Orange flames crackled, the campfire provided warmth and comfort; we lingered in its light late into the evening, jabbing the fading embers and talking. As we lingered, it occurred to me that the same fire bringing warmth and camaraderie, is the same fire that consumes entire forests. One flame, different purposes at different times.
In John 2:12-25, the apostle describes Jesus’ zeal for the purity and honor of His Father’s house. It was designed as a sanctuary of holiness and prayer, and so it should remain. Yet, it had become corrupted, and His righteous anger descended, consuming hypocrisy and love of power and money.
It was Passover, the holy city was overflowing with pilgrims, intent upon celebration and hearing from God anew. Jesus was there among the crowd. His divine power was fascinating, and He taught with authority—as if He had firsthand knowledge of all things.
This young rabbi demonstrated more than keen intellect and deep understanding of the Law and Prophets. The welcoming warmth of kindness danced in His eyes. He took time to see, hear and take seriously the people that others passed over, and He truly healed their brokenness. He’d made strong reference to Himself as Messiah, citing prophetic writings, claiming they were now fulfilled in Him.
Both fiery zeal and the glow of compassion emanated from Him.
Would He now vanquish the Romans, reinstating Israel’s golden age?
He did not confront the Romans; He confronted the religious elite. He made enemies by calling out their hypocrisy and greed.
Passover had become lucrative for the ruling religious leaders. It was a money-making racket, plain and simple. Passover– the celebration of redemption and deliverance had been hijacked by power and greed.
And Christ hated it!
Hassled pilgrims jostled, bleating sheep cried, buzzing flies swarmed and the stench of dung and urine all desecrated the temple. Slicing through the din of commerce strode a man, in His hand was a whip. With piercing gaze and calm, yet determined hand, He untied the animals, and with a flick of the whip sent them off. Their keepers angrily scrambled to retrieve them. He strode to the moneychangers’ tables, and with one swipe of His holy arm, cleared the tabletops, shouting as He upended tables:
“Get these out of here! How dare You make my Father’s house a marketplace!”
Everyone heard it. Everyone saw it. It was not done quietly in a corner.
He threw tables, dumped money boxes and sent their animals charging into the streets.
He named God as His Father.
He upended the status quo and called attention to their glaring hypocrisy. The religious power players took note of Him. He had intentionally placed Himself in their crosshairs.
Awkward silence hung heavily in the dusty courtyard—pilgrims were stunned, merchants frozen. Across the silence passed a searing gaze. All-seeing eyes saw the ugliness within the souls of the elite, despite their religious vestments. Dripping with condescension, the religious elite stared down this itinerant rabbi from Galilee. How dare He challenge their methods and authority! Did He know who He was dealing with?
The larger question–did they know with Whom they were dealing?
The Messiah, whose coming they claimed to anticipate, was now among them. In Malachi 3:2-3, the prophet foretold Messiah’s coming not only as the Gentle Shepherd, but also as a refiners’ fire. Refining fires are hot in order to consume dross. When Messiah came, He would deal with wrongdoing.
As Jesus disrupted the status quo in Jerusalem that day, so He does in the hearts of each believer. He cannot leave sin unaddressed. He cannot look the other way; it is contrary to His holy nature.
He loves each of us, as sinful as we are, but He refuses to leave us this way. He has plans for us, plans to give each of us a hope and a future. This hope cannot coexist with lies we believe—lies about God or ourselves. Lies must be confronted in the healing glow of truth.
He has plans for us. This requires our surrender to His plans for life-change within us. (Colossians 3:1-17)
We cannot walk in sacred places with Him, and neglect His word. Our level of intimacy with Him is directly correlated with our level of obedience to His word. (John 14:23-24)
Our response to His purifying presence among us determines whether He comes as a bane or a blessing. As we welcome His purifying work and cooperate with it, His presence is as inviting as a crackling campfire. However, as we retain an unteachable spirit, blame others or justify our behavior and attitudes, His presence among us is equally unwelcome as a raging fire.
He waits beside the flickering campfire for those who treasure His presence. To those who value His presence more than their own comfort, He waits. Any discomfort is worth the surpassing treasure of being known and loved by the Ancient of Days—hearing hard truth, wrestling through life-change—nothing compares to the surpassing treasure of intimate friendship with the Holy One, to know Him as Friend, Guide and Lover of Your Soul. Whatever it costs, it is worth it all.
Beside the flickering campfire, He waits.
He’s waiting for you.