Winning solves a lot of problems; losing brings on a lot of questions. And man was Israel on a losing streak. The good news is that each question drew Israel back towards God, to knowing the God who had entered into covenant with them more fully. This sermon examines a couple of those questions, Isaiah’s answers to them, and how they apply to us.
Given the recent Pew Report on American Religion I’m surprised the image of dry bones hasn’t been used. I suppose it is because Satan knows scripture and there is a sturdy reply in this text. But we have heard some church members, and I myself at times, sounding like Israel in the Ezekiel text, “Our bones are dried up, and our Hope is lost.” This sermon is God’s answer to that. It is the answer of Pentecost. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: “Look, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live…Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
The text is the cleansing of the Temple. It is an episode that is in all four gospel. Words from it end up at the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. In Matt/Mark it is the proximate cause or fig leaf for convicting Jesus. In John it is moved to the front – the first action by Jesus of his public ministry – for theological reasons. All that is to say that the Scriptures view this as important. The indictment of Jesus is that the people have turned His Father’s house into a marketplace. It was easier to make God a transaction.
I have to say that much of American church life can feel like that at times. That sometimes it is just easier to pay the temple tax than to carry the cross.
Where does renewal start? “The disciples remembered…and they believed the scriptures and the word that Jesus had spoken.” The disciples remember. The sheep hear his voice. The new temple is a temple of living stones. A temple cleansed in the blood of Jesus. A temple where the sacrifices are the broken and contrite heart. The renewal…the life starts by being deep in that word.