Last week, we learned of the kingdom secrets that are often kept hidden for us in plain sight. God is constantly speaking to us and revealing Himself to us through His creation surrounding us. We found that we are stewards of those secrets and what God discloses to us about Him and His kingdom in secret, we are to share with those around us.
As we begin to casting off distractions and intentionally seek God, He will reveal His kingdom secrets to us.
This morning, we’re going to dig in and find that God also freely gives us priceless treasures straight from the kingdom of Heaven that we all too often miss, reject, and refuse. Why? Because often, these treasures do not come as we desire or would ever expect them to.
Last week, we discussed how often the best place to hide something is right out in the open in plain sight. This stands true as well for the kingdom treasures. These priceless treasures often come wrapped in the most common of packages and are delivered in the most common of situations that we see everyday.
We know from archaeological findings in the middle east that clay was an extremely common material and used for many things including note taking, receipts, pots and pans, dining utensils, pitchers, etc. Because clay was such a commonly used material, often people would to take their valuable possessions and place them in these same ordinary jars of clay so that if a thief were to enter their home, their valuables might be overlooked and not draw attention to themselves. Throughout history and still today, God still chooses the common things of His creation to place the treasures of His kingdom. In fact, from our very beginning, God formed Adam out of dirt and then breathed His very own breath of life into that pile of mud. Still even today, He chooses simple, common, and broken people like us to place within us the glory of His own presence through the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Just like those jars of clay that people used to store their valuables in, God uses us to store the treasures of the kingdom of Heaven within. His all-surpassing power moving in and through us proves to all who see that it is not at all us, these broken and weak jars of clay that are anything, but that it can be God alone who is at work within us.
With the upcoming Christmas holiday, we’re going to begin this morning through the account where the many prophetic words regarding the long awaited and coming savior was beginning to unfold. God sent out His agents on a mission and began doing His work all with perfect and precise execution. However, we find that even God’s salvation; the greatest treasure of all time, did not come as we would expect it to. Many of the Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, and teachers of the law who knew the Biblical prophecies with memorized perfection and eagerly watched in anticipation of the coming Messiah completely refused, rejected, and even murdered Him when He came.
We can’t by any means quickly dismiss this by looking down on these men in judgment and harsh criticism, because we all too often are guilty of the same. They at least knew the word of God and intentionally and diligently sought after it’s promises, which too many of us today fail to do even this. I believe that frequently, God freely hands us one of the priceless treasures of His kingdom and we choose to throw it away as we press ahead and continue to chase after the pleasures and treasures of this world instead; completely unaware of what we just gave up. We don’t want to miss out on anything that God has for us!
Take this story for example.
A father is checking out at a busy store all decorated for Christmas. The cashier looks over his purchase and comments that someone is going to be very happy this Christmas. The father mentions that he had sacrificed quite a bit for the purchase; working overtime, eating leftovers for lunch, and saving for a while now.
The father comes home and is greeted by his child. The father hands the child the gift from behind his back, very obviously excited with anticipation to see their reaction. The child simply says thanks with very little enthusiasm and tosses it aside. Then, they ask their father if they can go spend the night at their friend’s house.
Though we may not realize it, we all too often take for granted God’s many blessings that He pours out into our lives. I’m sure that there have been many times in our own life where we do this same thing to God. Often, we are so distracted by our immediate surrounding circumstances that we lose focus of the big picture of what God is trying to do. He hands us something so valuable to show just how much He cares about us and because it’s not what we want at the moment, we toss it aside without gratitude and ask Him about what we want. Unfortunately, we’ve all been guilty of it at times.
For example, God may be trying to give us the gift of patience. Patience is a priceless treasure that no amount of money in the world can purchase. However, when we’re forced to wait, we tend to get whiny and frustrated. Instead of seeking out and receiving the treasure of patience that the Lord is trying to give to us, we find shortcuts instead.
Maybe God is trying to give us the gift of faith. However, when things look impossible, instead of standing on the promises of God with all hope and receiving faith, we give up our hope and accept our circumstances; often even blaming God spitefully for them.
Many times God’s greatest gifts and treasures are released to us in ways that we would least expect it. Just as was the case last week in how necessary it is to have God’s perspective to be able to see His secrets revealed, it is also necessary to have God’s perspective to see the treasures that He is giving to us.
Right now in our lives, some situations that seem to be the absolute worst could just be the wrapping around one of the greatest gifts and treasures that God has ever given us. We just have to trust that our heavenly Father truly loves us and will ultimately work things together for our good. Sometimes, we just get too impatient while this good thing is being unwrapped to see the treasure through the pain and confusion. We know that you can’t accurately judge the contents or value of any wrapped gift accurately by its outside appearance. This is how it is in life as well. We can’t judge what God is doing while we’re in the middle of the storms of life and by their appearance, but have to wait until the storm has passed and the clouds are pulled back like wrapping paper.
Even as we see with the seasons of nature, God is fully able to bring about life in all of its beauty and awe in the springtime even from the death and stillness of winter if we just wait out the winter season trusting that it will come to an end.
However, sometimes we’re not in a season of waiting and unwrapping to receive God’s kingdom treasures. Sometimes we have already unwrapped them and received them and we just don’t realize at all what we have been given and how blessed we are. It reminds me a bit of these guys.
* Beverly Hillbillies Intro *
We just don’t see and realize the great riches that we’ve been given. We value the rabbit that we were hunting and are highly annoyed by the crude oil streaming all around us and the mess that it’s making. We just don’t value it because we don’t realize what it is. God’s kingdom treasure doesn’t look like what we are expecting it. Or sometimes we try to drag our hillbilly ways and perspectives into God’s kingdom culture. We still settle for picking up roadkill for dinner and wearing our torn up rags when we could set those old ways and things behind us and live in the luxuries and glory of what we’ve been given.
Let’s begin this morning to take a look at a few examples of the greatest moments in history where prophecy comes to pass and see how God moved and provided incredible treasures for us in a way that we would least expect Him to.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Here we find a couple who not only blamelessly obeyed and served the Lord themselves, but who both also came from families of priests who for generations, going the whole way back to when the priesthood was established, had spent their lives serving Him as well. However, they were very old and God had not permitted them to have children. We see that for most of their lives, they trusted God and served Him even though they didn’t receive an honest and good desire that they asked of Him. There is clear evidence that they never gave up on Him, never walked away from Him, never grew bitter with Him; but simply trusted Him. They did this even despite the disgrace and shame that they received from their own people because they were unable to have children.
Why would God allow them to lead such pure and integral lives and allow them to suffer shame and disgrace for so many years? Surely, we would think that He would bless and prosper such a life and honor their commitment to Him by fulfilling their prayers. This isn’t at all what we would expect from God. Well, the Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promises as we define slow. This couldn’t be any more so the case than with this. God did plan to give them a child and actually planned to entrust to them one of the most powerful and unique lives that ever existed. They would be entrusted to raise one who would receive the Holy Spirit even earlier in life than even Jesus Himself and also launch a ministry so powerful that it would transform a nation and prepare them to receive their Savior. A man who would baptize Jesus Himself, watch Him be filled with the Holy Spirit, and play a critical part in launching His public ministry. Sorry, I get ahead of myself.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Zechariah was just going to work as he usually did to perform all of the duties required by him when something amazing and miraculous happened.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Wow, can you imagine receiving this news? What an incredible calling on the life of your child before he is even born!
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
It seems to us like an honest question to ask. They were old and probably beyond the child bearing years. However, we need to take note that Zachariah had just been praying for a son and was told that his prayer had been answered. I’m sure that he had been praying for so long that it had somewhat become habit. When he heard from the angel that he would be receiving a son in his old age, I’m sure that he had a moment just like we all do. God promises us something so awesome and good and just a moment after we are filled with joy, the reality of our circumstances come to mind and our joy is displaced by doubt and we question God. However, God is still good to him and still true to His promise and gives this incredible gift to him despite his doubt. However, his doubt doesn’t occur without the loving discipline of the Lord. Even the discipline which he receives serves as a sign that God had visited him.
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Gabriel didn’t take any time to reason with Zechariah or try and convince him. His job was to deliver the good news. Now we see God move in yet another unexpected way; He makes Zechariah a mute because of his doubt. It’s easy for us knowing the rest of the account to just continue reading beyond this. However, imagine being Elizabeth and Zechariah. They lead blameless lives serving the Lord and yet lived in shame and disgrace because of their barrenness. Now on top of this, Zechariah comes out of the presence of the Lord mute. We know that throughout the ministry of Jesus, He didn’t leave people mute, but brought God’s kingdom to earth by loosing the hold of the enemy and allowing the mute to speak. We would not expect that an angel from God who is doing the will of God to make a man mute; we would think that this is the work of Satan and not of God.
The thought must have surely crossed the minds of the others that Zechariah and Elizabeth were living in some sort of disobedience to the Lord and receiving His discipline for it. The last thing that they would be thinking is that they are being richly rewarded by the Lord for their obedience and faithfulness through barrenness and becoming mute. Even after receiving the promise of having a son to remove their disgrace, they still had to walk in disgrace for another season.21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
It had to drive Zechariah crazy to have just experienced such an even and to not be able to communicate the details to his people. However, they knew that something big had happened and that God had shown him something by the way that Zechariah was making signs.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Just as God’s word always does, it went forth and came to pass exactly as it was told. It didn’t come as we would expect or anticipate it to, but it surely came to pass. Let’s next take a look at one of the greatest gifts ever to be given to us. This is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the Creator of all things, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel – God with us, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the very Word of God, Christ, Savior, Redeemer, The Lamb of God, The Good Shepherd, The Bread of Life, the Root of Jesse, the Light of the World, the Rock of Ages, the foundation, the corner stone, the great high priest, the Way, the Truth and the Way.
However, if we were there when He finally came, we would probably call Him by none of these titles… Just like John, He came and brought shame and disgrace to His mother.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Now, you have to stop and put yourself in the midst of Mary’s reality. Although we don’t know her exact age, scholars guesstimate that she was a young teenager at the time. The savior of the world coming like we would see today on an MTV show; ’16 and Pregnant’. Although it is becoming less and less frowned upon in our society, at this time, Mary could have been stoned to death for being unwed and pregnant. This placed them in the midst of very difficult circumstances. In fact, Matthew 1 reveals that Joseph planned to break up with her privately when he found out that she was pregnant. An angel had to come to him and tell him that the baby was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit. This is not at all the way in which we would anticipate God to bring His son and His salvation into the world. However, Isaiah did prophesy that the virgin would conceive and give birth to a son.
Now you can imagine, especially as a parent, how you might respond if your daughter comes to you and tells you that she is pregnant. That can be difficult enough to manage. However, can you imagine if she continues on to explain that she’s still honestly a virgin because it was the Holy Spirit who had impregnated her and that the baby was going to be named Jesus and Emmanuel because he is going to be God with us and take away all of the sins of the world? Yeah, I’m sure that their families responded in very much the same way. In fact, we see in John 7 that even as adults, Jesus’s own brothers did not believe that He was the promised Messiah.34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
Again, we see her ask the same question as Zechariah, ‘How?’. However, the angel decides to not discipline Mary as Gabriel did to Zechariah and rather offers an explanation of how it will occur. Again, we see reassurance that no word from God will ever fail. What awesome assurance we can have in His word and especially in His promises!
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
So here, we find two of the greatest treasures that have ever come from the kingdom of Heaven. The life of John the baptist and Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. However, when they arrived, they didn’t exactly come as we would expect or anticipate. For Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary, they knew just how precious these gifts were without doubt. They had received a kingdom secret straight from God’s messengers themselves, His angels.
This morning, I want to challenge everyone to take a situation that is happening in life that has you frustrated or perhaps just doesn’t make sense and set apart time with just you and God with no distractions and ask Him to show you what He is doing through it.
Commit to Him this verse. Even though what is happening doesn’t make sense, you will choose not to lean on your own understanding, but will trust in Him with your whole heart. Tell Him that you know that He is going to work all of these things out for our good as you trust in Him. Thank Him for the priceless kingdom treasure that He is giving to you and for being with you and for you no matter what happens. Ask Him to show you His glory and His goodness in this midst of this unwrapping season. Be patient with the Lord and don’t get frustrated for how long it is taking to unwrap this treasure, but keep anticipating a good thing from Him with full expectation.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.