The Jewels of God

John Plunkett

November 2, 2015
Feast of Tabernacles: Day 6

Music can be very inspiring. 

Over our years in God's church, most of us have probably heard sermons and sermonettes that have been inspired by various pieces of music.  Often these inspired messages have been from classical pieces – mostly from sacred oratorios such as Haydn's "Creation," Mendelssohn's "Elijah," or Handel's "Messiah" with its wonderful "Hallelujah Chorus." 

But one morning a couple of years ago I was listening to CBC Radio 2, which used to be our Canadian national arts radio station.  In times past, most of the music played on Radio 2 was classical music.  

So, imagine my surprise that morning to hear the pretty voice of the well-known Bluegrass star, Alison Krauss.  But when I heard the lyrics to the song that she was singing, I was fascinated by them.  Here are those lyrics:

When He cometh to take up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning.
They will shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

He will gather the gems for His kingdom,
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Little children who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own…
Bright gems for his crown.

I later found a copy of the CD on which this song was included; and I discovered from the CD's sleeve notes that the song was written by William O. Cushing and George Root.  I thought I might do a search for these two composers on the Internet and perhaps e-mail one or both of them to ask what scriptures they used for their lovely song.  But my Internet research quickly revealed me that Mr. Root died in 1896 and Mr. Cushing followed him in 1902!  Alison Krauss had modified her version of the song from an old nineteenth century hymn. 

The lyrics appear to have been taken from three (perhaps more) familiar scriptures: Malachi 3:17, Matthew 24:31 and Zechariah 9:16, all of which we'll come to as we proceed.

The purpose of this sermon today, is to tell you how precious you are – you children too – to our great God – both to God the Father and to Jesus Christ.  You are more precious than any physical jewels – even the world's most expensive specimens!

When we think of the better-known precious stones, we tend to think of the well-known ones such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.  But the Bible mentions other kinds of gems, the value of which seems to have changed throughout the years.

I am not an expert on jewels, gemology (the science of gems) or lapidary (the art of cutting, polishing and engraving precious stones); but the late Fred Weir ( one of our local Church of God members who died some years ago) was something of an amateur expert.  Lapidary was one of the many hobbies Fred pursued during his long life.  In his will, Fred left his son fourteen lovely jewels called Asteriated Almandite, which are beautiful black, shiny stones with a tinge of red.  I had never heard of these gems, but we discovered that each one was worth about a thousand dollars.

Although a thousand dollars may be a lot of money to most of us, it is pocket change in the world of precious stones!  

As of the time of the writing of this sermon, the most expensive piece of jewelry in the whole world is a 24.78 carat diamond called the "Graff Pink."  It was sold in 2010 at Sotheby’s for 46.2 million dollars!

There are others that are even more valuable to that one; but will likely never come to auction because their historical value is absolutely priceless.

There is one called the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  It is 45.52 carats and was cut from an unprocessed stone of over 112 carats.  It came from the French crown jewels and was owned by Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette.

When we think of priceless precious stones, our thoughts must sooner or later turn to the fabulous British Crown Jewels.  They are located in the Tower of London in a very special vault called the "Jewel Room."  There is one crown among the British Crown Jewels called the "Imperial Crown of India", and this one crown contains 6,200 diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, all of which gemology experts describe as "remarkably fine."  One of these magnificent emeralds weighs 34 carats.

But there are other jewels that are intrinsically even more precious!  

When God planned His Tabernacle, He miraculously gave some special inspiration and talent to a man by the name of Bezaleel to look after the preparation of the jewels and their settings which were to adorn the tabernacle.  They must be some of the most beautiful and valuable stones ever:

Exodus 31
1:  And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
2:  "See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
3:  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
4:  To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
5:  And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship."

It appears that God attached quite a lot of importance to this special lapidary work for His tabernacle – a surprising amount of importance for a physical work – because we see that He had Moses repeat this information over again:

Exodus 35:
30:  And Moses said unto the children of Israel, "See, the LORD has called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
31:  And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
32:  And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
33:  And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work."

We can be reasonably sure that these precious stones and their settings were amongst the most beautiful the world has ever seen.  One item that God planned for the tabernacle and for His Aaronic priesthood was the visually stunning Breastplate of Judgment:

Exodus 28:
15:  And you shall make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod you shall make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shall you make it.
16:  Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof...

Please note that the bejewelled breastplate was made foursquare.  This detail will come up again later.  

17:  And you shall set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row.
18:  And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
19:  And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
20:  And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.
21:  And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.
22:  And you shall make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold.
23:  And you shall make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shall put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.

Many of the jewel types we read of in the Bible are unfamiliar to most people and are usually thought of as being merely semi-precious.  But I am absolutely positive that the ones that are mentioned here must have been truly valuable and very precious.

So how precious are God's children to Him?

The lyrics of Alison Krauss' song says that God's children are His precious jewels and, as we shall see, this is very true. 

I ask all of you parents, How precious are your children to you? 

But just how precious are we to God?   

Jesus tells us that God the Father loves all of His children to the same degree as He loves His Firstborn:

John 17:23:
I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me.  

This amazing fact is so hard for us to get our minds around.  Nevertheless, it is true.  

Please also consider God the Father’s great love for His children of physical Israel, those who constituted the first wife of Jesus when He was YHVH, and who were also the first daughter-in-law of God the Father.  He gave them the symbolic pet name of “Jerusalem.”  God the Father and Jesus lavished jewels on her – both physical and spiritual jewels.  See how He and His Son lavished riches upon His first daughter-in-law:

Ezekiel 16:
1:  Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2:  "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3:  And say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; "Your birth and your nativity is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite...
10:  I clothed you also with broidered work, and shod you with badgers’ skin, and I girded you about with fine linen, and I covered you with silk.
11:  I decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck.
12:  And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head.
13:  Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and you were exceeding beautiful, and you did prosper into a kingdom.

But she – Jesus' first wife – became vain, and her conduct became worse than that of the filthiest harlot.  She gave away her precious jewels which her faithful Husband had given her.  She used some of them in the construction of disgusting objects and heathen idols.  The remainder were ultimately stolen by her illicit lovers:

Ezekiel 16:
15: But you did trust in your own beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown, and poured out your fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
16:  And of your garments you did take, and decked your high places with divers colours, and played the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.
17:  You have also taken your fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made to yourself images of men, and did commit whoredom with them...
39:  And I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your eminent place, and shall break down your high places: they shall strip you also of your clothes, and shall take your fair jewels, and leave you naked and bare.

God the Father and Jesus Christ, in their great mercy, gave her every opportunity for repentance.  But to no avail.  She continued in her harlotry:

Luke 13:
34:  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!
35:  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, "You shall not see me, until the time come when you shall say, 'Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.'"

A divorce became necessary (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8), and the marriage was completely ended by Jesus' death (Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:39).  

But, through the "outcrop" of physical Israel came spiritual Israel – the Church of God (Galatians 6:16; Romans 11), which became Jesus’ second "Fiancée."  

We are part of that Fiancée!  We are in waiting now – as the future Bride of Jesus Christ, and the future second daughter-in-law of God the Father:

Isaiah 61:10:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Again, the symbolic pet name of the Church of God is "Jerusalem" and again, God will bedeck her with priceless jewels:

Revelation 21:
9:  And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, "Come hither, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife." 

The angel promised to show the Bride of Christ to John.  But just what did he then show him?

10:  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 
11:  Having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  

The angel showed John "the great city, the holy Jerusalem."  The Bride of Christ and this great and Holy City, then, are one and the same.  

Also, this verse begins to reveal that Christ's Bride is not just bejewelled.  The Bride is a jewel!  But there's more:

16:  And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs.  The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

Notice that the Holy City is made foursquare, just like the bejeweled breastplate of the Tabernacle described earlier.  But it is not two-dimensional like the breastplate.  It is three-dimensional – a cube.

18:  And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 

This huge wall of the Holy City will be constructed – not of inferior, concrete, brick or rough stone; but of the highest quality jasper – strikingly beautiful and custom-created for the purpose.  The city itself will be constructed of gold so pure that it will be as transparent as glass!

19:  And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones.  The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 

When we read this verse carefully, we might find its grammar a little difficult and somewhat confusing.  Will the foundations of the city wall be merely garnished with regular-sized precious stones?  Or will each one of the twelve foundations be totally constructed of a single huge jewel.  If so, the sizes must be absolutely vast – seemingly impossible because such jewels don’t exist in the world today.  

But we must not forget what verse 10 told us – that this Holy City will descend from God and will be (if it has not already been) constructed by the Creator and His special building team in heaven!

It is difficult for us to associate the symbol of a pure, beautiful, ornamented bride with that of a vast bejewelled city and kingdom.  But this is the symbolism God has inspired.  If we will take the time to consider that the foundations and walls of the Holy City are constructed from the most beautiful jewels in the universe, that the bejewelled Bride of Christ is the daughter-in-law of God the Father, made up collectively of the beloved children of the Father, and that the children of God are the pillars and the stones of His temple (I Peter 2:4-8), then it logically follows that the children of God are His jewels.  It all fits together so very, very well.

It is good for us to meditate on these things, even though some of these details are beyond the comprehension of our limited human minds.  Still, we do know that it is going to be so fantastic!

Continuing with the description of the twelve foundations:

20:  The fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  
21:  The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.  

As the wall will be 200 feet high, it will not have one little gate.  It will likely have gates matching the size of the walls.  Can you imagine a vast, 200 foot high city gate that is made from one pearl?   One observer quipped, "If the pearls are so huge, imagine the size of the oysters that will produce them!"

Notice that some of these stones – perhaps all of them if we allow for a difference in terminology between the Greek of Revelation and the Hebrew of Exodus – were also used in the High Priest's Breastplate of Judgment.  It seems that the Breastplate of Judgment may have been intended as a small, physical symbol of the Bride of Christ, of the great Holy City of the New Jerusalem which will descend out of heaven from God, of the Church of God and of the Kingdom of God itself.

Like the stones in the Breastplate of Judgment, some of the stones of the Holy City – the pearl, the sapphire, the emerald and the amethyst – are somewhat familiar to us and are considered in today's world to be precious.  The others are less familiar to most people and are usually considered, at best, to be semi-precious.  But the comparatively poor specimens of jasper, chalcedony, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase and jacinth that we have access to today are as nothing compared to the quality of the stones that God will create and choose especially for the Holy City.  God the Father and Jesus are going to adorn the City and the Bride with the most priceless jewels.  

Let us now return to the amazing and encouraging fact that God the Father and Jesus consider those who make up the Bride of Christ to actually be their most prized and precious jewels.  Once again, how precious are you and me to God the Father?

John 17:22a:
And the glory which you gave me I have given them...

Do you get that?  This is Jesus talking in prayer to His Father the night before He died.  We consider Jesus to be supremely glorious and He has given that same level of glory to us!  Why?  For what purpose?

22b: … that they may be one, even as we are one:
23:  I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.

God the Father loves everyone in this room as He loves His very own Firstborn, His first-begotten Son.  If that is not encouraging, then I might as well go home right now!

This is such an astonishing scripture directly from the equally astonishing written Word of Jesus Christ.  God the Father loves all of His children the same as He does His Firstborn!  It is hard to believe; but it is a true and amazing fact!

Let’s go back to the Old Testament in the book of Malachi:

Malachi 3:17:
"They shall be mine," says the LORD of hosts, "on the day that I make them my jewels.  And I will spare
{Hebrew "chamal": have compassion on} them as a man spares his own son who serves him."  

This is the LORD of hosts speaking here.  This is YHVH, the One who became Jesus Christ.  And He is saying that when He makes up His jewels, He will be compassionate to us, just as a parent is compassionate towards any of his children who have serving attitudes toward him.
What are these jewels?  The Hebrew word used by Malachi is "segullah" which can also be translated as wealth, closely guarded and protected (e.g. the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London), a peculiar or particular treasure, a special or treasured possession, valued property.

And who is Malachi referring to here?  Just who is it who will have the honour of being referred to as God’s jewels?  

Verse 17 implies that this distinction is given to God's children – yes, to His Son and, by extension (John 17:23), to His Son's siblings – those who are willing to serve Him.  This factor of service to God is repeated in verse 18:

18:  Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. 

So God’s jewels are His children – His righteous ones – those who serve Him.  

Are God’s jewels identified in any other way?  Yes.  Let's back up to verse 16:

16:  Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. 

The Jewels of God are those who speak to – communicate with – one another, who meditate on His name, and who have a proper fear of Him.  On our Opening Night service, I asked Herbert Armstrong’s old question, "Why are you here?" and "Why do we attend the Feast of Tabernacles each year?"   Is it not to repeatedly learn to properly fear our great God? 

Deuteronomy 14:23:
And you shall eat before the LORD your God in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of your corn, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

Deuteronomy 31:
10:  And Moses commanded them, saying, "At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the Feast of Tabernacles,
11:  When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12:  Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and your stranger that is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

So one of the main reasons that we are here right now is to learn to properly fear Him.  This links right into our Malachi 3 scriptures.

God's jewels, then, are those who are righteous, those who communicate with one another in loving unity, those who are serving Him, those who think and meditate on His name, and those that have a proper fear of Him.  Again, He doesn’t want us quaking in our boots.  It is a proper fear, reverence and respect that He wants from us. 

These are the elect whom "He will gather… when He cometh" (as our opening song lyrics say) at the end of this age.

God inspired the prophet Zechariah to write a parallel scripture to the one we've just read from Malachi:

Zechariah 9:16:
And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of His people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. 

Instead of Malachi's word "segullah," Zechariah used the Hebrew word "eben," translated into English as "stones" (NKJV: "jewels").  This word accentuates some of the more practical applications of precious stones rather than their ornamental beauty only.  Jewels are not always just expensive ornaments.  There are many types of jewels and precious metals that are practically useful.  Gold, diamonds, chrysolite and other precious metals and minerals are used in various manufacturing and electronic processes.

Zechariah's Hebrew word for "crown" is "nezer," which can also mean chaplet or wreath (especially of royalty), earring, stones of a crown or diadem.

In addition, this word "nezer" accentuates something or someone that is set apart, dedicated,  separated or consecrated; e.g. a king, priest, high priest or Nazarite.  In order to be included in the jewels of God, therefore, we must be willing to be set apart, dedicated, separated and consecrated.

Is that everything that we can learn on this from Zechariah?  No.  There is something else in  there.  He says that we are to be lifted up as an ensign or banner

This interesting term comes from the single Hebrew word "nacac" which means to be displayed and to be conspicuous as a signal.  It can also mean "to gleam from afar."  Like a lighthouse, for instance; or like the lighted city on the hill that is mentioned in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:
14:  You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15:  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house.
16:  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The fabulous, incorruptible crowns of glory, of eternal life, and of righteousness are promised for us.  We are promised to receive them in the future.  But they are already assigned to us now.  They are "on hold" – in storage – in heaven for us to receive in the future.

However Jesus warns us that we have to hold fast to those crowns so that no man can take them.  How do we hold on to them?

In addition to what we have already learned, Jesus instructs us over and over again, through the apostles Paul, James and John, to make sure that we do whatever is necessary for us to receive those precious crowns.  We must love God.  We must strive to master ourselves.  We must be temperate in all things.  We must endure with courage.  We must bravely face temptations, trials and sufferings.  We must be faithful even to the point of death:

Revelation 2:10a:
Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days…

This mentions the likelihood that some of us might be cast into prison.  We just learned from Bill and Jean the other day that we have a sister-in-Christ who lives in Florida who has been unjustly cast into prison.  This lady is in her sixties.  She has been threatened that if she doesn’t play ball with the various lawyers, she may never see her grandchildren for twenty years!  Can you imagine that?  This is one of our sisters!  This is probably under the influence of Satan, of course.  Let us pray earnestly for her and for her speedy acquittal and release.  Please remember her in your prayers, even though I am not at liberty to divulge her name. 

Please remember that gold is purified in a very hot fire, that precious jewels are created using great heat and massive pressure, also that they are perfected and beautified by much cutting and polishing.  There is a certain amount of violence implied in those procedures.

10b: … be you faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.

This doesn’t mean to say that all of us are necessarily going to be martyred.  Rather, it means that Jesus wants us to continue to be faithful right up until the day of our death, or until the day that He returns.  This is a wonderful promise.

Many of you have had a trying year, as we have; and during the coming year, if and when you are going through temptations, trials and sufferings, please remember – God the Father and Jesus Christ want you to remember – how precious you are to them.  Every one of you.  They have a fabulous crown put aside just for you.  I'm sure they can hardly wait to lavish you with their gems, both physical and spiritual – beyond your wildest dreams.

But most important of all is that you are one of the jewels of God the Father and Jesus Christ and that you are very, very precious to them both.  More precious than even the world’s most expensive, valuable treasures, crowns and jewels.