People have enjoyed treasure hunts through the ages. We’ve seen this interest manifested in letterboxing in the 1850s, party and television games in the 1950s, and, in a fashion, Pokemon Go in our own day.
This week’s texts from the Bible also take us on a treasure hunt. But this hunt is not one in which we find clues that lead us to material or virtual rewards. Rather it’s one that travels along the path of God’s words, in which we look for clues about direction in life, with the promise of a different, but perhaps richer sort of reward at the end of the hunt.
The journey begins in Exodus. We learn that God hears the cries of the people enslaved in Egypt, holds steadfast to the covenant, and acts purposefully to redeem them. God says to Moses, “I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you.” Further, the Divine directs Moses to tell Pharaoh to “let My people go, so they may serve Me.”
These words will drive Moses on his own long search. What does it mean to be God’s people? What does it mean that God will be God to us? And what does it mean to serve God? We’ll catch back up with Moses in future weeks.
For now, we’ll explore these questions on our own quick treasure hunt through the two passages from Prophets that accompany study this week.
In Isaiah, we see our first clue. God says something very important that responds directly to our questions: “But to this one will I look: to one who is humble and contrite of spirit and reverential of God’s word.”
So, who are such people, and who are not?
It is not people, we learn, who hypocritically go through the motions of religious ritual but mostly follow their own selfish ways and delight in doing things that are contemptible.
In Ezekiel, we find a similar message. God’s people are not those whose “heart is proud” and who think “I am a god.” Those whose “heart becomes haughty with wealth” often turn their spirit to commerce in ways in which they commit “wrongdoing” and become “filled with violence.” Their heart tends to “become haughty” because of a misplaced sense of “beauty,” and their wisdom is destroyed with misdirected “brightness.”
Happily, the hunt through these prophetic verses also gives us alternate, positive images, which direct us to the true treasure.
We find that those who serve God are those who answer God’s call. As we have learned elsewhere, they show their humility and contrition of spirit by loving others as they love themselves. They love God with all their heart, soul, and might. In so loving, they bring the cardinal virtues of righteousness, justice, loving-kindness, and compassion into the action of their lives and, thus, show themselves reverential of God’s word.
For them, the end of the hunt is in the land of spirit, in the soul, where God is present to us, where those who serve Divine purposes find birth, satiety, delight, consolation, peace, and rejoicing. In this treasured land, “they shall dwell upon it securely, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards and dwell securely.”