Buried Treasure

You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

I have always seen this verse interpreted, and thought of it myself, as us finding the treasure of Jesus. And then going off and selling all that we have and following him, like Jesus recommended to the “rich young ruler” in Matthew 19:21 (NIV).

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But this time, as I read Matthew 13:24-44, I saw something else. Previously, in these verses, Jesus is comparing his people, his chosen, as good wheat planted in a field (this world), and the “sons of the evil one” as weeds. What if the treasure found in the field is us too? What if the good wheat and the hidden treasure are the same? And what if the man who finds the hidden treasure and goes away and sells all he has to buy the field is Jesus?

Yes, I believe and know and am joyfully grateful that Jesus is my Treasure, my “Pearl of great price,” worth everything I am and own. But, I am seeing that I am his treasure too. The treasure he came to find. The treasure for which he gave up everything to buy back, to redeem. The treasure that he can rightfully claim as his.

… Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:13b-14 (NASB)

The Greek word translated “possession” in the above verse is periousios, which means peculiar in the sense of special, or one’s own. H. Preisker has written that “Christ’s work of redemption has created for God a people that is a costly possession or special treasure.”[i] A treasure for whom Jesus joyfully went and “sold” all he had, for whom he sacrificed all.

… who for the joy set before him endured the cross … (Hebrews 12:2)

.. who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 NASB)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

You were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV)

Can you see yourself as a special treasure? You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life. A treasure he has pulled up out of that hole in the ground. A treasure who has, through his death on the cross, been resurrected out of the grave to new life, new value, new hope. You, yes you, are his precious treasure.

“You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 (NIV)

 

Photo by Puuikibeach on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/DyTeW1

This post is also available as a Bible study, freely available for use at Buried Treasure Bible Study

 

[i] Preisker, Herbert, “periousios,” in Gerhard Friedrich, ed., and Geoffrey Bromiley, trans. and ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), VI, p. 57.

Come For To Die

I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky[i]

Looking back, I am always amazed that I went to church my whole life, I was in the choir and loved the old hymns, and I sang all the Christmas songs in the candle-light services. I heard the story about his birth, and about there being no room and the shepherds and wise men and angels. I stood transfixed before the pathos of the manger scene in the park across the street from the church – but I never really knew why Jesus came. I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

It wasn’t until I was 21 years old, and I heard a message about the blood of Jesus, that I finally understood.

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I

Believe it or not, I had never got the message about the necessity and power of the Blood. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all us “poor on’ry people.” The blood sacrifice, once and for all, for the sins of all the world that were ever committed, or ever would be. Prefigured in the Old Testament in the Passover in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over the house painted with the blood of the sacrificial lamb (Exodus 12:22-23). Prophesied in Isaiah 53 that He would carry our sins and pains and sicknesses to death.

From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins––that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. Isaiah 53:8-10 (NLT)

“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him.” That was the plan all along, and he knew it. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV) He didn’t come to be a good role model – though he was, the best. He came to set us free from the overwhelming burden of our guilt and sin, to reconcile us to the Father, to bring us home where we belong.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” Hebrews 10:4-7 (NLT)

Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord Jesus that you came for to die! Thank you that you came to be the offering for sin that I might be a child of God and heir to your Kingdom! I will forever be in wonder at the miracle of your amazing grace!

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you. 1 Peter 1:18-20 (NLT)

[i] From I Wonder as I Wander, by John Jacob Niles

This blog is also available as a Bible study, free to use and distribute Come for to Die Bible Study

Image in the Public Domain

Imprisoned

Instead of vaporizing us rebels he put us in protective custody. He gathered us into his loving net.

For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. Romans 11:32 (NLT)

God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience – that really struck me. Another way you could say that is that God has made disobedience a prison for all people. It might not seem like it, but he did this because he loves us and wanted to have mercy on us. He could have set up the universe so that disobedience resulted in – boing! – being flung out into space. Or he could have made it so that disobedience resulted in immediate vaporization. Zap! You’re gone.

But instead he made it so that disobedience to God becomes a prison. We have all experienced that prison – addictions, compulsions, obsessions, uncontrollable emotions and urges, those loud voices in our heads building razor-wire-topped walls. Romans 7:24 (NLT) cries out, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” But what does the next verse answer? “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” The way out of our prison is surrender to the one who loves us and died for us that we might be set free.

Because the amazing thing is that God did not fashion our disobedience into a prison to have a “so there!” retribution for our turning away from him, or so that he could have some kind of “see I told you so” triumph over us. But, he did it so he could have mercy! God is love and he longs to love us, he longs to have mercy on us. Instead of vaporizing us rebels he put us in protective custody. He gathered us into his loving net.

That Greek word translated “imprisoned” in the above verse is sugkleio. It means to shut up together, embrace in a common subjection, enclose. It is used to describe fish caught in a net, as in Luke 5:6 (NIV).

When they had done so, they caught (sugkleio) such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

Yes! Hallelujah! Instead of flinging us away into annihilation he has embraced us, enclosed us, caught us in his loving net. If right now you feel like you are flopping around, trapped, gasping for breath, surrender to the one who loves you, who came and died that you might be set free.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (be lost, ruined, destroyed, abolished) but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

My eyes are continually toward the LORD, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15 (NASB)

 

This post is also a Bible study available for free use at Imprisoned Bible Study

 

Image by Melanie Dabovich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Happy to Be Odd

It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 (NLT)

The Holy Spirit highlighted two verses to me this morning in my devotional time. One was the above verse and the other was Psalm 107:30 (NLT):

He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!

I have been in a perfect storm of human effort lately trying to take care of hurting and helpless family members. So, these verses meant a lot to me. But there was more (always more grace from God!). After reading and praying each morning I then catch up on the blogs I follow. The following snippets are quotes from my inbox. Do you think the Lord is trying to tell me something? (A rhetorical question accompanied by a big smile.)

Lord, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our work for us. Isaiah 26:12 (NIV)

“Oddly, God loves to choose the most unlikely, untrained, and imperfect folks to accomplish amazing things … the actual work will be done by God’s Spirit through you and me doing things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.” Jim Cymbala, God Uses the Flawed

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

“This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated.” My Utmost for His Highest

Yes Lord, I am tired and frustrated, but I offer myself to serve again today. Let me, odd and imperfect as I am, be the one you work through today. Let your power be made perfect in my weakness. Let me learn to rest in your safe harbor as you do all my work for me, for my human effort accomplishes nothing eternally. May your love and life pour out of me today to those you love. Thank you for your Word and for encouragement from your sweet followers.

 

Many thanks to Beholding Him Ministries, My Utmost for His Highest, and World Challenge.

Just to let you know … Hidden Treasure Bible Studies

One of my goals this year is to create Bible studies from my blog posts and offer them freely for use in your Bible study group. Please give credit for images if rights noted. I have a few up now at Hidden Treasure Bible Studies. These have been used in our Bible study at the jail. I will continue adding more as the year progresses. The ladies are so hungry. God loves them so much!

To Discover, All Along, to Whom I Belong

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these … Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:14, 16 (NIV)

God has been speaking to me about identity lately. Who am I? What is my real identity as God sees me. Matthew chapter 19 contrasts two different identities. A little child, who is totally dependent for food, clothing, everything. A little child whose identity is in his family – I am somebody’s child; I am somebody’s sister or brother. A little child who clings to his mother and father because they are life itself. A little child aware of his helplessness.

The other person is a very self-sufficient young man intent on building his own identity – what must I do? The child possesses very little, if anything. In fact, especially in those times, a child was legally considered a possession, whereas the rich young man saw himself as having many possessions. To one, the Kingdom is freely given, the other is intent on getting it – what must I do to get? The Greek word means to have i.e. own, possess. His identity was bound up in his doing and his possessions.

The children were invited to simply come to Jesus and the Kingdom was given them. Jesus invited the young man to enter also, to come and follow – but he would have to leave the possessions and the doings, his present identity, outside. He would need to become a dependent child, and that was something he felt he could not do.

For most of us, our identities are broken, the result of rejection and based on hurtful lies we have taken down deep into our souls. I am not (good, pretty, smart, etc.) enough. I am a disappointment. And worse, much worse. We spend our whole lives rebuilding our broken identities by doing, performing, acquiring. Trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations. Trying to be somebody that could be loved and accepted. Performing in the crazy, imaginary theatre in other people’s heads. Or, completely rejecting them all, thumbing our nose at everyone. Either way, writing our scripts and collecting all the props and costumes needed to play the part we choose. I become the book person, or the cat person, the financially successful person. I am the wise professor, the talented musician or mechanic, I am the good prayer warrior, the effective evangelist, the humble servant of Christ. None of those things are bad. Just like the rich young man, we may be doing everything right, but our identities are built on the wrong foundation. I am significant because of what I can do, what I can “get.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen† has written of how self-rejection is the enemy of our true identity. “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection … Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

Our core, the essence of our being is our identity – who I am, who I was made to be. Anne Voskamp in The Broken Way writes – “at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – in other words, to give in and accept the world’s definition of our identity, or to stand defiant and create my own. But, listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying martyrdom, trying to create my own acceptable identity – is sin and deadly. “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God … Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God). My identity is not what I “must do” or what I “get,” like the rich young man in Matthew 19. My identity is found in simply accepting the invitation to come and be.

I must receive my true identity as His little child, totally dependent on Him for strength, faith, life, breath, food on the table, shelter over my head, talents and gifts. I’m realizing that even the words that come out of my mouth when I pray for someone, the love in my heart for them, the willingness and passion to serve – it all comes from Him – everything. At least the part that brings life to others. Otherwise, it is just me doing and getting for myself.

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Lord, I pray that you would be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value, all my significance. A dear friend once prayed for me that I would “discover, all along, to whom I belong.” I believe God is answering that prayer. I am finally opening the Invitation.

I am a child of God 

I am beloved 

I am precious in His sight 

I am His 

And you also are among those who are called (invited) to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6 (NIV) 

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
With faith like a child
from Like a Child by Jars of Clay

 

† You are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living. 2017, p. 12.

The image is a photograph of me with my beloved Mom.

This blog post has been revised into a Bible study which may be freely used and copied. It can be accessed at Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here.

The Last Adam

Could it be that, as the first Adam who sinned was made from the dust, this last perfect, sinless Adam would be crushed back into dust so that, through Him, humankind might be remade, reformed, become new creatures, transformed?

Surely (truly, verily, indeed) he took up (lifted up, bore) our infirmities (malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness) and [He himself] carried (bore, was laden or burdened with) our sorrows (anguish, figuratively affliction, grief, pain, sorrow), yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted (chastened, humbled, humiliated). But he was pierced (chalal) for our transgressions, he was crushed (daka) for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on (paga) him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)

The verses of Isaiah 53 are familiar as describing the Messiah, Jesus, and what he would do for us in his suffering on the cross. They are beautiful verses, full of wonderful promises, and I have read them many times over the years. But, this last time as I looked closer at the Hebrew meanings of the three words highlighted above – chalal, daka, paga – I saw some things I had never seen before. I would like to look at them here, saving daka for the last.

First, chalal (חָלַל) is a heartbreaking word. Translated “pierced”, it means to wound fatally, bore through, pierce. But it also means to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, to treat as common. One way a person could be defiled in the Old Testament was through contact with the dead (Leviticus 21:4). We were dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1-6) yet Jesus had contact with us. He had contact with our pollution, our dirt. I like the image above. It’s messy and dirty. God got his hands dirty saving us. The sinless, perfect, unblemished Lamb of God allowed himself to be defiled, polluted, treated as a common criminal to carry our sins and rebellions to the cross, and there, do away with them (Isaiah 53:9, Luke 23:33). Not only did God get dirty, he also allowed his reputation to be destroyed. Psalm 8:9 proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name (reputation, fame, glory) in all the earth!” Yet, he laid it all down to completely identify with us. The Bob Carlile song calls Him a “Man of No Reputation.”[1]

The Hebrew word paga (פָּגַע) is translated here “laid upon” – God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. It means to lay upon or light upon, but it also means to cause to come between, cause to entreat, make intercession, meet together, pray, reach the mark. In laying on Jesus our iniquities, God caused Him to come between us and the justice due us from a righteous God. Jesus has become the Intercessor, entreating the Father for us, reaching the mark set by God for us – whereas we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”[2] – making the way for us to meet together, to come into His Presence.

Amazing grace! But it was the Hebrew verb translated “crushed” here – daka (דָּכָא) – that stunned me. It means to crumble, to bruise, beat to pieces, break in pieces, crush, destroy, humble, oppress, smite. The noun derivative of this word is dakka and literally means “dust.” It is used in Psalm 90, “You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men” (NIV). Could it be that, as the first Adam who sinned was made from the dust, this last perfect, sinless Adam would be crushed back into dust so that, through Him, humankind might be remade, reformed, become new creatures, transformed? “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV)

Could it be that Jesus, Son of God, became a human being so he could bear all the punishment and consequences of our rebellion against God? All the infirmities, malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness, sorrows, anguish, afflictions, and pain could be laid on Him? That He would become our sin there on the cross, and then would be crushed to dust so that the Potter could remake, reform humankind into a new creation?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8 (NASB)

But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. Jeremiah 18:4 (NLT)

Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:7 (NASB)

 

Image detail: By Earthen Potter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54699329

[1] Man of No Reputation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVJtfXLqFr0

[2] Romans 3:23

This blog is also a Bible study, free to use, at The Last Adam Bible Study