“‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
One of the things that made Jesus unassailable to the Pharisees was His mastery of Scripture. He shows it in this episode. First, there is the compounding of Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. For many years I read this as Jesus merely saying that the temple had been turned from something positive to something negative, but the language is in fact more pointed. A house of prayer is a place people go to seek God, to expose themselves communally to a God-ward life. But a den of robbers is a place of hiding. It is a place to which thieves retreat, seeking safety from the just punishment of their actions within its confines. Jesus is accusing these people of going to the temple to try to whitewash their sins, to hide from God.
The second quotation is from the eighth psalm. Jesus introduces it with the common phrase “have you not read”. But this is not mere polemics. It is a pointed comment, the psalter would likely be the most well known book of the Bible to those who exposed to temple worship so frequently. And Jesus takes what lays in plain view and defends these children, much as Jackie Chan happens to lay hands on a ladder and manages to fight off his attackers.
Jesus shows, not just supreme recall, but also the most excellent of wisdom in bringing these words to bear on the current situation. What relief to hear a response that gets to the heart of the matter, not just a rebuttal that moves the conversation away from a sensitive topic (as we hear from so many politicians).
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply–
and how good is a timely word!”
He is still that master of words and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He still speaks. When a person enters the kingdom of heaven, she receives the promised Holy Spirit who will as John tells us:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
He speaks to you and He speaks to me today. Do we welcome His voice? Or is it vexing? An incumbrance to our attitudes and plans? How do you respond when you hear that still small voice?
Lord, I am listening. Speak.