PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM:
THE MERCHANT & THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
F. W. Dowsett, Australia
I always find it interesting to see how people put a heading to some of these parables. You notice it is always called the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price and as we will see as we go into it, Idon't think that is the right name for it at all. The pearl is mentioned there, but it is quite clear what the parable is about in Matthew 13: 45,46:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Another one of these short parables with just so much in it! One of the things to remember in the beginning I think, is that this is the same in one respect to former parables. It speaks of one aspect of the developing kingdom of God. This is not a parable of the Kingdom of God in its perfection, it is the developing kingdom and in every parable this has been the story. This is why Matthew consistently refers to them as the kingdom of heaven as distinct from the kingdom of God. Because this is one aspect of this developing kingdom and what we should not do is spiritualize it.
Spiritualizing it is the result of misinterpreting what the parable is about. As I said at the beginning, people have referred to it as the parable of the costly pearl, or the pearl of great price. It is not a parable about the pearl it is a parable about a merchant man, it says so. It says the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant and it
goes on to tell us what the merchant does. If we get the terminology straight then there is no reason for us to spiritualize things and make it mean something different.
The new Bible dictionary is quite a well known text book. You can buy them in most Christian literature shops. It is about 2 inches thick and I refer to it constantly as a dictionary. But this is what it has on page 633 under the title of "Pearls": "The kingdom of heaven is like a fine pearl which a man will seek to obtain at the cost of all that he has." Now do you reckon that is what is says? The kingdom of heaven is like a fine pearl which a man will sell all that he has to get it? It doesn't say anything of the sort! You see how you can get so messed up if you do not stick to what the Bible is saying. It is almost as if we are saying that God or Jesus didn't know what He was talking about.
If He wanted it to be like a costly pearl He would have said "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a pearl of great price; which a merchant man found." This is a parable about the merchant man. It has nothing to do in its primary intent with the pearl of great price that comes in later. The parable is about the kingdom of heaven likened unto a merchant man. Itis not likened unto the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not likened unto the Gospel. The Gospel of the kingdom is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in its developing stage. It pays us to do an exercise like this where we just go through in our minds the implications of it. If we are saying the kingdom of heaven is like unto the gospel of the kingdom, then you're saying the kingdom of heaven is like unto the good news of the kingdom of heaven. That doesn't make any sense! But people do not seem to work it out in their minds like this, they get some sort of feeling in their heads or hearts or whatever, something in their minds about it and they go off at a tangent and totally lose the point of what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying.
We have got to remember, friends, that the kingdom of heaven is not the pearl, not Christ, it is not the gospel it is likened unto a merchant man and we have got to
find out who or what the merchant man represents to understand the parable. There is one other thing we have got to realise that in all our understanding of these
parables there is going to be nothing in the statement of the parable, in the understanding of the parable, that is going to conflict or certainly contradict the plain
statements of scripture regarding the kingdom of God; that is the whole story of the Bible.
If you go right back to the formation of the kingdom where the Lord said I'm going to make of you a nation of priests you're going to be a peculiar people, a special
treasure. It starts right back in Exodus, the formation of the kingdom.Why on earth have we got to put meanings on this which have nothing to with what God originally set up in the first place.
I read an article the other day and the writer was illustrating how people spiritualize every thing and these ministers, highly placed ministers in prominent church
denominations today, they are talking about the fact (according to them) that Israel no longer exists, that God has replaced it with a spiritual Israel and everyone who
comes to the Lord Jesus is now Israel, spiritual Israel and they quote Galatians. The reading is about there is no more Jew or gentile and all the rest of it, you notice,
they never ever comment on "there is no more male or female."
They'll say there is no more Jew and Gentile and there is no more something else but the passage there is no more male or females; I've got some news for you: there are a lot of males and females sitting here and we are not the same. We never changed when we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, so if they didn't change why should everything else have changed. They never fully explain the verses they just pick out the bits that suit them. This is the way they are going on today, they have missed the entire story and the entire importance of the kingdom of God.
How many Christians do you know who would understand or even accept the statement that the entire Bible, starting with the 12th chapter of Genesis, (up to
there it is just a crash course in what went on until that, right up to the end of the book of Revelation and beyond) that as far as prophecy goes, deals with one major
subject. That subject is not the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the central person, but the central subject is the Kingdom of God. It is the whole history of that kingdom. So what ever we understand about these parables it must conform to the history of the people of the kingdom. With that in mind let us look at it.
In our previous parable we found there that there are three entities and we have a similar situation in this parable. We have got to identify them in relation to the
nature and the history of the kingdom to which it applies. Now what are those three aspects that we have got in the parable? Other than the kingdom of heaven, because the kingdom of heaven is likened unto something here. Firstly we have got a merchantman, secondly he was seeking goodly pearls, and while he was doing that, he found, thirdly, a pearl of great price. Now in many of the parables we have some explanations given - like the field is the world, the man we find is the Lord Jesus Christ and so we are given a clue to identify the subject of the parable. A similar thing applies to this parable, again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man; but then we get the only clue that we are given, it says "he seeks goodly pearls" that is the only thing we have got about him. So in order to understand who the merchant man is we also have to understand what the goodly pearls were. The first thing we have to remember in relation to the merchant, it certainly cannot be associated with the merchants of Revelation 18. Mostly we can go to the scriptures and find other references to the same word and find an application so that we can understand what it is.There is no use trying to understand one verse, one passage or statement in scripture without going to the rest of the scriptures and finding out what that says about the same word or passage.
Sometimes it doesn't give us the answer but it gives us what the opposite of it is, so that we know not to worry about that aspect. The merchants referred to in
Revelation 18:11 and then verse 15 reads: "And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her" this is over Babylon. "For no man buyeth their merchandise anymore." And in verse 15 "the merchants of these things which were made rich by her shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Now this has nothing to do with this merchant. This is why we know there must be something special about this merchant; this merchant is not wailing and weeping
and gnashing his teeth; this merchant really found something very very special which is quite the opposite. At least we have eliminated certain merchants by
understanding that scripture in Revelation.
The merchant represented there does not represent the kingdom of God, and this is where we have to remember always keep in mind the basic statement: "the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant" so whatever we are saying about the merchant, that applies to the kingdom.
Secondly, I do not believe the merchant represents our Lord Jesus Christ although a lot of people would say it does. This merchant sought goodly pearls and then
when he found a particular pearl he went and sold and bought. Now the Lord Jesus Christ does not sell and buy, the Lord Jesus Christ only gives. He will give us eternal life; what He gives us, the gifts that He gives and the life He gives us is free. He does not barter them, He does not buy, He doesn't sell, This is the mistake so many people make today, they think they are going to be saved by their works. In other words they will buy salvation, the Church of Rome flourishes on this, they make billions not millions, billions of dollars on buying salvation.
Sometimes I speak to audiences where people used to be Catholics and they can tell you more about it than I know, but they will go into their confessional box and
confess their sins and the father will say go and put $10 in a plate or something like that and you will be absolved. They continually buy their forgiveness and they think they can buy the Grace of God. This is quite contrary to what the word of God says. The Lord Jesus Christ does not sell, Hedoesn't bargain with you, He just says you do the right thing and I will give it to you for nothing, so it cannot represent the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way that we are going to understand something at least of what this merchant is, is by identifying the only clue given in the parable and that is, He seeks goodly pearls.
Now we going to look at a couple of words, seeking goodly pearls. The word "pearls" means just what it says. I cannot find a Bible dictionary, a concordance, etc., which says anything else but a pearl, just a jewel as we know a pearl. There was nothing special about it like in prophecy or symbolism or anything like that, it is just used as a jewel something of value.
But the word "seeking", if you seek something this has a stronger meaning than if you just look around for something. This means to strive to find, you are actively
trying to achieve something; that is the word "seeking." The word "goodly" means from Bullinger's Lexicon, "beautiful, pleasing and agreeable-it refers to objects whose appearance has a harmonious perfection." That's what goodly means.
Let us get clear in our minds what this is; the merchantman is striving to find something whose appearance has a harmonious perfection about it which is beautiful, pleasing and agreeable. This is what he is looking for, so if we can find who or what is looking for this wonderful situation, the situation that has harmonious perfection and is totally pleasing to us. When we find who is looking for that we have found who the merchant is. Now it cannot be the Lord Jesus Christ. On those terms Jesus Christ is not striving to find. He invented the perfection He knows all about it so it can't be Him.
We are going to a verse that you might wonder at in Matthew 21:43:
"Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Now normally when we look at that verse we are looking at it in the context of the fact that the Lord had been speaking to the Jews of the time and He told them the kingdom was going to be taken away from them and given to a nation, another nation, another people other than the Jews. But He wasn't going to give it to a nation other than to whom it was already promised, by the way.
The Jews at the time had the evidence of the kingdom; the king was there, the actual representatives of the kingdom were there in the tribe of Benjamin, they were a kingdom tribe. The kingdom was there but it was taken away from these people and you know we might ask ourselves today how in the name of creation people are still going around saying that these people who had it taken away from them are the people who have still got it!
It just absolutely boggles my mind the way people will criticize us for our beliefs and yet they will come up with, (I'll have to use the word "garbage") vain words,
as in Jeremiah the word vain means garbage, trash. And they will come up with these things that these Jews are God's chosen people. They will not read that, I'm sure many of them do not even know that verse exists, that it was taken away from them and given to a nation. This is the point, who will bring forth the fruits thereof. What fruits? The fruits of the kingdom, so whoever has the fruits of the kingdom is the one to whom the kingdom of God was given, and you will find that this ties in with the merchantman.
Now I want to say this so that we do not fall into a trap here, it is not referring to the fruits of the spirit.The fruits of the spirit are quite distinctly different from the
fruits of the kingdom. I am not denying that they can go side by side and they can and should be used together. But we cannot replace one with the other. The fruits of the spirit are enumerated in 1 Corinthians. There are nine of them and the fruits of the spirit are how we behave as individuals and the individual gifts that we are
given. Some get one gift, some get another gift, most of us get gifts for the circumstance and this is something that a lot of people do not understand. They think you
only get one gift and that is all you're ever going to have and you do that all your life. That is not the way it works! I have known many times in my own life and experience and I'm sure in your life and experience sometimes you will do something. You'll use a gift of the spirit that you didn't even know you had because God will give it to you at that time, because you need it at that time.
What is the good of these gifts if you are going to have something that is that cut and dried that you put it in a box and say that is yours and that is all you can ever do or can ever use; and if you want someone to pray for you well you've got to go to someone else because he's got that gift. Or you want something about faith, well go to that fellow he's got that gift.We can have all the gifts at different times. Very few people in fact; I do not think I know anyone, nor have I heard of anyone who had all the gifts at the same time. I'm not saying it cannot happen. If God wanted it to happen, it would happen, but that is not what we are talking about in this verse.
It says they will manifest or bring forth the fruits of the kingdom. Now what are the fruits of the kingdom? What is the major fruit of the kingdom? What did God say to the very progenitor of this kingdom? He said it to him twice in Genesis chapter 12 and in chapter 18, He said I will make you and your seed to be a blessing to all the families and in the other reference all the nations of the world. If you want to boil it all down to what they call a bottom line as it were, that is the bottom line. That is what the purpose of the kingdom of God is for, to be a blessing to all the other nations and families of the earth to bring them the blessings.
What blessings have we taken to them? You can bless them in many ways but the greatest blessing you can give to any family or any nation is to bring them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it is all about. Go to Isaiah 43 he says you are my witnesses speaking of the same people, you are my witnesses to the fact that I am God.
I had someone come to the door one day and they had their magazine and on the front page of that magazine it said "Ye are my witnesses and I am God." Can anyone see what is wrong with that? It should read "Ye are my witnesses that I am God." If I say you are Len and I'm Frank what does that mean? It does not prove a thing, but if I say you're something and because you are what you are you prove what I am, that really means something and that is the difference. See how you can get trapped with just one little word.
So here are the reasons for this nation. The fruits of this nation are to bring the blessings of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the good news of Christ and the good news of the kingdom of God to every nation and to every family of the earth and thereby to prove that God is in fact God. You cannot worship all these heathen gods because they do not prove anything. But our God does prove who He is because of the people whom He appointed to do that very job of proving who He was.
So we find that this merchantman strives to find or attain to the blessings and the fulfilments of the covenants and the promises made by God. These are the goodly pearls that I suggest that he is looking for. Now, who is the merchant? Who is it that is striving to find the blessings, to be a blessing to all the families of the earth to prove that God is God to fulfil the covenants. Who is the merchant? It starts to become easy then, when you work it out, doesn't it?
It has got to be the nation and the company of nations and the great people who were promised to Abraham. You can't understand these parables unless you
understand them in the light of what the word of God has already said, we cannot start making something else up, leaving all that God has said about the kingdom and going off on a tangent and saying well it must be something else. It just makes a mockery of the word of God.You will never understand it. But if we put it together in the right way and say this is what God set up, this is what He is using, then what He is saying here must be relative to what He has set up in the first place. It has to be the nation and company of nations found in the Anglo-Saxon peoples, who together are the representatives of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is likened unto it. The parable didn't say he was the kingdom, he was likened unto it. The merchantman gives us an illustration of the kingdom of heaven. So we find that what we have done over the past centuries is to attain these promised blessings and responsibilities. We may not have always known, (as a matter of fact very often we did not know it) but there is something placed within our genes which people just cannot understand; there is something placed within the genes of an Israelite depending on who one appoints as their master whether God or Satan. Israelites fall for that trap as much as anyone else. But you will find that an Israelite somehow or other has something in their genes that when he is presented with the kingdom of God, and presented in a correct manner something stirs
within him.We hear the Gospel, and there is something that stirs within us unless we allow Satan to take it away. This takes us to the Sower and the Seed parable and there is something in us which reacts to that call.We are set on that special wavelength and we respond to the call of God.
So the merchant, who is he? The merchant I suggest has to be God's people Israel. He is one of, if not the greatest merchant nation that the world has ever seen. So, here we have it in the practical sense of the word now, it even beats the Romans or the Greeks and any one else. We have been the greatest merchant people
that the world has ever seen. So, let us remember when we are saying all this that the time has arrived when we are going to lose all this, or we have lost it. This is one of the last prophecies made in the book of Daniel regarding us. That is why we know we are in the last times. But over these years all this has happened in accordance with the word of God.
Now during the attainment of these blessings we find that something else is happening. It says that the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly
pearls. Then it says, when he had found one pearl of great price... he is seeking all these goodly pearls. You can see them on a table on a baize cloth; he is looking
through them. They are all good, there is nothing wrong with them. Suddenly, amongst all of them, he finds a very special one of great value. It is worth more than
anything that he had previously known about or previously realized. What is this pearl of great price tha he found? Was it the Lord Jesus Christ? But how could he have been ministering the word to the rest of the world and then alter all that found the Lord Jesus Christ? You have to put things in their proper context and
perspective; it can't be the Gospel, they already knew the Gospel, and they already knew Jesus Christ.
Recently on television they were comparing the 1990's with the 70's and with the 50's. They had different people giving their opinions, and the thing that struck me about it was that in the 50's the remark that was made was that we were a Christian nation. They were comparing the 50's with the 90's and it was quite clear the intent of it was that we were a Christian nation then and we are not a Christian nation now! But as a Christian nation with all the faults we have got as individuals and
all the rest of it, we are not excusing that, but we can never say that suddenly we found the Lord Jesus Christ or we found the Gospel, it has got to be something other than that. Because the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gospel of Christ, as polluted as it might have become in certain teachings, has been there for centuries and centuries so what else have we got?
Firstly we find that Israel or the Merchant, in order to acquire this pearl of greater value than those that he had, sold what he had and he bought the much desired
pearl. Now again let us look at the words: "sold" means to export or to traffic away overseas, it has nothing whatsoever to do with trading or bartering, in other words buying and selling, as we normally think of sold. The word "bought" does not mean just to buy or purchase. (Sometimes I wish they would write the Greek
the way we understood it! But this is the point of studying the Word of God). The word "bought" means to have free use of something with which we can do business. So the merchantman did not trade it away. He exported overseas as it were away from himself, what he had, so that this new thing that he had found he could then do business with and have a free use of; this is what it literally means. In other words there came a time in the national life of Israel the merchant when she realized that there was something of far greater value available to her than just the goodly pearls, the blessings that she already had.
Now again I say this cannot be Christ or the Gospel.
What she has found, I believe is something which the Bible refers to as being of inestimable value, of greater value than anything else that we can ever find. Today we are being persecuted in many ways. So we find that something had to be discovered by the merchantman which would be of such inestimable value that he realized it would counter these things which are going against the things he already had. Now what could that be? I realize there may be several answers to this. I am not saying that other answers will be wrong, just different and they may compliment or supplement each other.But this I believe is the main answer which is found in Psalm 19. Remember this pearl was of great price; it was more costly, more to be desired than anything else:
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Now what is that referring to? Go back 3 verses:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Now does that make sense? What have we found? I believe that what Israel will find ultimately (as we haven't yet), will be to find the pearl of great price, which is the Law of God amongst all the other goodly things we have found. We have not strictly obeyed the Law of God. It is written in as part of our Common Law without people knowing it, but we have not really been obedient to it. Suddenly amongst all these other pearls we find this one, if we had only had this one then everything would have been right. So, we put everything aside, all the other things. We don't throw them away in the future, we export them as it were; we put them away from ourselves, and we do not concentrate so much on them anymore. We concentrate then on the wonderful costly pearl of great price. I believe this is fulfilled eventually and finally in the terms of the New Covenant.
Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people, - word for word with Hebrews chapter 8.
So I believe that what we are seeing here is that the pearl of great price is not the kingdom itself, but it is the perfection to which the kingdom will attain under the
operation of the Law of God. This I believe is what the disciples were talking about in Acts 3:19-21:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Jesus Christ is going to come back when it is time to restore all these things of which the prophets have spoken and promised and when He does come back that is what He is going to do. One of the initial things He is going to do is to write that Law in our hearts, restore it to us, and we will then as a nation ultimately have found that pearl of great price.
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