“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build for Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” Isaiah 66:1
The Lord is looking for a place to rest – a prepared people that have made Him and His purposes central. The place that He has chosen to rest is the regenerated heart of the surrendered soul – the New Testament ekklesia, both individually and corporately. Even though we are the temple of God individually and corporately (see 1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1), the Lord is still looking for that place that has been prepared in every room and closet to be His abode where He is welcomed and made the central focus.
When we learn what the Lord is looking for and what offends Him and keeps His glory from manifesting in fullness, we can then remove those things He finds offensive, and arrange our lives, families, and fellowships to become welcoming places for His glory. Bethany, in Jesus’ day, was such a place in the His earthly life and ministry.
In Matthew 21:12-17, we find the Lord had entered the place that was supposed to be set aside as His house – the house of the Lord – His resting place. When He arrived, He found the temple no longer ordered and operating after God’s affections and purposes. It had become a place of compromise, commerce, and religiosity, and not a place of intimacy, communion and power. As He entered, His reaction according to the text was far from diplomatic. He was obviously very disappointed and very angry.
As Lord over His house, Jesus immediately embarked upon a mission of rearranging the furniture and removing unwanted, idolatrous guests, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah 7:1-11 and Malachi 3:1-6. His reason? He categorically states in Matthew 21:13: “And He said to them, ‘it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” Men had allowed compromise and a political spirit to invade the place that was supposed to be reserved for God alone, and those who were hungry for His presence. The body of Messiah’s primary function is to be a house of prayer, intimacy, healing and deliverance, where the Lord can enjoy communion with men and women because of the finished work of the cross, and hungry and hurting people can find His love, grace, power and truth. This is so that their lives can be radically changed and made whole, and then become impacting agents for His kingdom.
Throngs of people came to the temple in Jerusalem in search of God’s presence. But the very One they sought was rejected by jealous, power-hungry and corrupt leaders that had oversight of the religious activities of the temple. The temple was no longer arranged to draw God’s presence and glory, or to provide what was needed for hungry, seeking hearts. It no longer reflected the kingdom of God, but rather a self-serving, politically correct, religious juggernaut, overseen mainly by leaders who had no intentions of giving up their control of others. Being out of the Father’s order, Jesus found the place in need of a spring cleaning.
Jesus took over and cleansed the temple to show everyone how it should look and function. However, it stayed in this renewed/ restored condition only briefly before it returned to its former state. Money and human structure replaced God’s presence and purposes as the central fact of spiritual life. Jesus zealously threw all of the “stuff” out of the temple, along with those who brought it. When the obstructions were cleared away, then the Lord restored it as a place of prayer and worship, and demonstrated the purpose by healing and delivering those who had come seeking God. The leaders were incensed at the Lord’s actions. The Lord did not remain there because He found the people and the place unfriendly and unwelcoming to Himself and the Father’s divine order. He left and went to Bethany (Matthew 21:17).
In contract to the temple and its corrupt leadership and atmosphere, Bethany became the Lord’s daily resting place in the latter days of His ministry. This is important to emphasize because the Lord told us in scripture that in the latter days, the glory of His latter house would be greater that the former glory (see Haggai 2:9). Bethany became a picture of the place of the Lord’s abiding, manifest presence and glory in the latter days. Bethany became the Lord’s preferred lodging place. There was something in Bethany that drew His presence…the brokenness and adoration of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
“Bethany” can be translated “house of dates”, and can also be translated “house of mourning or poverty”. The scripture states that it is the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3) that will see the kingdom manifested. Isaiah 57:15 says,
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name if Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Revival – the Lord manifesting His glory, bringing repentance, salvation, healing and deliverance – comes to the place where He finds humility and contrition. Humility and brokenness draw the Lord’s presence (Psalm 34:18). The temple was latent with pride, jealousy and ambition. Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, was filled with humble, contrite hearts. The Lord found this attractive and it drew His presence to Bethany instead of Jerusalem and its temple where He was supposed to be!
Bethany was also a place of extravagant love and devotion to the Lord. Bethany was the place where Mary took her dowry, her life savings and hope of marriage and a family, and “wasted” it on ministering to the Lord (John 12:1-8). Because of their needy hearts and trust in His power (John 11), they had no problem openly demonstrating their love and adoration of the Lord. Here is a list of extravagant things that happened unto the Lord, and became mitigating factors in making Bethany His apostolic headquarters:
- He was anointed with the most expensive perfume one could buy.
- His feet were washed with tears and holy kisses. Tears were kept in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and they represented a lifetime of joy and pain, removed from the soul. Kissing the Lord’s feet represented extravagant worship in gratitude of the love, grace and healing He provided to these humble, broken souls.
- In no other place in His life was Jesus so completely worshiped and appreciated.
- He was the sole object of everyone’s attention and affection. They just wanted to sit and look at His face and listen to His words.
- No other person, plan or pursuit was put before Him.
- The whole house was arranged for His pleasure and comfort. Meals and activities were planned around His preferences and desires.
- His needs and purposes came first.
- In Bethany, Jesus was needed, trusted and cherished.
They rearranged their lives to fit His schedule. Their days revolved around Him and His purposes. We seem to forget sometimes that even though Jesus was God incarnated, He was also very human. He became weary, hungry and thirsty. He felt the rejection of the religious establishment and looked for companions who would love Him back as He gave out His love and life. Because of such extravagant devotion and love shown to Him, Bethany became the place of some of the Lord’s most outstanding miracles and displays of power, including raising Lazarus from the dead. And, He probably liked Martha’s cooking very much! Hospitality to the presence of the Lord is what He finds most inviting to Him manifesting His glory.
In our day, Bethany becomes for us a model for the end-time church of apostolic grace, power and glory, where He will manifest His glory in revival.