The Hidden Treasure (1 -- Introduction)
At the beginning of the second chapter of the book of Proverbs, King Solomon, instructed by the Holy Spirit, admonishes those who would be his spiritual children how they might find wisdom, what value it should hold forth to them, to what advantages they may put it, and the means by which they should seek it, under the figure of hidden treasure, or a vein of silver buried in a hillside. It is at once manifest, by this colorful mode of expression, that Solomon intends to paint wisdom as that which one might spend all his time and strength in pursuing, to good effect. For just as hidden gold, being so much valued by men that they are willing to exchange for it all necessary goods, services, amusements, etc., well rewards all efforts spent in procuring it, so wisdom, when one once has it, is profitable to any spiritual end, providing strength and joy, blessing and prosperity, and the manner and means of ordering oneâ€™s life suitably for his eternal good. For this reason, it is not at all amiss for a man to spend his days searching for hidden gold, if he has a reasonable suspicion that he might find it in such a place as he is digging, for he looks ahead to the value which it shall afford him, which should more than make up for his labors expended in procuring it. But if it be so advantageous to seek gross earthly profit assiduously, of how much more industry ought we to avail ourselves in seeking that which offers us the most divine and inextinguishable pleasures of heaven, seeing that we have clearly been directed to the place where we might find it indeed?
Let us then lay to heart the kingâ€™s exhortation, and apply ourselves to pursue this wisdom of which he speaks. But we must first assure ourselves that, if we would be successful in our pursuit, we must be singleminded and not inclined to grow weary at the first breath of disappointment. The wisdom of which Solomon speaks is never the property of the sluggard or haphazard seeker. Such as these may easily find that which they think to be wisdom, and they may fool half the world with their glittery baubles, but when they put them to the fire for refinement, they will be at once consumed, and all the profit they had hoped to derive thereby will be utterly vanished away. The true gold is not so easily found as that, and it requires, in exchange for the possession of it, oneâ€™s entire life: his ambitions, thoughts, desires, energies, and even his own soul. No man, having put his hand to the minerâ€™s pick, and having then turned aside to the shade-tree for the passing delights of a mid-day feast and careless carousing, will be counted worthy of the treasure. He must cry out for it with all his might, search for it with all his skill, bear the heat of the day when others are enjoying their leisure, and even as Jacob struggled with the Angel, wrestle with God in fervent prayers, not letting him go until the desired blessing is given.
But not only must these means be diligently used; they must likewise be joined to a passive and humble receptivity of spirit, which acknowledges that all good things come down as a free gift from the Father of Lights. The gold of his word must be received and laid to heart, just as the wise son receives the instructions of his father, and puts them to use in ordering his affairs. The one who rejects counsel for the impulses of his own heart will soon find himself in desperate straits, and the one who seeks for wisdom anywhere else than from the free and bountiful hand of God will waste his life in pursuing fleeting will-o-the-wisps, and find himself sinking at the end of the day in the miry marshes, with nothing of substance left to hold onto.
How many lives have been cast into eternal ruin because one or the other of these principles have been forgotten! Many wicked men, who have grown up in the embrace of right religion, never reject it outwardly, and will readily admit that it is in the word of God that all happiness is to be found, but because they are lazy, and do not value it enough, and have not seen how satisfying it is, and desire instead the ephemeral delights of the world, they do not seek the treasure where their lips confess that it is to be had, and ultimately find themselves penniless paupers, naked, blind, and wretched. Many others are seeking truth and wisdom, but as it were of their own strength and prudence, and so they cast off the clear directives of Godâ€™s word, and trundle off to some false field, where nothing is hidden but dust and stones, and waste their lives playing games in the mud, and hoping people will consider them wise and rich for the skill with which they construct their sand castles. If we would find the true riches of wisdom, let us avoid both of these false paths, and crying out to God alone for his free gift of the Spirit, let us apply to his word with diligence and skill, for that is the pathway which leads to glory.
We have seen the cost of finding this hidden treasure, and noted that it does not come to the casual observer, but is reserved for him who gives up his whole life in exchange for it. What then is its value, and how do the benefits it confers upon its possessor measure up to the price which is given for it? Under normal principles, any commodity that demands from a man his whole life as its price must be a foolish transaction indeed! But the paradox of the gospel is this: it demands everything, but gives unspeakably more than it required; for it takes only that which is imperfect and broken down, and replaces it with what is perfect and eternal. The gospel-wisdom which Solomon would counsel us to pursue may be likened to a treasure hidden in a field, the price of which is all oneâ€™s goods and possessions. To a man that is unaware of the treasure buried within, it is but a field of weeds, and to pay the radical price required makes no sense at all. Thus are true Christians foolish in the eyes of the religious hypocrites. They will pay a few hours in Church, a few worldly pleasures foregone, a few dollars to charity, in exchange for a little ease of conscience, but they will not give up their whole life for that field. It is unthinkable to them, for they see only the weeds of lightly-appeased guilt and pride over external morality, while the real treasure remains invisible. Far otherwise is it with the man who has seen the hidden treasure and recognizes it for what it is. He will go in his joy and sell everything that he has to buy that field. And for his sacrifice he will not be sorry, but will consider himself the most blessed man under heaven, and so will he be, for the rags that he sold cannot be compared to the rubies and diamonds and pure gold and silver that he has purchased.
This is because the true treasure is nothing other than the knowledge of God. When hypocrites look for the hidden treasure of religion, they are seeking the prideful trinkets of outward acts of morality, self-motivated service, the harsh treatment of the body, and many other such things they can point to and say, â€œSee, I have accomplished something good and commendable, now my acts of charity must surely outweigh my sins!â€. But this treasure is only dross and chaff, and will buy them no eternal pleasure. The true hidden treasure is the fear of the Lord and the understanding of Yahweh. All manâ€™s good consists of fellowship with God: it is the end for which he was created, and the only means by which he might be satisfied. But men are now wretched and miserable because of sin. Their lives are deep pits of hell covered over with the gossamer threads of false hopes and piddling comforts, which only mask their deep pain and certain calamity for a brief moment. In order to gain the only treasure accommodated to their need, they must leave all that old wretched state, and apply to God with diligence for communion with him. See what a comfortable sacrifice it turns out to be, for the one who gives up his life to find the hidden treasure!
But this treasure is only to be found in the word of God. We must receive his words and commandments, and search them with diligence, if we are to find the richest veins of silver. We must hunger as the birdlings for every good thing which comes from the mouth of their mothers, and clamor after each morsel with all our might, if we would be fed and satisfied. We must crane our necks and open wide our mouths, and stretch out with all our strength â€“ and yet, in all this activity, we must be acknowledging all the time that we are insufficient unless God himself drops in the longed-for bits with his own mouth.
The hidden treasure that we are seeking is only the wisdom of God, which we find through the word of God, and which leads to the knowledge of God; what wonder then if we may simply refer to this Wisdom of God by his other name, Jesus Christ? In Christ alone is the glory of the Godhead revealed. In him alone is the knowledge of God to be found. In him is the overflowing storehouse of riches and eternal delight, he is the one who reveals to us grace and truth, who brings us to the Father, who satisfies our souls. He is the treasure buried in the gospel-field. This is why he is called the Word of God and the Wisdom of God. And as we seek the hidden riches of true religion, we must be seeking him alone for all our hope, joy, and godliness of life. The common thread that ties together all false religions is that they miss this one point, and place their hope and joy in something other than Christ, or in Christ and something else. But he is too great to share the room in any manâ€™s breast. Either he will be the sole tenant, or entirely absent. One must forsake all to follow him, but one will thus find all by forsaking, and gain all by giving up.
This glimpse of the treasure hidden in the gospel-field of Godâ€™s word ought to motivate us to give up everything, set our faces steadfastly to the hills, and strike off in unflagging pursuit of it. But we must take care that we do so lawfully, lest we be as the Jews whom Paul lamented for their zeal without knowledge. To that end, we will turn now, in the will of God, to the way in which we must go about our task of seeking.