Jesus Journey: 40 Days in the Footsteps of Christ

Day 17

Safely Stored Treasure

Read Matthew 6:19–24

I stand wind-blown on the highest spot at Megiddo, which was one of King Solomon’s fortress cities a thousand years before Jesus walked this country.

The site is a “tel,” the archeological name for a rounded hill that looks natural, but is in fact a man-made mound of layers of previous civilizations all buried under centuries of dust and dirt.

Excavations at Megiddo have unearthed twenty-six layers of ruins. This site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BC — that means it was occupied for five thousand years before Abraham moved to the Promised Land.

Since 586 BC, it has remained uninhabited, the sand of centuries slowly burying its remains. The same fortification stones that once stood as intimidating, imposing reminders of the king’s wealth and power now lie broken, eroded, sun-bleached and worn. Walls that kept out armies at war are hopped over by children at play. Yet these walls keep secrets still.

Archaeologists began unearthing the city in 1903, and they are still at it today. Shortly after our visit, researchers revealed a treasure trove of artifacts from Bible times uncovered here in 2011. They found a clay vessel filled with valuable jewelry: Several large pieces of gold were inside, and more than a thousand small beads of gold, silver and carnelian. Experts believe the treasure was hidden about three thousand years ago by Canaanites on the eve of the Israelite conquest of Megiddo.

Whoever buried this treasure wanted to make sure it was safely hidden — and indeed, it eluded discovery for a very long time. But it never enriched its owners again.

There are probably more treasures buried here. Wealth was the reason for Megiddo’s existence. The city perches on the side of the Jezreel Valley, a very narrow space between two mountain ranges through which that ancient highway, the Via Maris, was funneled — any caravan journeying between Europe and Africa had to go right through here.

Megiddo was built as a fortress city surrounded by high walls and strong gates. It offered protection, shelter, food and supplies to weary travellers — and also exacted heavy tolls from them in return. If you could control this spot, you could control much of the trade of the whole known world.

Consequently, it became fabulously rich. Of course, the richest man in Bible history was Solomon, the third king of Israel, and he had his eyes on Megiddo from the start. According to Scripture, after his Israelite army conquered it, this became one of the border outposts of his kingdom.

Our group climbs into the archaeological digs here, through the ancient Solomon-era gates. They once stood twenty feet tall, two-story structures with six chambers, three rooms on each side, filled with soldiers and toll collectors.

Once through the gates, we walk on a paved road Solomon himself probably travelled. The Bible says in 1 Kings 9:15 that he was the one who captured Megiddo from the Canaanites and designed advanced new defenses. So it’s very likely he was here, on this very street.

I imagine him surveying the scene as workers constructed the walls above him.

But was it all ultimately satisfying? Maybe Solomon was thinking partly of his work here at Megiddo when he wrote:

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made reservoirs … My heart took delight in all my labor… Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained — because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun….” Ecclesiastes 2:4–6, 10–11, 18–20

In fact, that’s exactly what happened. Solomon’s own son was foolish and instantly caused a civil war that split the kingdom — and then this very city was later ruled by the evil King Ahab, after which the Babylonians wiped it all out, permanently. In the process of the destruction, who knows how many treasures were buried that may never be unearthed.

So what’s it all for?

In Christ’s day, Solomon’s fortifications at Megiddo had already been in ruins for six centuries. The pile of debris that marked this once-great city would have been clearly visible across the valley from the cliffs around Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, giving silent testimony to the truth of his words:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19–20

How do you store up treasure in heaven? Jesus says every act of kindness here will find its reward there. God saves us by his grace — and then, because of his grace, chooses to reward our smallest efforts as well!

If we all focused on storing up wealth there — by practicing grace and kindness and love — not only do we get a nicer there, someday, we get a nicer here, now.


Intriguingly, Megiddo is also the location of something in the biblical future: Armageddon. That’s just another word for “Hill of Megiddo.” In the Book of Revelation, this place is the site of one of the last battles in world history (Revelation 16:16). After the battle, “the cities of the nations collapsed” (Revelation 16:19).

That scene seems incredible to us, but from God’s viewpoint, this has been happening for thousands of years already. All the lavish, luxurious, and powerful cities of the nations, like Megiddo, have collapsed.

Think of what Jesus knew when he said those words in Matthew.

From his divine perspective, Jesus had seen the rise and fall of so many kingdoms. Imagine witnessing history in fast-forward, strongholds on hills all around the Holy Land rising and falling as different civilizations rush in and then recede like ocean tides.

Egypt. Babylon. Persia. Rome. Us. For Jesus, each glorious empire eventually becomes just another layer in a tel. All human wealth and power fades.

And so he was saying, focus on the kingdom of God. That is what is real, that is what lasts. Store treasure where no thief — or archaeologist — will ever break in!


Thank God today for the opportunity to build treasure that lasts! Pray that your value system will focus on treasure that can never spoil, perish or fade.