Monday, August 28, 2017

The Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field

Our next parable is this:

Matthew 13:44 (KJV)
44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Most of the commentators see this parable as an exhortation for Christians to give everything in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, or Yeshua, or salvation, depending upon what they believe the treasure symbolizes.

However, if we continue to keep elements (symbols) consistent throughout the parables, the meaning of the Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field becomes very different.

Yeshua already defined two of the symbols in this parable. He said that the "man" or the main male character in the parables refers to Himself/God. He also defined the "field" as the world. So the only missing element is the treasure itself. Since Yeshua did not give us any information about what the treasure symbolized, we need to look elsewhere for the answer. It would seem that the Bible has all kinds of references to treasure.

Exodus 19:5 (KJV)
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

Psalm 135:4 (KJV)
4 For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

Plainly, God has viewed Israel as His very special treasure. But do we see the same thing in the New Testament?

1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Most would say that 1 Peter is talking about Christians. However, this Bible verse is a quote from the Old Testament.

Exodus 19:6 (KJV)
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

How is it possible that Christians and Israel are described using the same terminology? Theologians of all stripes have weighed in on this matter. Without going into the differences between Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism, let me suggest that there is a better answer. Since the same terminology is used, both entities, in some form, are identical. From Paul we see that being ethnic Israel does not guarantee that you are really "Israel."

Romans 9:6 (KJV)
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

At the same time, there are many Gentiles who have been grafted into Israel when they became believers.

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Therefore, the treasure that Yeshua was teaching about is His people, the believers, either Jew or Gentile.

Now let's examine the parable more closely. God's people are hidden in the world. Isn't this exactly what we see regarding both the Jews and Gentile believers, who have been scattered throughout our world. When God "finds" His people, He hides them again, and then, with joy, sells everything that He has, and then buys the world with His people in it.

So how did Yeshua give up all that He had?

Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

But why did Yeshua have to buy the world? Doesn't the world already belong to Him?

It does, but when Adam and Eve sinned our world was marred and Satan was given a certain amount of control and influence over it.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV)
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Yeshua then bought the world by doing what?

Philippians 2:8 (KJV)
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

This one verse parable basically gives us the entire Gospel message! Yeshua was willing to leave Heaven, come to earth as a man, and then die, in order to buy mankind the opportunity to be saved. This should fill our hearts with gratitude! Amazing!  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Parable of the Leaven

The next parable that we come to is the Parable of the Leaven.

Matthew 13:33 (KJV)
33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

This parable is the twin to the Parable of the Mustard Seed. The meaning is generally viewed as similar to its twin, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts off small, but grows very big. But just like its twin, the meaning is not explained by Yeshua. Therefore, this particular meaning is not based on anything besides the commentators' own ideas. As we've seen in the previous parables it makes more sense to understand that the symbols or elements of all the parables must all remain consistent.

Let's examine this parable with that in mind. Let's start with the leaven. Although there are no clues given to us within the parable itself, the Bible has some interesting things to say about the connotation of "leaven."

Exodus 12:15 (KJV)
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Exodus 13:7 (KJV) 
7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

These two passages in Exodus speak about the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where for seven days not only did they not eat bread with leaven, but leaven couldn't even be found in their homes or they would be cut off from Israel.

1 Corinthians 5:6 (KJV)
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

As we enter into the first century, we see that Paul's writings exhibit the idea of leaven being something bad that goes throughout the whole lump. In this particular case, it referred to the Corinthians patting themselves on the back for their tolerance of sin in their midst.

Galatians 5:8-10 (KJV)
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

In this passage of Galatians Paul warns about allowing someone's meddling to influence their thinking. Paul says that this someone's ideas are not from God. In these New Testament verses we easily see that leaven had become a symbol for sin, or, as in the case of Galatians, false teaching.

What does the meal represent?

Leviticus 14:10 (KJV)
10 And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.

In this verse we see that this particular meal offering was made up of three lumps of flour.

Leviticus 6:14,17 (KJV)
14 And this is the law of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
17 It shall not be baken with leaven. I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as is the sin offering, and as the trespass offering.

The meal offering was to be made without leaven since it was most holy. This indicates again the status of our world (the hidden Kingdom of Heaven). What God meant for good has had some evil, sin, or false teaching hidden into it. This teaching will grow until it fills the whole lump.

So who does the woman represent? The main actor in the previous parables was a man who represented Yeshua/God. This woman is acting an an agent for Satan, planting evil, sin, or false teaching, that will corrupt the Kingdom of Heaven.

Taken all together, we find that the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Leaven are all very similar parables, differing only in aspects that Yeshua meant to highlight. The Kingdom of Heaven started off small, but as it grows Satan is working hard against the Kingdom. Satan planted his evil children into the Kingdom, he has infiltrated it by evil (demons?), and he has sown sin, evil, and false teaching. It would seem that the Kingdom of Heaven is in desperate need of help. What will the next parables tell us?

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

We have been discussing Yeshua's parables in Matthew 13. So far we have covered the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Between Yeshua's giving the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and His explanation there are two more parables that we have yet to analyze. Today we will be looking at the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Matthew 13:31-32 (KJV)
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

This time Yeshua said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field (verse 31). Then in verse 32 He remarked that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but becomes a tree when it is grown. It is so large that the birds come and lodge in its branches.

This is all that we are given. So, if Yeshua did not give us any explanation, how are we to determine what Yeshua was trying to tell us? Most commentators believe that the message is pretty clear, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts out small, but grows to be so big that all kinds of people come to dwell within it. Specifically, the birds must represent Gentiles who come into the small Kingdom that Yeshua started. Although there seems to be a consensus on this parable's meaning, the reasoning involved is nothing more than guess work.

Instead, if we look closely, the four symbols used in the parable have already been defined by Yeshua. The man that sows the mustard seed must represent Yeshua, just as the man (sower) does in the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The field has already been shown to be the world and the mustard seed represents those who hear the Word of God. The birds represent Satan. When we put this together we now find that the Kingdom of Heaven, yes, starts off small after being sown by Yeshua into the world. It then grows to be very large, so large that evil (or Satan) finds shelter there.

But how is this possible that evil could be hiding in the Kingdom of Heaven? Actually, what the parable says is that evil infiltrates the world where God's people also exist. Isn't this the situation of our world? Isn't this what was being described in the Wheat and the Tares?

Perhaps our definition of the Kingdom of Heaven needs a little tweaking. These parables seem to indicate the condition of what is actually going on in the world today and not really what is happening in the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. It is as if Yeshua was already looking to His physical Kingdom of Heaven that will be in place during the Millennial Kingdom here on Earth. Is it possible that in some sense Yeshua is viewing His Kingdom as our world, even though it is marred because of sin? This change in thought serves to explain how we are to view these parables. And there seems to be some patterns developing. We'll talk more about this as we progress.

Note: While the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, nor does it grow into a tree, the Jews traditionally used the mustard seed as an example of the smallest. Yeshua's use of hyperbole (exaggeration) was a common method of making a strong point.