“The heavenly treasure and the pearl of great price”


Wednesday (August 1): Scripture:  

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.

Meditation: What do you most treasure and how do you keep it secure? 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 everything else he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough money to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom 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. 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 (Matthew 7:6). 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.If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty (Job 22:22-23).  Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?

“Lord Jesus, reveal to me the true riches of your kingdom. Help me to set my heart on you alone as the treasure beyond compare with any other. Free my heart of any inordinate desires or attachment to other things that I may freely give to you all that I have in joy and gratitude for all that you have given to me. May I always find joy and delight in your presence.”

Psalm 59:1-4, 10, 16-17

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God, protect me from those who rise up against me,
2 deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men band themselves against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Rouse yourself, come to my help, and see!
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me; my God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
16 But I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.  For you hast been to me a fortress  and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

“The righteous will shine like the sun in the Father’s kingdom”


Tuesday (July 31):  Scripture:  Matthew 13:36-43

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the  field.” 37 He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Meditation: Are you quick to judge the faults of others? Jesus’ parable teaches us patience lest we judge before the time is right. Jesus also warns that there is an enemy who seeks to destroy the good seed of his word before it can bear fruit. Both good and evil can be sown in our hearts like tiny seeds which germinate, and in due time yield a harvest of good or bad fruit. We must stand guard lest evil take root in our hearts and corrupt us. Charles Read said: “Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” In the day of judgment each will reap what he or she has sown in this life. Those who sow good will shine in the kingdom of their Father. They will radiate with the beauty, joy, and fulness of God’s love. Do you allow the love of Jesus Christ to rule in your heart, thoughts, and actions?

“Lord Jesus, may your all-consuming love rule in my heart and transform my life that I may sow what is good, worthy, and pleasing to you.”

Psalm 79:8-13

8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;  deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”  Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants  be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 Then we your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you for ever;  from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

What the kingdom of heaven is like


Monday (July 30):  Scripture: 

31 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” 34 All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Meditation: What can mustard seeds and leaven teach us about the kingdom of God? The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of  men and women who are receptive to God’s word.  And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Leaven is another powerful agent of change. A lump of dough left to itself remains just what it is, a lump of dough. But when the leaven is added to it a transformation takes place which produces rich and wholesome bread when heated – the staple of life for humans. The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield our lives to Jesus Christ and allow his word to take root in our heart, we are transformed and made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Paul the Apostle says, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

“Heavenly Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory.”

Psalm 145:8-9,15-18

8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

“They saw the signs which Jesus did”


Sunday (July 29): Scripture: John 6:1-15

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiber’i-as. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as  they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Meditation: Can anything on this earth truly satisfy the deepest longing and hunger we experience for God? A great multitude had gathered to hear Jesus, no doubt because they were hungry for the word of life. Jesus’ disciples wanted to send them away at the end of the day because they did not have the resources to feed them. They even complained how much money it would take to feed such a crowd – at least six month’s wages! Jesus, the Bread of Life, took the little they had – five loaves and two fish – and giving thanks to his heavenly Father, distributed to all until they were satisfied of their hunger. The people of Israel had been waiting for the prophet whom Moses had promised: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren – him shall you heed (Deuteronomy 18:15). The signs which Jesus did, including the miraculous feeding of the five thousand signified that God has indeed sent him as anointed Prophet and King. Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. What is the significance of this miracle? The miraculous feeding of such a great multitude pointed to God’s provision of manna in the wilderness for the people of Israel under Moses’ leadership. This food foreshadowed the true heavenly bread which Jesus would offer his followers.

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience. The sign of the multiplication of the loaves when the Lord says the blessing, breaks, and distributes through his disciples prefigures the superabundance of the unique bread of his Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. When you approach the Table of the Lord, what do you expect to receive? Healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul? The Lord has much more for us, more than we can ask or imagine. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist is an intimate union with Christ. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens us in charity and enables us to break with disordered attachments to creatures and to be more firmly rooted in the love of Christ. Do you hunger for the “bread of life”?

The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness towards us. When God gives, he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves so that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. Do you trust in God’s provision for you and do you share freely with others, especially those who are in need?

“Lord Jesus, you satisfy the deepest longing of our heart and you feed us with the finest of wheat (Psalm 81:16). Fill me with gratitude and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others what you have given to me.”

Psalm 145:10-18

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the sons of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

“An enemy sowed weeds among the wheat”


Saturday (July 28):  Scripture:  

24 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, `An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, `No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be  burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Meditation: What can malicious weed-sowing tell us about the kingdom of God? The image Jesus uses here is a common everyday example of planting, harvesting, and sorting the good fruit from the bad. Weeds can spoil and even kill a good harvest if they are not separated and destroyed at the proper time. Uprooting them too early, though, can destroy the good plants in the process. Just as nature teaches us patience, so God’s patience also teaches us to guard the word which he has planted in our hearts and to beware of the destructive force of sin and deception which can destroy it. God’s word brings life, but Satan, the father of lies, seeks to destroy the good seed which God plants in the hearts of those listen to his word. God’s judgment is not hasty, but it does come. And in the end, God will reward each according to what they have sown and reaped in this life. In that day God will separate the evil from the good. Do you allow God’s word to take deep root in your heart?

“Lord Jesus, may your word take deep root in my heart and that I may bear good fruit for your glory. May I hunger for your righteousness now that I may look forward to the day of judgment with joy rather than with dismay.”

Psalm 84:1-5,7,10

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;  my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! [Selah]
5 Blessed are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
7 They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God  than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

“The cares of the world choke the word”


Friday (July 27):  Scripture:  Matthew 13:18-23

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is  what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately  he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it  proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Meditation: How good are you at listening, especially for the word of God? God is ever ready to speak to each of us and to give us understanding of his word.  This parable of Jesus is a warning to those who hear and who preach the word of God. What makes us ineffective and unresponsive to God’s word? Preoccupation with other things can distract us from what is truly important and worthwhile. And  letting our hearts and minds be consumed with material things can easily weigh us down and draw us away from the treasure that lasts for eternity. God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart which is docile and ready to hear what God has to say. One lesson is clear: the harvest is sure.While some seed will fall by the wayside and some fall on shallow ground and never come to maturity, and some be choked to death by the thorns; nonetheless a harvest will come. The seed that falls on good soil, on the heart that is receptive, will reap abundant fruit. Are you teachable and eager to learn God’s truth? And do you allow anything to keep you from submitting to God’s word with joy and trusting obedience?

“Lord Jesus, help me to guard the word you have planted in my heart that no doubt or temptation may keep me from believing and obeying you. May I be fruitful in your service and may I never fear to speak of you to others and to share with them the good news of the gospel.”

Psalm 84:1-12

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;  my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! [Selah]
5 Blessed are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs;  the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! [Selah]
9 Behold our shield, O God; look upon the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God  than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in you!

“Many longed to see and hear what you hear”


Thursday (July 26):  Scripture:  Matthew 13:10-17

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  12 For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’  16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not  hear it.

Meditation:  Do you want to grow in your knowledge of God? Saint Augustine of Hippo once said: “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” Both faith and understanding are gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to hear God’s word with clarity so we can know God better and grow in the knowledge of his love and truth. Jesus, however, had to warn his disciples that not everyone would understand his teaching. The prophet Isaiah had warned that some would hear God’s word, but not believe, some would see God’s actions and miracles, and remained unconvinced. Ironically some of the greatest skeptics of Jesus’ teaching and miracles were the learned scribes and Pharisess who prided themselves on their knowledge of scripture and the law of Moses. They heard Jesus’ parables and saw the great signs and miracles which he performed, but they refused to accept both Jesus and his message. How could they “hear and never understand” and “see but never perceive”? They were spiritually blind and deaf because their hearts were closed and their minds were blocked by pride and prejudice. How could a man from Galilee, the supposed son of a carpenter, know more about God and his word, than these experts who devoted their lives to study and teaching?

There is only one thing that can open a closed, confused, and divided mind – a broken heart and humble spirit! The word disciple means one who is willing to learn and ready to submit to the wisdom and truth which comes from God. Psalm 119 expresses the joy and delight of a disciple who loves God’s word and who embraces it with trust and obedience. “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:97-99)

God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges their need for God and for his truth. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach God’s word with indifference, skepticism, and disbelief, then we, too, may “hear but not understand” and “see but not perceive.” God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit. If we want to hear and to understand God’s word, we must listen with reverence and faith. Do you believe God’s word and do you submit to it with trust and reverence?

Jerome, an early church bible scholar who lived between 342-419 AD, wrote: “You are reading [the scriptures]? No.Your betrothed is talking to you. It is your betrothed, that is, Christ, who is united with you. He tears you away from the solitude of the desert and brings you into his home, saying to you, ‘Enter into the joy of your Master.'”

“Holy Spirit, be my teacher and guide. Open my ears to hear God’s word and open my eyes to understand God’s action in my life. May my heart never grow dull and may my ears never tire of listening to the voice of Christ.”

Psalm 36:5-10

5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God, your judgments are like the great deep;  man and beast you save, O LORD.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!