Day 19

The Most Valuable Thing in the World

Wisdom Psalm 11:1-7
New Testament Matthew 13:36-58
Old Testament Genesis 38:1-39:23

Introduction

Raj was one of six children born into a wealthy Brahmin family - the highest caste in the Indian caste system.

At the age of twenty-three, Raj encountered Jesus. His family disinherited him. They cut him off. As far as they were concerned he was dead. They even held a funeral service for him. Neither his parents, nor his brothers and sisters have ever spoken to him again.

For several weeks he wandered around the streets of Bangalore. He had virtually no food to eat. He walked all day and slept in the park at night.

He started a new life. He began to speak about his new-found faith. Through him, many other people encountered Jesus. For several years he was the National Director of Alpha in India. He says that he has had a blessed life and that God has more than compensated for his losses. Although he left ‘everything’, in Jesus Christ he found the ‘pearl… of great value’ (Matthew 13:45–46).

Relationships are our most valuable possession. But there is one special relationship for which you were created. This is the most valuable pearl of all. It is worth selling ‘everything’ in order to get hold of it.

Wisdom

Psalm 11:1-7

For the director of music. Of David.

  1 In the Lord I take refuge.
   How then can you say to me:
   “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
  2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
   they set their arrows against the strings
  to shoot from the shadows
   at the upright in heart.
  3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
   what can the righteous do?”

  4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
   the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
  He observes everyone on earth;
   his eyes examine them.
  5 The Lord examines the righteous,
   but the wicked, those who love violence,
   he hates with a passion.
  6 On the wicked he will rain
   fiery coals and burning sulfur;
   a scorching wind will be their lot.

  7 For the Lord is righteous,
   he loves justice;
   the upright will see his face.

Commentary

The intimate presence of God

Even at the most difficult time of your life you can experience the intimate presence of God. David was in a crisis. He was advised to run away and hide in the mountains. His response was to say, ‘I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now?’ (v.1, MSG).

David starts by saying, ‘In the Lord I take refuge’ (v.1). He also finishes by focusing on a relationship with God, with the promise that the upright ‘will see his face’ (v.7). David uses metaphorical language to paint a picture of the intimate presence of the Lord.

His experience and desire for a relationship with God brackets the beginning and end of the psalm. There is no safer place, nothing more valuable in life and nothing that this world offers that can compare with the intimate presence of God – seeing his face.

Prayer

Lord, today I want to see your face. I ask you to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart with your intimate presence.

New Testament

Matthew 13:36-58

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

A Prophet Without Honor

53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Commentary

Knowing God’s Son

Some people are desperately searching and then find Jesus. Others, like me, almost stumble into finding him. But once you have found the treasure it is worth giving up everything else.

In between the parable of the weeds and the parable of the net, Jesus tells two very short parables about discovering the kingdom (vv.44–46). The only difference between the two is that in one case the person was actively searching (v.45) and in the other he seemed to stumble across it (v.44). In both, there is something of enormous value (‘treasure’ v.44, ‘fine pearls’ v.45). In both cases it was worth selling everything to get it (vv.44,46).

This is where true ‘joy’ (v.44), real ‘treasure’ (v.44) and ‘great value’ (v.46) are to be found. The kingdom of heaven is all about knowing the King. It is all about Jesus and how you respond to him. How everyone responds to Jesus really matters both for this life and beyond.

When you consider all the evil in the world, do you ever wonder why God does not deal with it straight away and get rid of it? In the parable of the weeds the servant wants to pull up the weeds, but his master refuses (vv.28–29). A judgment will come (vv.36–43,47–50).

He warns about the fate of those who cause sin and all who do evil (vv.41,49–50). He says of the weeds that God will ‘pitch them in the trash’ (v.41, MSG) and that he will ‘cull the bad fish and throw them in the garbage’ (vv.49–50, MSG). He promises on that day that you ‘the righteous’ (made right with God through Jesus) ‘will shine like the sun in the kingdom of [your] Father’ (v.43). It is your relationship with God that causes you to shine and it means that one day you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of God.

But God won’t allow the destruction of all that is evil yet. He wants to gather all the wheat into his barn. He deliberately allows a delay until ‘the end of the age’ (v.39), so that more people have time to respond to the good news about Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that a relationship with you is the pearl of great value. Keep me close to you and help me to avoid anything that draws me away from our relationship.

Old Testament

Genesis 38:1-39:23

Judah and Tamar

38 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. 2 There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. 4 She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. 5 She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.

“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”

“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”

“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”

24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”

Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah. ” And he did not sleep with her again.

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

39 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

2 The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Commentary

Experiencing God’s blessing

Are your circumstances far from ideal at the moment? For example, do you feel confined by them? Do you wish you were in a different job, a different place, or a different relationship? Whatever your circumstances, this passage shows that if you stay faithful to God you can experience his presence, his favour and his blessing right where you are.

We see here a contrast between Judah’s unfaithfulness and hypocrisy and Joseph’s faithfulness when faced with sexual temptation.

Judah, vulnerable after the death of his wife, fell into sin. His own daughter-in-law, Tamar, posed as a prostitute and he slept with her. As a pledge, he left his seal and its cord and a staff. She became pregnant by him (38:1–18).

When he heard that his daughter-in-law was guilty of prostitution and as a result had become pregnant, Judah said, ‘Bring her out and have her burned to death!’ (v.24). She then produced what he had left behind: the ‘seal and cord and staff’ (v.25). Judah was caught out. He realised his own hypocrisy and sin (v.26).

The grace of God is extraordinary. Perez, one of the sons born as a result of this incident, is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (see Matthew 1:3). In his grace, God takes what the devil intended for evil and uses it for good.

Judah’s sin is contrasted with Joseph’s righteousness: ‘The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered’ (Genesis 39:2). Potiphar, who saw that the Lord was with him and had given him success in everything he did, put him in charge of his entire household (v.4). As a result, the Lord blessed his household (v.5).

The expression, ‘The Lord was with [Joseph]’ appears four times in this passage (39:2,3,21,23). However, the fact that the Lord is with you does not stop you facing temptation. Joseph faced great temptation. Potiphar’s wife tried to entice him to come to bed with her. He absolutely refused.

He saw that giving in to this temptation would be a sin against God and against his employer, Potiphar: ‘How could I violate his trust and sin against God?’ (v.9, MSG). Not only did he refuse to go to bed with her, he refused even to be anywhere near that temptation (v.10).

Joseph shows us a great example of how to deal with temptation. The best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (2 Timothy 2:22). If you are facing great temptation, take radical action. Like Joseph, run from it.

Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph by his cloak and said again, ‘“Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house’ (Genesis 39:12).

Look at the contrast with Judah. Judah left his seal, cord and staff in Tamar’s hands. It was the evidence of his guilt. Joseph left his cloak in Potiphar's wife's hands. She used it to prove his guilt, although in fact it was the evidence of his innocence.

In spite of the fact that ‘the Lord was with Joseph’, having resisted temptation, he then suffered terrible injustice (v.19 onwards) and ended up confined in prison (v.20). He lost his liberty but not his freedom.

Even in prison, the Lord was with him. He ‘showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden’ (v.21). ‘The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners – he ended up managing the whole operation’ (v.22, MSG) – ‘Because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did’ (v.23).

Your circumstances may not be ideal. You might feel like you are in prison – literally in prison, or confined like a prisoner in your job, a health issue, a difficult relationship or other circumstances. Yet in the midst of all this, if you stay faithful to God, you can experience his presence with you, his favour in the sight of others, and his blessing on your life. This is the ‘pearl… of great value’ (Matthew 13:45–46). This is the most valuable thing in the world.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that even when things seem to be going wrong and there are trials and temptations, I can know that you are with me and experience your blessing on my life.

Pippa adds

Genesis 39:1–23

You can’t keep a good person down. God was with Joseph even when everything went wrong. He did not necessarily rescue him from it, but he did use it for good. God was working on Joseph’s character. It was all part of his preparation.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 11:1

'In the Lord I take refuge…'

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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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