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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Do you hunger for God and for his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?


Scripture: Matthew 13:44-52

44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 51 "Have you understood all this?" They said to him, "Yes." 52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

Exhortations
What do you treasure the most and how do you keep it from being lost or stolen? In a peasant community the best safe was often the earth. The man in the parable  "went in his joy" to sell everything. Why? Because he found a treasure worth possessing above all else he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure.
Fortunately, he only needed enough to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can't pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare.

Obtaining the greatest possible treasure 
The pearl of great price also tells us a similar lesson. Pearls in the ancient world came to represent the supremely valuable. Jesus remarked that one should not cast pearls before swine. Why would a merchant sell everything for a peerless pearl? No doubt because he was attracted to what he thought was the greatest treasure he could possess. Discovering God's kingdom is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price.

When we discover the kingdom of God we receive the greatest possible treasure - the Lord himself. Selling all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure could mean many things - our friends, job, our "style of life", what we do with our free time. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. 
The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. In this parable what does the treasure of the kingdom refer to? It certainly refers to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek for. If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty. Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?

God draws us into his kingdom 
What can a story of a dragnet and a great catch of fish tell us about God's kingdom? The two most common ways of fishing in Jesus' time was with a casting-net (or hand-net) which was thrown from the shore and the drag-net or trawl which was let down or cast into the waters from a boat. As the boat moved through the waters the drag-net was drawn into the shape of a great cone which indiscriminately took in all kinds of fish and flotsam and jetsam swept in its path. It usually took several men to haul such a net to shore.

What is Jesus' point here? Just as a drag-net catches every kind of fish in the sea, so the church acts as God's instrument for gathering in all who will come. Just as the drag-net does not or cannot discriminate, so the church does not discriminate between the good and the bad, the useless and the useful. 
God's kingdom is open to all who will accept and believe. But there will come a time of separation, at the close of the age, when the angels will send the good and the bad to their respective destinations. Our task is to gather in all who will come. God, in the end, will give the good (those who accept and follow Christ) and the bad (those who refuse Christ) the reward they deserve. God offers the treasure of his kingdom to all who believe in Christ. Do you hunger for God and for his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?

Training for God's kingdom 
When Jesus had finished speaking about his parables, he turned to his disciples and asked them, "Have you understood all this?". Jesus asks us the same question. If we want to understand the meaning and significance of the parables for our daily lives, then we must reflect and think through what the Lord is saying to us through his instruction. The Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher who helps us to grow in understanding of God's word in the Scriptures.

Importance of readying and studying God's word 
What is the point of Jesus' parable about a "scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven"? Scribes were specially devoted to the study and practice of God's word entrusted to Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and in instructing others in how to live according to it. In the Old Testament Ezra was called "the ready scribe of the law of the God of heaven". 
He received this title because he "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments". Ezra's heart was set on the kingdom of heaven because he revered God's word and he taught others through example and instruction to love and obey God's word.

The old and new treasures of God's word 
Why does Jesus compare a "trained scribe" with a "householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old"? Some people love to store up old prized possessions along with their newly acquired prizes. Others are eager to get rid of the old to make room for the new. So why does Jesus seem to emphasize keeping the old along with the new? 
Why not replace the old, especially if the new seems to be better or more useful? Wouldn't a person want to throw away an old pair of shoes and replace them with a new pair - especially if the old pair became well-worn or torn beyond repair? But, who in his right mind would throw away an old precious jewel or some old gold coins simply because they were ancient and maybe tarnished a bit? Precious gems and gold do not lose their value with age!

Like choice vintage wine they increase in value. Jesus' parable of the "old" and the "new" certainly points to the "older covenants" which God made with his covenanted people of the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Moses on Mount Sinai, and with King David the precursor of the Messiah.
 Jesus' parable also points to the "new covenant" which he came to establish through the shedding of his blood on the cross and the anointing of his Holy Spirit who seals the new covenant on the day of Pentecost. Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Covenant but to fulfill it. The Lord calls us to treasure all of his word - all of his commandments, promises, precepts, and teaching. 
Do you promise to keep all of God's commands? The Lord gives strength, blessing, and joy to those who treasure all of his word.

We would be impoverished today if we only possessed the treasures of the word of God in the "Old Testament" Scriptures or if we only knew the treasures of the "New Testament" Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testament Scriptures are given by the same eternal Father, inspired by the same eternal Holy Spirit, and fulfilled by the same eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and who was sent from heaven to take on human flesh for our salvation.

Unity of the Old and New Testaments 
There is a profound unity between the Old and New Testaments. Both are divinely inspired by one and the same Spirit. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfils the Old - the two shed light on each other. The Old Testament prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ as the redeemer of all who would be saved through his sacrifice on the cross. 
The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. That is why Jesus interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures for his disciples and explained how he came to fulfill what was promised and foreshadowed in the Old. That is why we read the Old Testament in the light of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Do you revere the word of God in the Scriptures - both old and new - and see their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ?

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