To turn my attention away from the messed up kingdoms of this world, I have been trying to focus on the glorious kingdom of God. The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast illustrate that the kingdom of God will grow exponentially from a very small beginning. The Parable of the Growing Seed shows that God is actively working behind the scenes to grow his kingdom. What is the message of the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and of the Pearl Merchant?
The pair of parables seem to share a similar theme: the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, the person who finds it will give up everything in this world to keep it. If you see yourself as the man finding a treasure in a field or as the merchant finding a precious pearl, this is a logical conclusion.
Parable of the Hidden Treasure. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Parable of the Pearl Merchant. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.Matthew 13:44-45
When I searched for commentary on parables about the kingdom of God, I found a series of sermons on the Bible Tools website. Richard T. Ritenbaugh points out that when Jesus used the word “man” in a parable, the man was usually Jesus. In explaining his parables, Jesus said (Matthew 13:37-38), “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world…”
Jesus, the Son of Man, found a treasure in the world and when he found it, he hid it again, then sold everything he had and bought it. In light of John 3:16, this interpretation makes much more sense to me. The truth is, even if I sold everything I have, I could never afford to purchase my salvation. It was Jesus who gave up everything he had to buy the treasure he found. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Who or what is the treasure? For the meaning of the word “treasure,” Ritenbaugh turned to the Old Testament. In Exodus 19:5, God said: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Psalm 135:4 says, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.” In the book of Malachi, God’s treasure was the faithful remnant who feared him and honored his name.
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.Malachi 3:16-17
In the New Testament, Peter referred to people who have been called into God’s wonderful light as God’s special possession. We have been adopted into his family. We are the treasure in the field, so precious that God sent his only Son to save us.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.1 Peter 2:9-10
The parable of the hidden treasure says that when the man found the hidden treasure, he hid it again. I never thought about what it means to be hidden in this context. Those chosen by God were hidden in the world. And when Jesus found them, he hid them again?
Ritenbaugh explains his theory about what it means to be hidden in the world. Those who are chosen by God were hidden in the world because before we believed, we were just like everyone else. We looked and acted just like everyone else. How did Jesus hide us once he made us his treasure? He sent us right back into the world. After we are redeemed, we are still hidden in the world, but in a different way.
To explain the concept of being in the world but set apart, Ritenbaugh pointed to the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Jesus said that his disciples are in this world but they are not of us world, just as he is not of this world.
Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Remember, we’re hidden. That’s the protection part. And with His own life’s blood, He redeemed us with joy. That’s the lesson of this parable.Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The pair of parables remind me of the Story of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-31). When the younger son ran off and squandered everything on wild living, he came back to his father to humbly ask for forgiveness. Instead of being angry and treating him as he deserved, the father treated him like a treasured possession. He celebrated. He was joyful!
Each of the parables about the kingdom of God conveys a powerful message and each message generates an emotional response in me. Hope. Faith. Joy. The parable of the hidden treasure brings me joy because it shows how precious we are to God. There is joy in heaven when those who were lost are found. Jesus is overjoyed whenever he finds a treasured person in this broken, messed up world. We are valuable to him, like precious pearls.
Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22353933