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January 17, (Day # 17) – Beautiful Treasures

From today’s readings, we find an impressive transformation that has taken place in Jacob’s life. Earlier, he left home as a great deceiver, but now, upon his return, he seems to have recognized the futility of his own deceptions, and subsequently, to have learned and repented from them - at least to some degree. Genesis 32:7 tells us that Jacob was “in great fear and distress.” But then, “Jacob prayed” (verse 9). We seldom know how trouble will come to us, but this time, Jacob’s solution for trouble’s visitation was the right one – and we should apply it as well. He prayed, and then he prepared to meet Esau. “That night” (verse 22), his personal encounter with God (i.e., through his all-night wrestling match) left him forever with a physical limp - the result of his spiritual battle that night. After my wife died, I remember going through my own similar spiritual struggles – in fear over my loss – “wrestling” with God for over a month in prayer. I feared His abandonment of me, too, and I cried out, “Lord! Please do not take Your presence from me; do not forsake me or let me go!” Today, removed from my dearest friend and faithful partner, I feel almost like I have just been “limping” along in the Christian life. Like Jacob, “I am unworthy of all His faithful kindness” (Genesis 32:10), but God assures me daily that He is with me. Having contended with God, Jacob – not knowing what to expect – is now ready to face Esau (Genesis 33). Happily, we find that Esau, too, has softened over the years; “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him … and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). May God grant that all our reunions should be such memorable and beautiful treasures for us.

In Proverbs 2:1-11, we see that God wants us to search for “wisdom, understanding, and insight” (verses 2-3) with the same intensity that some people search “for silver or hidden treasure” (verse 4). Why? Because, in God’s mind, these beautiful treasures are intangibles of greater worth than material wealth, and they help us “understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (verse 5). In the light of eternity, what could be more valuable than to know God truly and to worship Him acceptably – to know His approval? Proverbs 2:6-11 reveals God’s gifts to us – He gives “wisdom, knowledge, understanding,” and notice what He does and is – “He holds victory” for us; “He is a shield” for us; and “He guards and protects” us (verses 6-8). Wisdom calls out for us to beseech God for truth, wisdom, understanding, insight, knowledge, discernment, and discretion (cf., verses 9-11). For people who lack these beautiful treasures, James give us his solution – “you do not have, because you do not ask” (cf., James 1:5 and 4:2).

In Matthew 12:22-45, we see how the Pharisees made the preposterous claimed that Jesus was “driving out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons” (verse 24). Jesus pointed out how absurd and illogical their claim was and how dangerously close they were to the sin that cannot be forgiven - “blasphemy against the Spirit” (verses 22-32). Jesus used the same language that John the Baptist used to identify them properly: “You brood of vipers” (cf., Matthew 3:7 and 12:34) – indicating that they were, in fact, the offspring of Satan (cf., John 8:44-45). Later, in verses 38-42, Jesus validates the history and the events of Jonah the prophet by declaring that the only sign that Jesus would give to authenticate His own ministry was the sign of Jonah. Like Jonah, who was three days in the belly of the fish, Jesus would be three days “in the heart of the earth” (verse 40). Jesus denounced that “generation” for its failure to heed the signs it was given, and He says that “the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South would rise up in the judgment to condemn that generation” (verses 41-42). Missing the beautiful treasure of an important sign can be both dangerous and deadly. As we observed the other day, we need to be careful to thank our merciful, gracious God Who reveals truthfully to us the signs that we need to find that stairway to heaven.

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