Julie Andrews sang “A few of my favorite things” in The Sound of Music. What are some of your favorite things? This answer will vary widely among us all, but whatever it is will capture our focus, time and resources. Some of our favorite things will even capture our heart. Jesus cautioned us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Matthew 6:21.
This was certainly the case with the Hebrews in Jerusalem during the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry. Israel was very scattered in her focus, but primarily on foreign gods. So much so, that God instructed Jeremiah, in chapter 13, to bury a loincloth, then several days later sent him to retrieve it in order for the people to have a picture of their misguided treasure hunting. When he pulled the loincloth from the dirt it was “spoiled” according to the scripture.
God then said, “Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.” God the Father declared his children had become useless to the Kingdom because of their divided focus.
This was so upsetting to the Father because he had made them to “be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.” The end result of their bad treasure hunting was the fall of Israel in 587 B.C. when they were carried off to Babylon for 70 years of exile. Indeed, God is our Father and does discipline his children.
Later, Jeremiah, in chapter 29, carried a message of hope to the people. “10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord.”
Here is the lesson: In 722 B.C. the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in military defeat scattering them to a point they were no longer a nation as God disciplined them to the extreme end of the promised curse for their bad treasure hunting practices which took them away from him. Did the Southern Kingdom pay attention? Or learn from that? Apparently not, as they similarly fell just over 100 years later. Therefore, for us in 2019, we must ask ourselves if we are paying attention.
Hebrews 12:6 reminds us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Admittedly, none of us run to discipline with open arms begging for more. Yet, all of us will agree that if it were not for discipline, we would be a mess, both physically and spiritually. It is therefore great news to hear in the Hebrews verse that the Father corrects us because he loves us. He said he has divine plans for us, not for evil. Plans for a future full of hope.
What great news indeed! It is so encouraging to know that when we stray after the wrong treasure, he remains and welcomes us back like the prodigal son. But this joyous return does not just happen because words fall from our lips or we think good thoughts or have good intentions. He says in Jeremiah 29:12-13 we are to call on him, to pray to him and to seek him, then, he will hear us and make himself able to be found by us, if we do so with all of our heart.
God wants true believers, that is–the church, to be his people. He is not hiding. He has never left. Consider it may be you who has left your first true love, Jesus. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. Are you hunting for eternal treasure in your relationship with Jesus? Do more than just take note of the lesson of Israel, embrace it and act on it. Return with repentance by calling on him, pray for grace and forgiveness, direct your hunting to seeking him alone and do all these things with all your heart. God promises to show up!