Deuteronomy 7:6–9

Other Lessons: Psalm 125; Romans 8:28–39; Matthew 13:44–52

Our gospel reading today contains 3 parables. The third parable is straightforward as Jesus himself tells us the meaning of the good and bad fish, similar to chapter 25 with the separation of the sheep and the goats. The first two parables however, the parable of the great treasure and the parable of the great pearl, are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. These 2 parables are parallel, meaning they complement one another but notice that there is a slight difference between the two. In the first, the kingdom of heaven is the treasure itself, but in the second parable, the kingdom of heaven is NOT the pearl, but the merchant. Or in other words the kingdom of God has 2 components: the man who searches AND the treasure/pear itself.

These 2 parables are often understood as telling us to give up everything for the kingdom of heaven, because after all, nothing compares to it. The value of heaven is so great that there is great profit in giving up everything for it. So the man in the parable is us and the treasure or the pearl is the kingdom of heaven. But you see the fallacy and the impossibility of this interpretation? Who on earth would and could do such a thing? Who can say they can give up everything to do this? Who can say they are totally willing to do such a thing?

And so we find the correct answer, the right understanding and interpretation from our Old Testament reading. What or who is the treasure? Who is the one that goes and acquire this treasure? Verse 6 tells us the answer. It was God who went and sought the people to be his treasured possession. God, as we heard from Isaiah last week, is the one who redeems, that is, buying back his own people. God is the one who pays a price for us.

But here we need to ask, why does God do that? Why does God care so much that he would do everything for us? From those two parables alone, we can arrive at another 2 false conclusions. First, it is that we are so valuable, so wonderful and great so that God has to do everything to redeem us. We are like the pearl that has more value than all of the merchant’s possessions, including all of his other pearls and jewels combined.

And the second false conclusion is that God does this for his own pleasure and satisfaction. It is as though God is a pearl or treasure collector who acquires all sorts pearls and valuable items but has no actual relationship with them except to satisfy his own desires of acquiring valuable things.

Again our Old Testament reading helps us understand why he would give up everything for us.Indeed in the context of Deuteronomy, this passage may not make too much sense because we are so far removed historically and culturally (or even genetically). Here it is Moses speaking to a new generation of Israelites who are now about to enter the promised land after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. He is now giving them the Law a second time (the name “Deuteronomy” is the Greek name meaning “second law”).

Indeed we are not the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor were any of us slaves in Egypt, but the covenant that God swore to them, as mentioned in verse 8, is for all peoples. God chose Abraham out of all the people of the entire world to bear the promised seed, yet it is also through Abraham and his seed that all the nations would be blessed. The covenant is for all people, because all people are under the slavery of sin. As Jesus says in John 8:34 “everyone who commitssinis aslavetosin.”

And that’s the problem, we all have sinned, no one is holy before God. To sin is to rebel against God and his word, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly. It is not only the outward behaviors or actions that are counted against us, but the inner tendency, the impulse that comes from within is also counted against us. Yes, we can say that we have never killed any one, or have stolen anything, or have never committed adultery. But who can say they have never been angry, harboring hatred, bitterness, resentment toward someone? Who can say they have never coveted, never been greedy, never desiring someone else’s possessions? Who can say they have never lusted after another person who is not his or her own spouse? When the end of time comes, on the day of judgment, when the angels come to separate the good fish from the bad fish, where will you be? Will you the precious pearl that will be treasured by God?

Indeed, when we examine ourselves, we must confess with the people of old and shout like Isaiah (ch6), “woe is me!” or like Paul, “wretched man that I am!” (Rm7).That’s why Moses tells us clearly that God chose us not because of certain good quality in us, not because we are great in number (we certainly are not), nor is there something good in us that God should desire us, but it was purely out of love and care and concern and compassion and mercy and grace that God should choose us to be his own.

He loves us and cares for us and have compassion on us not because of what we do or what we have, but simply because of who we are, simply because we are his creation. He longs to bring us home as his dearly beloved children, but sin (as explained earlier is the rebellion against God) prevents us by putting guilt and shame on our consciences, so that we cannot approach God as our heavenly father in confidence. That’s why he has to come and search for us and even gives up everything to pay and redeem us from our fallen condition. He does that by sending his own son in the flesh so that he could pay for the debt of sin with his own life. The price for entering the kingdom is the life of the king. The son of God came and gives us his sonship to us, and in exchange, he takes our unworthiness upon himself and nails it to the cross with himself.

But the story doesn’t end there, the kingdom is not complete until we are joined with the king and live under him in righteousness and holiness. God is that man who not only sacrificed everything to redeem the treasure or the pearl, but he takes it home and washes it and adorns himself with it because it is now his most valuable, most treasure possession that he has. Thus Moses tells us in verse 6 that we are a holy people to the lord our God. Holiness, here is not only in the moral sense, but it also carries the connotation of being set apart for a special use. Just like our Holy Communion vessels are set apart for the service of the sacrament, you would not take the chalice (big cup) or the flagon (the wine container) for coffee downstairs, so likewise we are now set apart to be God’s people.

This setting apart is to teach us that God’s way is the way of life. Before we were rebellious. Before we lived in sin. Before we walk the path of self-destruction. But now, we live by faith, in love toward one another. It is now a complete change of mind and heart. Seeing that we are so treasured, so valuable in God’s eyes, and that he has made us holy for the kingdom, we ought to repent of our evil ways and sins, and seek help from him to live the new life. Each day we ought to wake up with this in our minds, to be reminded of who we are. We live in this world but we are not of this world anymore. We have been set apart so that we are different from this world, in the way we think, talk, and act.

Find the strength and courage and comfort and peace in the fact that God is our God, that he is always faithful, he does not change, he cannot change. Everything that he does is out of pure love, as shown with his death on the cross for the whole world. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our faith is in his faithfulness. What he says he will always accomplish. You ARE his holy people, you ARE his treasured possession.