The Hidden Treasure and the Beauteous Pearl — An Address by Joseph Revell

The Hidden Treasure and the Beauteous Pearl
Matthew 13: 31 – 46; 2 Timothy 2: 19 – 23

Whilst it is quite clear from Scripture that the Christian’s
proper place and portion are heavenly, yet it is equally clear
that we are still here on the earth, and have a path to tread in
relation to the place in which we are found. It is only as the
Christian is in the power and enjoyment of his heavenly
portion that he can properly fill his place here. It is well we
should be instructed in the Lord’s mind as to the character of
the place in which we are, so that we may walk in it for His
pleasure, and it is with the object of gathering His thoughts as
to this that I propose to look at these scriptures this evening.
It is well known that in Matthew 13 we have seven parables,
six of which are similitudes of the kingdom of heaven. It may
be unnecessary to say that the kingdom of heaven is not
heaven itself, but the sphere on earth where the rule or
authority of heaven is owned. Yet it is clear that the kingdom
of heaven is looked at in this chapter in a different form from
that which John the Baptist announced when he preached,
saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The King
Himself had been presented and rejected, consequently one
of two things must take place: either God must come in in
power and deal with the rejectors of His Son in judgment,
and so set up the kingdom, or else it must take a new form.
These parables show us the form which it has taken. Instead
of being set up by divine power in public manifestation, it is
formed by the preaching of the word.

The first parable has a very important place as we may gather
from what the Lord says as to it in the Gospel of Mark (4:
13) – “Know ye not this parable, how then will ye know all
parables?” That is, if this parable be not properly
understood, none will properly be so. The earlier chapters of
this gospel show that in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ
God had drawn near to man in grace, but man had utterly
rejected the Lord Jesus, and His rejection proved, as nothing
else could, how absolutely impossible it was to get anything
from man, as man, for God. The Lord .Jesus Christ was
God’s last resource, as He says Himself so pathetically in
Mark 12: 6, after speaking of the way the husbandmen had
ill-treated one after another of his servants, “Having yet
therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last
into them saying, They will reverence My Son. But they said
among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and
seize on his inheritance.” How far, beloved brethren, have
we accepted the solemn fact of the Lord’s rejection, or how
far are we affected by the spirit of those husbandmen, in
seeking to seize on the inheritance? Men around are striving
about the possession of the earth. Let men say what they will,
the land does not belong to the people, but to the Lord, as
Psalm 24 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness
thereof.” If He has been refused His rights here, is it not
inconsistent for His own to be seeking their rights, where
their Lord has been rejected? When He was here, one came
to Him saying, “Master, speak to my brother that he divide
the inheritance with me”; the Lord’s reply was, “Man, who
made Me a judge or a divider over you?” Yet we know from
Old Testament scriptures how jealously God guarded the
earthly inheritance of the feeblest of His people; but now the
Lord Jesus had been rejected and refused His rights here,
and He could not consistently be settling the rights of others.
The rejection of Christ proves then the worthlessness of
man. If anything is to be got out of man for God He Himself
must produce it, and so here the Lord speaks of Himself as
the sower bringing the seed with Him, as that which could
alone produce fruit for God in the barren and fruitless heart
of man. I believe the reason why the parables that follow are
so generally misunderstood is that christendom goes on the
line that Christ is not rejected and that consequently there is
that in man which only needs cultivation to produce
something for God. Our chapter shows at the outset that
unless the Lord Himself had brought the good seed there
would have been no fruit; He did bring it, and though it may
meet with different kinds of hindrances, as the stony ground
and thorns, yet He does get that which suits His heart, even
to a hundred-fold, but all as the result of sovereign grace.
Men may quarrel with God’s sovereignty, yet we see from
Romans 9 that it was only in this way that God could have a
people for Himself, and it is a great thing for each of us to
learn that we are debtors for everything to the pure and
sovereign grace of God.

In the parable of the tares and wheat we have an outline of
the present aspect of the kingdom from its commencement
to the close, from the sowing to the end of the age. I use the
word “age,” as most here know, it refers to a “period of
time,” rather than the end of the earth itself. The word
translated “tares,” denotes a worthless weed which resembles
wheat in outward appearance. It is a solemn consideration
that amongst those whom the Lord here calls “the children
of the kingdom,” that is those who are morally allied to the
kingdom, there are those whom He speaks of as “children of
the wicked one,” reminding us of His words in John’s gospel,
to those who took the place of religious leaders, “Ye are of
your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”
You may ask me to point them out. Well, though it is painful
to have to speak thus plainly, I will go so far as to say that
there are today those who take the place of Christian
teachers, who though outwardly blameless as to conduct, are
most effectually doing Satan’s work, undermining the very
foundations of Christianity.

I now turn to the four parables which are more especially
before me tonight. They do not, like that of the wheat and
tares, give a general outline of the course of the kingdom, but
rather its moral character. A tree in Scripture is often used to
denote some great earthly power. For example, in Daniel 4
Nebuchadnezzar is set forth under the figure of a tree; a great
earthly power giving shelter and protection to others. Here
the kingdom of heaven is likened to a grain of mustard seed,
which is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the
greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree; that is it, so to
speak, steps out of its own order, and becomes a great power
on earth, affording shelter and protection, the birds of the air
lodging in the branches thereof. This is what men have
gloried in, the greatness and extension of that which
professes the Name of the One who has been rejected and
refused a place here. Is not this the result of not
understanding the teaching conveyed by the first parable?
We are often told that the extension has but to go on, and
the millennium will be reached. Thus do men entirely ignore
the fact that the rejection of the Lord Jesus has proved the
utter barrenness of the heart of man for God. Every bit of
earthly aggrandizement and patronage accepted by the
church from the world is to her shame, and a virtual denial
of the rejection of her Lord. How would it have become
Mephibosheth to be seeking honor and distinction at
Absalom’s court, when David had been forced to flee from
his rebellious son, and had but the sod of the wilderness for
his couch? His desire was to follow David, but being lame on
both his feet, he had to remain at Jerusalem; yet, until David
returned, his appearance bore every mark of a disconsolate
mourner, for, though so cruelly slandered by his servant, his
heart was true and loyal to the rejected king.
In the next parable there is also the idea of extension, but
with that is given the means of the extension. It is by
corruption, by the hidden working of evil principles. The
leaven was hidden in the three measures of meal until the
whole was leavened.

It has often been remarked that at this point in the chapter a
change takes place; the Lord goes into the house and
explains the parable of the wheat and tares to His disciples,
and the three parables that follow give what He has in the
midst of the general mass of corruption here on the earth.
Our hearts might faint had the Lord only given us the first
four parables, but He would encourage us by giving us to see
the other side, what He has got for His own heart amidst it
all.

The thought expressed in the parable of the treasure hidden
in the field is that it is treasure; the Lord has what He
esteems truest treasure on the earth, and is it not something
for our hearts if we are ever so small a bit of that treasure?
But are we content to be hidden from every other eye than
his own? It is just the contrast to the great mustard tree,
which seems to say to all, “See how great and majestic I am!”
The word “great” is used more than once of Babylon, that
terrible system of corruption, described in the Revelation;
but what characterizes the New Jerusalem is the word “holy.”
The word “great” is used of it in our ordinary bibles, but it is
well known to be an interpolation, the heavenly city is
distinguished by having the character of Him to whom it
belongs; it is holy.

In the parable of the pearl there is still the thought of
preciousness, for it is said to be the “pearl of great price,”
and in this it coincides with the parable of the hidden
treasure, as the two previous parables coincide in the thought
of extension, which is common to each of them; but the great
idea is the beauty and incorruptibility of the pearl, and thus
there is a contrast with the corrupt leavened mass, just as we
saw there was also a contrast between the hidden treasure
and the great mustard tree. The pearl sets forth that which
the Lord has obtained for Himself. It has in view what the
saints are in virtue of the work of God in them, as Peter says,
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth
forever.” Men have told us that the pearl is Christ. In this
they have not been so far wrong, for it is that which shines in
all His beauty, but then they have turned the parable upside
down, and made the merchantman to be the sinner giving up
all he has to obtain Christ, whereas Christ is the One who
sold all to obtain that which His heart set value on. That
which He gains is the vessel for the display of all His own
beauty. This the church is. While the true value of the
church is known only to Christ Himself (the hidden
treasure), the beauty of the pearl should be seen; there
should be in the saints the display of the moral qualities of
Christ.

In the last parable the Lord shows He has those qualified by
Himself to distinguish between the good and bad fish, and to
care for the good. The Lord’s instruction by the previous
parables qualifies us for this, for He has plainly shown us His
judgment of things. We thus know what is good and what is
bad in His sight.

I must say a few words in closing on the passage I read from
2 Timothy 2: 19 – 23. If we accept the fact that the Lord has
been rejected, it will have the effect of separating us from all
that is inconsistent with His position. In this passage the first
thing for those who desire the Lord’s will in a scene of
corruption, such as that which professes His name on earth
has become, is to depart from iniquity or unrighteousness
and to follow righteousness. Surely it is plainly
unrighteousness to be going on as if He were not rejected, as
if He had not been refused His rights here. Then such a path
will certainly involve trouble. So in Mark’s gospel (chapter 4),
the storm follows the parable of the mustard tree. We have
to make our choice either to accept the great tree, or be
prepared for the storm. Yet in the storm we have the Lord
with us. What we need is faith (which is the next thing in this
passage in Timothy), to wait on Him in the storm, that we be
not like the disciples who rudely awoke Him, as if He were
unmindful of them. Still He responds to their cry, and, rising
in the calm majesty of His Person, stills the storm, but then
He turns to His disciples and says, “Where is your faith?”
We must not be surprised if, in seeking to act on divine
principles, we are often misunderstood by the world. Mary of
Bethany appears in two scenes, in both of which she was
misunderstood. In Luke 10 Martha complains of her as idle,
and in John 12 all blame her as wasteful. In both of the
scenes referred to the Lord explains Mary’s action as she
could not have done, and if we have only patience to wait His
time, He always will vindicate those who are doing His will,
but if we take the matter into our own hands and try to
explain matters ourselves, we are sure to make confusion.
The moral order is beautiful: “Follow righteousness, faith,
love, peace,” the truest love and most effectual way to help
others is to be faithful in that which we know to be the Lord’s
will, and if each is really seeking this, peace is sure as the
result.

What I am anxious for is that we should be free from all
assumption of being anything, content that our true value,
whatever it may be, is known to the Lord; but that there
should be, through grace, the moral presentation in our
character and ways of that which is excellent in the sight of
God, the beauty of Christ.

Joseph Revell
Liverpool,
11 August 1896.

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