He Judges Jerusalem’s Materialism (vv. 9-19)
The End of Profit for the Harlot’s Lovers (Acts 4:26-27)
Here we obtain some sense of Jerusalem’s political and economic importance to that region of the world. The list of luxury items is from Ezekiel 27, a lament over Tyre. They are applied to Jerusalem. What the prophets said in warning to other nations is applied to Israel, for she has become those other nations, no longer God’s holy nation but an unholy, filthy nation. The items mentioned here were found in Jerusalem, with the exception of slaves (v. 13). Correspondence in every detail is not required of symbolism. Roman chariots were present, and they undoubtedly moved slaves through the region, perhaps through Jerusalem itself. The point is that Jerusalem enjoyed luxury because her leaders and kings made peace with the beast, the Roman Empire and the Caesars. She forfeited her faith to feed her licentious covetousness. The merchants who made a profit from her fornicating materialism will now weep. When they see the city on fire, their profits turn to vapor. O, the great city (11:8; 17:18), that made us so much money, the priestly families with all their ornaments, the foodstuffs, all the gems and precious objects, exotic spices and dainties, against which the prophets had been warning for centuries, destroyed. The merchants were made desolate by Jerusalem’s desolation.
They Made God’s House a Den of Thieves
Reading this we should be reminded that our Lord twice cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:14-18; Luke 19:45-46). This was in line with the Old Testament warning against Israel’s avarice and corruption. Our Lord began and concluded his public ministry by cleaning out his house and condemning the Jewish leaders, especially the unbelieving Sadducees, for turning his house into a den of robbers. They obtained a handsome personal profit and plundered the poor, and they were able to do this by their commercial dominance of the region and alliance with Rome. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was the Lord turning the tables fully and finally on Israel – no more profit, no more luxury, no more Husband. He gave his kingdom to a different nation, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). Let us learn from this judgment how much the Lord hates consumerism and materialism, that he would have us be deeply contented with what we have (1 Tim. 6:6), for this is what he has given to us, and that we must separate from materialism as much as possible in order to remain faithful to him and lead quiet lives of hard work and diligent service to him and to one another (1 Tim. 2:2).
He Avenges His Church (vv. 21-24)
The Killer of Apostles and Prophets Judged (Matt. 23:35-37)
Now it is made explicit that Jerusalem is the harlot and the great city. “Great city” has already been identified as Jerusalem (11:8), for it is the city where the Son of God was crucified. And why does heaven rejoice at God’s judgment? He has avenged the blood of the apostles and prophets shed in Jerusalem. This is almost a direct quote from our Lord Jesus: that upon Jerusalem in the generation of those listening to him would be required all the blood shed on the earth. Jerusalem was the city that killed the prophets and apostles. This is not to say that all the apostles died in Jerusalem but that Jerusalem was the leading persecutor of God’s true people ever since Cain killed Abel (1 Thess. 2:16). Jerusalem has become Babylon, the city against God, and she will fall – no more musicians in the temple, no more craftsmen, no more light. The voice of the bridegroom will not be heard. They did not rejoice when the Bridegroom came, even though John announced him and rejoiced; therefore, the day of her wedding passed, and she is cut off. She will no more deceive the nations. The Lord will repay the blood Jerusalem shed. He will come on the clouds of heaven, and those who pierced him will see him and wail.
Our Savior and Husband Calls to Us
To Be Faithful to Our Husband (Rev. 2:25; 3:3,11). What are we to say to these things? First, here is an entire book of the New Testament that shouts at us to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and Lord. He is also our Husband. All these metaphors are used to teach us how rich and vast and inexhaustible our relationship is to him – and how full his love is for us. Staying faithful to our Lord and Husband means that we respect him, talk to him, depend upon him, and obey him. It means that we offer him the best perfume of our lives each day, the best work we can give him, body and soul devoted to him. We cannot be faithful to our Lord Jesus and be slobs, play games all day, and refuse to do things that make us uncomfortable. Loving him means that we reject other gods and other husbands – self, sensuality, and all the filth of this world. We cannot plunge into the pool of the world’s sins or the particular sins of our age and remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier in our history, some branches of the church tried to swim in the tides of unbelieving views of the Bible – they drowned. Progressive false gospels – no submission to Scripture, a Christ unloosed from Scripture, and make-your-own morality worldview today will suffer the same. This is because our Husband is living and powerful, ascended with a shout, and reigning at the Father’s right hand. He has given us his Word and his Spirit to teach, strengthen, and sanctify us. Whatever the cost or loss, whatever the sacrifice or pain, a faithful wife loves her husband. She will stick with him for better or worse. Let us seek from him the grace to hold fast to him, love him devotedly, serve him passionately, and speak of him as the love of our lives.
To Forsake the World and Its Vanity (Ps. 119:37). The list of luxuries painfully resonates with us. Imagine this: Israel chose its groceries over God, their luxuries over Jesus Christ, gastro-delights over having the Lord as its portion and bread. Consumerism is a disease, to be sure, but it is a heart disease before it becomes a settled economic practice. It is not to be blamed on the world’s families who have learned to manipulate and market to human covetousness. It is to blamed upon us – that we love this world and the things in it. Ask most Americans, possibly many Christians – if you could have all you wanted, the husband of your dreams, a model wife, perfect children – would you have less of God to have them? Would you be a little less rigorous in your convictions to gain a promotion, a finer home, better cars, longer vacations? We cannot love the world and God. We cannot serve God and money. This is surely a lesson the Lord will teach us again. We cannot love our dreams and have him for our vision. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we “use the world without abusing it, for the fashion of this world is fading away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Stylish today, gauche tomorrow, new styles the next day – this is the way this fickle world works. Our Lord taught us a better way – to set our affections upon him and his eternal kingdom; to work diligently, for we labor for him, and he will reward us. Sometimes he rewards us in this life, and Christian diligence is usually crowned with earthly blessing. But it can also be hated, and thus we must not set our heart upon things that do not last and beauty that fades. We must set our heart love upon Jesus Christ, for in him our true beauty and joy is still future.
To Rejoice in his Avenging Faithfulness (2 Thess. 1:6). It may seem like the average believer is completely forgotten in all the movements of men. There are so many things swirling around us. The world seems so big, and the powerful “call their lands after their own names” and walk around the earth like little gods – as if they owned the place. They do not, of course, and the Lord gives them their good things in this life. We must remember – God’s enemies are working out the purposes he has designed for them also – to magnify his longsuffering and justice, to test his people’s faith, and to lay up wealth for the righteous, but especially to work for us an eternal weight of glory through our momentary trials. Let us not forget that the “Judge of all the earth will do right” and that our Lord Jesus will establish righteousness in the earth. It is a righteous thing with him to repay those who trouble us. When it seems that life in the world is getting out of hand, that the wicked are having all their own way, and that God’s professing friends are in danger of compromising his everlasting work, his covenant will prevail. The Lord Jesus takes cares of his church. He is building her (Matt. 16:18), over generations, in hidden ways, under the discipline of the cross, so that in all things he has the preeminence. This is not a worldly exaltation – as if Jesus Christ is waiting for a parade down Peachtree. He would not attend his own parade, for he comes lowly, on the back of a donkey, with a meek heart. He calls us to trust him. He will take care of us. Do not stop calling upon him, resisting sin, putting him on as your righteousness, and trusting him as your Shepherd. He will not lose you to the world.
To Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-23). If we are to be faithful to our Lord in this way of impurity and spiritual fornication, we must walk in joyful, trusting, obedient fellowship with him by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must not consult our own feelings or see which way the spiritual wind is blowing and trim our sails accordingly – no, our gracious Lord has spoken in his Word, and we endeavor to believe and obey him, from a heart of trust and love. He gives us his Spirit to dwell with us and help us. We must place ourselves under the Spirit’s tutelage, pray to be strengthened by him, abide in the word, and live praying. This is basic Christian discipleship, but too few of us see this as the narrow path by which we walk as our Lord walked. This is the path he walks and the path upon which strength and hope is found. This is the reason the Spirit says: “if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk with the Spirit.” And when we walk with him, we put to death our lusts by his power. We begin to bear beautiful spiritual fruit, drawing life and grace from Jesus Christ so that we look like him – in work, in our witness to the world, in courage and not bowing down to the beast, but being faithful to our Husband and seeking his preeminence in our lives. But we must walk with the Spirit. This is the high water mark of his covenant – redemption accomplished, the Spirit poured out. If we keep in step with the Spirit, the Lord Jesus will take care of us. We will overcome the world, forsake its false loves, and love the Lord with all our heart, life, strength, and mind. Even when we fall, he will pick us up and make us stand. He is a faithful Husband and gracious Master.