Matthew 23:38-39 (Your House is Left Desolate)

What central part of Jewish worship located in Jerusalem was regularly referred to as a house throughout the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus said was being left to her desolate?  See 2Ch 7:20-21, 2Ch 36:19-21, Mic 3:12, and the immediately following context in Mat 24:1-2.  As the temple was the house of God in which He dwelt in the midst of His people, what was the great and real significance of that house being left empty and desolate?  See Eze 10:3-4,18; cf. Exo 33:3-5,15-16.  Was that the first time that God had forsaken His house of worship?  See 1Sa 4:17-22, Jer 7:9-14, 52:12-14.  In this context, what is the significance that these are the last recorded words Jesus spoke in the temple before He left it?  See again Mat 24:1 and note[1].  What happens to any house if it is forsaken by its owner and left empty with no one to care for it?  Was it just the temple itself that would be destroyed?  Cf. 2Ki 23:27, Isa 64:10-11, Luk 19:41-44.  What does this teach us about the protection God’s people have when He is in their midst, and the grave consequences of losing that protection by refusing His presence and pushing Him out of their midst so that He forsakes that habitation?  What evidence do we have of this truth in our own nation from the removal of prayer from public schools and the public sphere?

What is God’s temple today?  See 1Co 3:16, 2Co 6:16-7:1, Eph 2:19-22, Rev 3:12.  In what way do people neglect and defile the habitation of their own bodies through immorality and substance abuse, and in what sense does that leave their “house” barren and empty, and prey to squatters?  See 1Co 6:13,18, and cf. Mat 12:43-45, Rev 18:2-3.  Is that not the very thing from which the Lord has ransomed us, both individually and corporately, and is it not for this reason that He gives His Holy Spirit to dwell within us?  Cf. 1Co 6:19-20.  If then the Holy Spirit (who leads us into holiness) should forsake that spiritual temple, shall we expect the consequences will be any different than they were for the material temple?  Shall we suppose that although God forsook the tabernacle at Shiloh, and both Solomon’s and Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, that He will not forsake the temple of human hearts in which He dwells today that likewise become polluted by unrepentant sin?  See 1Sa 16:14; cf. Psa 51:11.

Observe that the word “for” (Greek gar) is a conjunction that “adduces the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).  For what cause does Jesus say in Mat 23:39 that the house of worldly Jerusalem’s children was being left desolate?  Notice that the Greek uses the double negative ou me, to emphasize that they would never or by no means see Him from that time on.  What did Jesus mean that they would not see Him from then on, considering that they did see him again at His trial and upon the cross, and could even have been said to have seen His coming by means of His Spirit from the effects upon His disciples after Pentecost?  See especially Mat 26:64 and the NAS text note there, and notice that the very same word formula is used by Jesus to say that from then on they would see Him!  So in what sense would they not see Him that would leave their house desolate, and in what sense would they see Him sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven, but with the same result of their house being left desolate?  See Act 7:54-57, and consider that as the clouds bring rain on both the just and unjust, so the Lord pours out His Spirit (Isa 44:3) in the living water of His word, which to good soil sown with good seed is a blessing for it produces good fruit, but to bad soil sown with bad seed brings a curse because it produces thorns and thistles; see Heb 6:7-8 and cf. Joh 12:46-48, Mat 3:12.  Which soil are we?

 


1. Christ was now departing from the temple, and never came into it again, but by this word abandoned it to ruin. They doted on it, would have it to themselves; Christ must have no room or interest there. “Well,” saith Christ, “it is left to you; take it, and make your best of it; I will never have anything more to do with it.” They had made it a house of merchandise, and a den of thieves, and so it is left to them. Not long after this, the voice was heard in the temple, “Let us depart hence.” When Christ went, Ichabod, the glory departed. Their city also was left to them, destitute of God’s presence and grace; he was no longer a wall of fire about them, nor the glory in the midst of them…  It was immediately, when Christ left it, in the eyes of all that understood themselves, a very dismal melancholy place. Christ’s departure makes the best furnished, best replenished place a wilderness, though it be the temple, the chief place of concourse; for what comfort can there be where Christ is not? Though there may be a crowd of other contentments, yet, if Christ’s special spiritual presence be withdrawn, that soul, that place, is become a wilderness, a land of darkness, as darkness itself. This comes of men’s rejecting Christ, and driving him away from them.  (Matthew Henry).

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