Spiritual treasure

God’s promise to make Abraham into a great nation meant that his household would grow to such a significant size that it would be recognized as a distinct “group of individuals who are considered as a unit with respect to origin, language, land, jurisprudence, and government” (H1471). Abraham believed God would bless him, but didn’t understand how he could become a great nation if he didn’t have any children to inherit his possessions. He asked, “‘O Lord, GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:2-6).

The phrase “he counted it to him” (Genesis 15:6) “signifies a mental process whereby some course is planned or conceived. It means ‘to think, account, reckon, devise, plan” (H2803). The plan of salvation that God devised for Abraham and his descendants had to do with a spiritual accounting system that made it possible for someone else’s righteousness to be substituted for theirs. We know today the Savior God provided is Jesus, but Abraham wasn’t given the details of how his offspring was going to save the world. All Abraham knew was that he was going to have a son who would inherit everything he possessed, including the blessing that would ensure Christ’s birth.

Psalm 127:1 states, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” In this instance, building a house refers to a household, the members of one’s family. The Psalmist went on to say, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward, like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (Psalm 127:3-4). The Hebrew word that is translated heritage, nachalah (nakh-al-aw’) is properly translated as “something inherited” (H5159) and reward or sakar (saw-kawr’) in Hebrew means payment or more concretely salary (H7939). Therefore it might be said that children have a value associated with them and could be viewed as compensation for serving God.

In addition to Ishmael, who was born to him by means of intercourse with his wife’s servant Hagar, Abraham had six sons besides Isaac (Genesis 25:2). And yet, it says in Genesis 25:5, “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac.” This implies that Isaac inherited all his father’s earthly possessions when Abraham died, but what is not stated is that Isaac also inherited Abraham’s blessing from the LORD. It says in Genesis 25:11, “After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son.” The reason why he was treated as Abraham’s only son was because Isaac was the only son God had promised to give Abraham. Isaac was the result of the LORD building Abraham’s house and was a reward for his belief in God.

Jesus talked about spiritual rewards in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Jesus made it clear that believers will be rewarded in heaven and warned his followers not to pretend to be saved in order to get some benefit from God while they were still living. Practicing righteousness can be as simple as making a donation to a needy cause, which is a great thing to do, but Jesus said that won’t get you into heaven or make any difference in your spiritual bank account.

The primary issue Jesus had with people practicing their righteousness before other people in order to receive a reward from God was that they didn’t understand God’s method of giving. Jesus said, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4). The Greek word that is translated secret, kruptos (kroop-tos’) means concealed (G2927) and suggests that Jesus was referring to an eternal or spiritual reward.

God told Abraham that he would give his offspring a physical inheritance, but said the land would be possessed by them eternally. He said to him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:14-15). The Hebrew word translated forever, olam (o-lawm’) is properly translated as “concealed, i.e. the vanishing point” (H5769). Olam is derived from the word alam (aw-lam’) which means “to veil from sight” (H5956). It could be that God was telling Abraham his descendants would possess the land he was looking at in some sort of future spiritual state, perhaps in heaven, but more than likely, what God meant by possessing the land forever was that in eternity the physical and spiritual worlds will be reversed. In other words, what we can see now, the physical world we live in, will eventually disappear and be replaced by a spiritual version that looks the same, but will last forever.

Jesus pointed out that the rewards we receive now are not duplicated in heaven. Jesus said when we are praised by others for doing good deeds, that’s the only reward we will get (Matthew 6:2). Jesus also made a distinction between rewards that can be seen and what is concealed or done in secret. He said, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

The Greek word that is translated hypocrites, hupokrites (hoop-ok-ree-tace’) means “an actor under an assumed character (stage player)” (G5273). Essentially, what Jesus was saying was that you shouldn’t pretend to be a Christian if you’re not, but underlying his instruction to pray to God in secret was the idea that God doesn’t reward or answer meaningless prayers. If you want to get something from God, you have to ask him for it specifically and be clear about what you want him to do. Jesus gave this example of a satisfactory prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Jesus indicated that this simple prayer was sufficient because “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). In other words, the purpose of prayer is not to get our physical needs met, but to receive spiritual benefits from God.

The three things Jesus identified in his template for prayer were: daily bread, forgiveness of debts, and deliverance from evil. Each of these things can be viewed from both a physical and spiritual standpoint. Daily bread is obviously connected with food, but it can also refer to God’s word which is considered to be the believer’s spiritual nourishment (Matthew 4:4). Debts have a physical significance in that they are usually linked to property, but Jesus was most likely referring to debts as sins because he went on to say, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus’ final point about deliverance from evil probably had to do with sexual sins like adultery and fornication which involve the body, but can also do damage to one’s spiritual health.

Isaac and Rebekah demonstrated appropriate prayer when they sought God’s help to become pregnant. It says in Genesis 25:21, “And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” Similar to Abraham and Sarah’s situation, Rebekah was sterile and was not physically capable of conceiving a child (H6135). This might seem unusual since Rebekah was appointed by God to be Isaac’s wife (Genesis 24:14). Even though Isaac was blessed by God (Genesis 25:11), God didn’t make it possible for Isaac to have children by natural means. The fact that God granted Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah conceived suggests that they were being rewarded by God for their faith in the same way that Abraham and Sarah were.

Jesus instructed his disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus’ statement implies that there is such a thing as spiritual treasure, but he didn’t give us any details about what it looks like or what it consists of. The Greek word translated treasure, thesauros (thay-sow-ros’) means “a deposit, i.e. wealth” (G2344). Thesauros is derived from the word tithemi (tith-ay-mee) which means to place or to put and “is used of ‘appointment’ to any form of service” (G5087). It could be that there is a connection between the type of service we are involved in during our lives on Earth and the reward or treasure that we will receive when we get to heaven.

One of the things that seems to be evident from Jesus’ instruction to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven is that we can accumulate spiritual wealth in the same way that we can accumulate material wealth. From that standpoint, land, houses, furniture, and clothing might all be a part of our future spiritual life. On the other hand, Jesus warned his disciples that, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus went on to say, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

Jesus’ proclamation that life is more than food, and the body more than clothing (Matthew 6:25) was probably intended to point out that we need to prioritize how we spend our time while we are living on Earth. He went on to say, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33). The Greek word translated seek first, proton (pro’-ton) is derived from the word protos (pro’tos) which means “foremost (in time, place, order or importance)” (G4413). Jesus seemed to be saying that the only thing believers need to be concerned with is their relationship with Christ. If so, then salvation is only the first step in a believer’s lifelong quest to know God more intimately.

After Rebekah became pregnant, it says in Genesis 25:22, “The children struggled together within her, and she said, ‘If it is thus, why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD.” Rebekah didn’t understand what was going on, but since God had made her pregnant, she believed that he knew what was happening inside her, so she asked him to explain the situation. The Hebrew word that is translated inquire, darash (daw-rash’) is properly translated as “to tread or frequent; usually to follow (for pursuit or search)” (H1875). Darash “indicates a private seeking of God in prayer for direction.” Rebekah was doing what Jesus instructed his disciples to, “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall sever the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)

Rebekah didn’t know that she was having twins and that they would play a role in the establishment of contradictory cultures within Abraham’s household. Another way of explaining what was going to happen was that Rebekah’s twin sons would develop two different lifestyles that would result in a split or dividing up of the family’s spiritual and material wealth. The oldest, Esau pursued physical wealth, but his brother Jacob pursued spiritual treasure.

The New Life Version of Psalm 127:2 states, “You rise up early, and go to bed late, and work hard for your food, all for nothing. For the Lord gives to His loved ones even while they sleep.” The picture the Psalmist was portraying was that of a godless person’s useless effort to get rich. The phrase, “You rise up early” has to do with one’s effort to gain wealth apart from or in opposition to God’s sovereign will. The idea that the Lord gives to His loved ones even while they sleep suggests that there is no physical effort expended by them. All believers have to do is go about their normal daily activities and God will take care of their needs on a continual basis.

One part of the spiritual inheritance that was transferred from Abraham to Isaac was a birthright that entitled his first male child to a double portion of his estate. Since Esau and Jacob were male twins, they were both technically Isaac’s first born son, but because Esau came out of the womb first, he was given that privilege. Jacob wasn’t satisfied with that arrangement, so he used extortion to obtain the birthright for himself. Genesis 25:29-34 indicates that Isaac despised his birthright and sold it to his brother for a bowl of stew. It states:

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

It might seem that Esau had little regard for material possessions given that he was willing to give up his birthright to Jacob so easily, but what was behind Esau’s action was his belief that he didn’t need God’s help to become wealthy. Esau was a skilled hunter who was quite capable of providing for himself. Esau’s statement, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32) suggests that his appetites ruled his behavior and he was unwilling to wait even a short while to fulfill his need for food when he was hungry.

The sinful way that Jacob went about obtaining his brother’s birthright showed that it was very important to him. Jacob may have felt that he deserved to inherit more of his father’s possessions than his brother did, but what may have been his real motivation was Jacob’s desire to be his father’s favorite son. It says in Genesis 25:28, “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Isaac had a strong emotional attachment to Esau (H157), which means he probably ignored Jacob completely or gave him very little attention compared to his brother. Isaac was used to having all of his father Abraham’s love and adoration and may have replicated that kind relationship with his son Esau. As a result, Jacob was left to his own devices and was willing to take advantage of Esau’s situation in order to gain his father’s love.

Jacob might not have known that he had already been chosen by the LORD to be Isaac’s heir and it was God’s will for him to eventually triumph over his brother Esau. The prophecy that Rebekah received about her two sons indicated that Esau would serve Jacob (Genesis 25:23). The Hebrew word that is translated serve, `abad (aw-bad’) refers to work, but its underlying meaning has to do with having a relationship with God (H5647). What God might have meant when he said “the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23) was that Esau and his descendants would be dependent on Jacob’s family for their salvation because Jesus, their Messiah would be born through him.

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Spiritual treasure

Jesus used a series of parables to teach his disciples the exorbitant value of the kingdom of heaven. He said:

“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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have you understood all these things?”  They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:44-52, ESV)

A scribe was a person that had the ability to read and write and was responsible for maintaining the documents associated with the Jewish religion. Jesus likened a scribe that had received spiritual instruction about the meaning of the documents he was managing to someone that manages a household because the ability to teach God’s word comes from an understanding of how everything fits together. Jesus implied that the treasure of God’s word is found when you connect the dots or put together the timeless truths of both the Old and New Testaments.

Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-13) showed that the Bible teachers of his day were unwilling to make sense of what he was teaching them in light of the many prophecies that were given hundreds of years earlier about the coming of the Jews Messiah. It wasn’t that these men were unable to connect the dots, it was that they saw no value in the old Hebrew manuscripts and therefore, had missed the references to Jesus’ coming (Luke 16:1-2). The Jewish religious system had become outdated and needed to be refurbished, but there were no one willing to take on the challenge of searching through the Old Testament scriptures to discover the truth.

At the heart of the problem Jesus’ was addressing was a desire to obtain material wealth, rather than the riches of the kingdom of heaven. In Jesus’ parable, when the unjust steward was told he was going to be fired (Luke 16:2), he went to all his master’s debtors and reduced the amount they owed him (Luke 16:5-7), so that when the steward became unemployed, they would welcome him into their homes (Luke 16:4). Jesus commended the unjust steward, “because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8).

Jesus’ reference to “children of this world” and “children of light” (Luke 16:8) was not a distinction between believers and unbelievers. He was referring to believers that are using their worldly intelligence and experience to make decisions rather than spiritual discernment. The reason Jesus commended the man who used his practical skill to get himself out of trouble was because he had actually practiced a spiritual principle without knowing it, the forgiveness of debt. Jesus argued, “If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11). In other words, the real treasure of heaven or truth of God’s word is given to those who know what to do with it.