God’s surprising Treasure
The scriptures which speak to us this evening/morning have a number good news or gospel phrases. That is, positive statements made our direction from our gracious God. At various portions in Deuteronomy 7 God’s people are described as a chosen people, a treasured possession, loved, redeemed, and part of God’s covenant. The questions is why? Now, as we ponder that question this evening/morning let me suggest that the way God uses these phrases are often offensive to our “natural” way of looking at things. In other words we think God considers us because of something in us.
Imagine this scenario. A gentleman is about to propose marriage, and he has gone over what he is going to say many times. Finally the moment arrives, he gets on his knees looks into his beloved’s eyes and says… “Ginger, you know your not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and your one of the more unattractive ladies I’ve every met. Let me rephrase, you are in fact the most unattractive person I’ve ever met, but I love you. When I’m in your presence you look a whole better, and I promise that I’ll keep loving you forever. I consider you an unbelievable treasure. Will you marry me.” Now unless Ginger can easily look past the “the world’s worst marriage proposal”, I’m thinking this gentleman may have to look elsewhere for a life time of companionship.
Listen to these words, and hear the similarities between this and the previous marriage proposal. “It was not because you were more in number than any people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand”. The people of God, then, and the people God today are not part of Christ’s redeemed family because of something in them. You were the fewest of all peoples. If God wanted adulation from great numbers maybe he should have chosen the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Assyrians. As a matter of fact he chose the least in numbers. God’s love for the Israelites was not based on their lovableness, their attractiveness, their ethical traits, or even their religious bent. Yet, the Lord calls them chosen, treasured, loved, redeem, and worth his covenant.
Deuteronomy 7 was written to a people that are seduced by the gods of those around them. Put simply, they fall into the peer pressure. Earlier in Deuteronomy 7 God says they are not to intermarry with other nations. Why? The husbands/wives will easily follow these foreign gods. Rather, they are to destroy the whole nation, and while we may be troubled by that, it at least describes the influence those with foreign gods can have on God’s people. It is as if in this section of Dueteronomy God is reminding them again, that they are a set apart people. A set apart people because they are deeply loved, and no other god, no matter what he / she or it promises can pull off this kind of love. Yet the pressure to fall into the beliefs of the culture are great.
A few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with young people designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test. Subsequently, each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the next to the longest line. The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised. Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group.
This remarkable conformity occurred in about 75% of the cases, and was true of small children and high-school students as well. Berenda concluded that, “Some people would rather conform than say and do what is right ,”
God first stated that the Israelites were his treasured possession in Exodus 19:6. Here is was about to give his commandments. Since that time they had forgotten their God in the golden calf incident. Which by the way was not a subtle, slow falling away from the true God, but a blatant worship of a false god. Since that time they also, had grumbled in desert about their desperate scenario. It got to the point that God sent snakes, and eventually he rescued them by providing a snake on a pole. What’s the point, they didn’t act like treasured possession, and yes they did face the consequences for this. However, notice what it says today, the reason you are my treasure is simply because I love you. God loves those who are the least in numbers, those who continually rebel, I love you. Even though the Israelites in many accounts between Exodus 19 and Duet 20 rebelled, they still were his treasured possession.
Now this means that we stand out in this world. Not only are we to act different, but we are in fact different. We belong to someone else. 1 Peter 1 says we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nations, a people belonging to God…..and latter he says “Dear friends, I urge then to live as strangers in the world. What does this mean? To a certain extent we are not going to fit in with those around us. We are going to insist on moral values that the world sounds strange. In a world addicted to sexual themes, we are going to stand up for marriage. We are called to both be assertive to confront sin, and free in offering forgiveness to those who have really wronged us. We are called to say no to things like pornography, living together outside of the marital covenant, not to the practice of homosexuality. We are not going to go the easy route and say “Am I my brothers keeper”, when the problems of our neighbor are around us” In a world which says all religion are essentially the same, we are going to insist that only through Jesus is redemption and life everlasting both available and part of our life.
Why? Because of our relationship with a God who insists on purchasing us for himself on the cross. Because we have a God who treasures those who because of sin, are anything but treasures. Because we have a God, who has predestined, called and enlightened us. Because we have a God who has promised neither death, nor life, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation will separate us from his love.
Surprise, as a confessor of Jesus Christ, right now you are our Lord’s treasure possession. Why? Well with him around, you and I look a whole lot better, even holy. To him be the glory both now and forevermore. Amen. ,