December 7, 2022 (The fourth day of the second week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure that has been buried in a field for safekeeping. After a time, when a man found it, he hid it again and in his joy went, sold all that he possessed and bought that field.’” (Matthew 13.44)
“In the presence of all these witnesses, I gave Baruch these instructions: This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says, ‘Take these documents which are both sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase for this land and put them in a jar of clay so they will last a long time because a day will come when houses, fields and vineyards will once again be available for sale.” (Jeremiah 32.13-15)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!
The title of this reflection should be “The Forgotten Treasure.” In the days of the prophets of Israel and Judah before the Exile in Babylon circa 700 B.C., it was the practice of burying treasure in the ground for safekeeping. This was done so that when the people returned, they would then dig up the treasure (usually accompanied by some deed) and lay claim to both the land and the treasure in it. Sadly, when it came to the Babylonian exile the time away usually exceeded the lifespan of the one who buried it. The result was that the “treasure” was forgotten and laid dormant until it was found by another. I have no intention of making some “stretch” applications so that I can poetically weave together Advent, Immanuel and the prophetic calls to a peace which is wrought by faith. I don’t have to as God’s Word already speaks in mighty ways to this very concept. One such example would be the song from David (Psalm 119) which declares “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” As most scholars will attest, this song was sung following the death of the son born to David and Bathsheba following their indiscretion and David’s order for Uriah to be sent to the battle front which increased the likelihood of death. You could say that David sought to “bury the truth” of his affair with Bathsheba with Uriah’s unfortunate but heroic death. Some will even say that David had no intention to even marry Bathsheba until he found out that she was with child, his child. It is a convoluted story which when dwelt upon in the season of Advent would stand counter to the story of Joseph who was betrothed to Mary, the beloved of God. In that story, Joseph sought to “bury the truth” by secretly divorcing her. This would have not resolved Mary’s presumed shame in the eyes of the community but it would have allowed Joseph to declare “I had no knowledge of her pregnancy.” Joseph would have been able to “wash his hands of the whole affair.” Except, for Joseph and David, the Lord laid claim to the treasure buried in that fertile ground as His own. He alone had the only right to say “who shall live and who shall die.” His justice would be done. The right of human response to that justice was to be obedient to the One who truly owned the field. Both David and Joseph repented in light of the Word of God presented to them (David from Nathan the prophet and Joseph from the angel Gabriel.) The lives of both children and their fathers would be forever changed because of their responses to “the truth which was hidden in their hearts.” David repented of the evil he had done (succumbing to the offer of temptation to be intimate with Bathsheba) and took her to be his wife. Their union would be blessed with other children, the most well-known being Solomon the Wise. Joseph repented of the evil he had considered (to put Mary far away from him) and took her to be his wife. Their spiritual union was the culture and climate in which Jesus was raised. We can say that both David and Joseph made peace with their situations in light of Immanuel, God with them and God within them.
In this season of Advent, I believe we need to make peace ourselves in response to the prophetic word which is buried in our heart, mind and soul. We can take our lead from the prophets Isaiah and Micah who shared a common prophetic utterance. The same word found in Isaiah 2 is also found in Micah 4. They were prophetic contemporaries in time but had different audiences and thus diverging messages. Isaiah was the prophet given to Jerusalem and the land of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, which surrounded it. Micah was the prophet of Israel and Samaria which essentially was the Northern Kingdom including Galilee and Nazareth to its furthest reaches. Isaiah speaks of the judgment and fall of a nation. Micah speaks of the restoration of a nation. In both messages the theme of peace exists where God’s rule is accepted and submitted to. In particular ways, it is the similar message we would find in the stories of David, judgment leading to reconciliation, and Joseph, reconciliation leading to restoration. Both journeys lead to peace. The point which I hope to present is that by faith the peace of God can full well exist. When David speaks of the “kingdom of heaven,” he is not talking about the heavenly realm where God sits on His throne and the earth is His footstool. Rather, he speaks of the kingdom on earth which is ruled by the peace and justice of heaven come down in faith to dwell among its citizens. It is “Immanuel,” God with us and within us. When Joseph’s awakened faith, which had been “buried in his heart” as David sang had become the truth for his own life, was uncovered by the word of God through Gabriel, settled in to his spirit he took right action. He took Mary and all that was within her, like the man who found a great treasure buried in a field, and claimed her for his own. He acted by faith by making peace with the Word that surpassed all understanding.
These are the messages which have been buried in our own hearts as well. How poignant are these messages on this particular day, December 7, when in 1941 the Imperial Navy and Air Forces attacked Pearl Harbor with the intent to never enter into war with the United States. It was an attack with the singular purpose of so devastating the American military presence in the Pacific that the United States would prove to be vulnerable on its west coast and beyond. It was an attack to illicit a call for surrender. Even today, we continue to memorialize the more than 2200 American men and women who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. In many of the battleships, the Arizona and the Oklahoma in particular, lives were lost that could never be recovered. They can be called treasures buried for a time of reconciliation and redemption. What we may too often forget is that they have been already because of the saving grace of God in Jesus the Christ. It is time that we recognize the power of the Word of God given to us. Its purpose is not to continue to treat a wound as if it is still fresh. To prick that wound is to keep it in a festering and infectious state of unhealing. Rather, the purpose of the Word of God is to bring us to a sense of healing and a peace that endures to all generations. Some called World War I “the War to End all Wars.” It didn’t. Why? Because “the forgotten treasure” of God’s Word is meant to remind us that the true “war to end all wars” was that which was found in 29 A.D. The evidence of the victory won that year by Jesus Christ is an empty cross and an empty tomb. The precursor to that victory was the one won in Bethlehem when shepherds and wisemen (who were representatives of kings of other nations) came to honor the Prince of Peace upon whose shoulders the governance of all worlds would be borne. Even now that stable is empty as evidence of a season of life which was begun there and continues to this day. They are the prophetic declarations of the truth which is meant to lead, guide and direct our lives daily to the close of this age, the Age of the Church born in and out of Jesus the Christ, God’s Son and Messiah and our Savior. When we celebrate Christmas Day following the Advent season of preparation to do so, we are living out the message of Immanuel- the peace that surpasses all understanding by faith in the One True God whose word is to be kept in our hearts and revealed in our lives for all the world to see, believe and declare as truth for their own.
Father, let there be peace on earth and let it live on through me. AMEN.