couple of occasions, but didn't start a soup kitchen or set up hostels for the homeless.
Instead, he taught his followers what was right, and commissioned them (and hence us) to live according to those teachings. His focus was on the reform of hearts, turning them back to God with humility and selflessness. Scrubbing off the muck and grime and returning people to their created state.
His teaching did not change what had been written before it strengthened it. He rebuked the leadership where it had lead the people astray. His anger in the temple was directed at the priests, who allowed merchants and money-changers to set up their stalls in the Court of the Gentiles.
The money changers and merchants did big business during Passover. Those who came from foreign countries had to have their money changed into temple currency because this was the only money accepted for the temple tax and for the purchase of sacrificial animals. The outermost court of the temple, the Court of the Gentiles, was supposed to be a place where believing non-Jews could worship God.
Imagine coming to church on Sunday morning only to find the place was filled with noisy animals (Lauren?). Jesus was angry because the priests, the spiritual guides for the people, were putting greed before God and had turned a house of worship into 'a den of robbers'.
Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 56:
"And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered."
God has always been the God of all who would love his name: Jews and Gentiles.
The response of the chief priests and teachers of the law is not to repent of their sinfulness before it's too late, but to begin to plan how they can eliminate Jesus.
This happens whenever someone is confronted with their wrongdoing either they accept they are wrong, or it's shields up and battle stations. Much of the Holy Spirit's work in Christians is softening our egoes so we can accept correction with humility.
There's an interesting scene just before Jesus enters the temple. He was hungry and went up to a fig tree to see if it had any fruit. When he found it had none, he cursed it. The fig-tree showed promise of fruit, but upon closer examination, was found to have none. In the temple Jesus was angry at the hypocrisy of the priests they looked the part but were spiritually empty.
The day before, the crowds had welcomed Jesus with cries of 'HOSANNA', which is yaw-shah-nah: God save I pray. The word shah or save generally refers to deliverance or victory in battle, but there is a secondary sense which refers to deliverance from moral troubles. It is interesting that Jesus' strongest inditement of the corrupt morality at the core of Jewish society should come the day after the triumphal entry. Moral bankruptcy is one thing, but hypocrisy is often the last straw.
Dedicate yourself to Jesus Christ, and to living the life he has for you. Give everything back to God, accept personal reform from the Holy Spirit (NB currently 're-forming' my belly).
Be humble in your dealings with others. Dads apologising to their kids - God's get out clause.
Love your community within this church and from there engage the culture around you, supported and loved by your fellow believers. Consider your practical contribution: petrol/oil; what are you supporting by what you spend your money on?
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Asa 1Ki 15:12* He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
Jehu 2Ki 10:27* And they demolished the pillar of Ba'al, and demolished the house of Ba'al, and made it a latrine to this day.
Jehoiada 2Ki 11:18* Then all the people of the land went to the house of Ba'al, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they slew Mattan the priest of Ba'al before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD.
Josiah 2Ki 23:4* And the king commanded Hilki'ah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Ba'al, for Ashe'rah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.
Jehoshaphat 2Ch 19:3* Nevertheless some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Ashe'rahs out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God."
Hezekiah 2Ch 31:1* Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah and broke in pieces the pillars and hewed down the Ashe'rim and broke down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, and in E'phraim and Manas'seh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the people of Israel returned to their cities, every man to his possession.
Manasseh 2Ch 33:15* And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. And Josi'ah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel, and made all who were in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD the God of their fathers.
Ezra Ezr 10:3* Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
Nehemiah reforms the Sabbath Ne 13:19* When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, that no burden might be brought in on the sabbath day.
2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, "You are the man. Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul;
1 Kings 22:14 But Micai'ah said, "As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak."
2 Kings 3:14 "And Elisha said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, whom I serve, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you, nor see you."
Daniel 5:22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,
Acts 4:18-20, RSV So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."