The Hidden Treasure (3 -- Finding the Gold: B. In What Manner it is to be Sought)
It is a necessary quality for our pursuit of spiritual riches, if we would be successful, that we understand what the treasure consists of, so that we might recognize it when we see it; and as we have observed, manâ€™s true spiritual good is to be found only in the knowledge of Christ. He is the gospel-gold, the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field. But merely understanding this will not be sufficient to fill our coffers, for we must likewise be instructed in the manner of searching, when we have once arrived in the fields of Godâ€™s Word. Suppose a prospector came to California, ready to distinguish between true gold and foolâ€™s gold, and thinking that he should soon make himself rich, he forthwith began to scrutinize the tree-tops, to see whether he would find the gold in the highest boughs. For all his knowledge, he would not soon be successful. So too, the Christian who has been taught to seek Christ in all the scriptures, but does not know how, may wander over many a page without uncovering the deepest veins of silver; or may even fabricate treasures of dubious value, supported only by tenuous reasonings, far-fetched allegories, or the impulses of his own heart.
How then does one find Christ in the long and detailed histories of Israel, the tedious genealogies, the intricate systems of ceremonial cleanness, and many other fields that seem at first glance to be barren of the true treasure of the Messiah? How does one certify Christâ€™s assertion to the Pharisees, that all the scriptures testify of himself? How may one learn what Jesus uncovered to his disciples when, beginning from Moses and all the prophets, he revealed to them the things concerning himself?
From the outset, one must be certain that it is the Spiritâ€™s delight to reveal Jesus to him who humbly and prayerfully seeks him, and that he testifies of Christ through the pages of the scripture; so that, however many tools and strategies one may have in his mind, if he be not filled with the Spirit, he will make no progress. And furthermore, it must be kept in mind that the Spirit has already made clear many mysteries of the Old Testament, through the apostles and prophets by whom he penned the New Testament. Many were the spiritual riches that God had hidden away under lock and key in the Hebrew scriptures; but now that he has sent forth his Son, we are provided with the key that will unlock every treasure chest: and the key is the person and work of Christ.
Consider what thorough use the New Testament writers made of the Hebrew scriptures: how many prophecies they interpreted, how many shadows they brought to light, how many types they saw realized. A precise knowledge of the usages of the Old Testament in the New will give us much help as we labor to uncover the richest veins; for first of all, they expose the true gold of many a precious vein already, and second, they exemplify the way in which this is to be done, so that many other rich veins, which have not been touched upon, might be followed in the same manner. The first revelation of the Son of God has given us the gospel-key by which we might unlock the hidden treasures of the scriptures, and the Holy Spirit has unlocked many of those treasures for us already, in the epistles; and he has left us the key, so that we might unlock every coffer which yet remains. In this way, the writer of Hebrews unlocks the typological mysteries of the Melchizedekian priesthood, the Day of Atonement, and many other things, but concerning the significance of all the tabernacle furniture, he simply says that he has not the time to touch upon it all in detail. From this circumstance, we understand that there is much value to be had in its details, if we but put it to the same Christ-centered use that he has been putting other such things.
The evidence of the New Testament authorsâ€™ treatment of the Old Testament can scarcely be emphasized too much; for there is a method of interpreting the bible today that makes much of what is called the â€œliteral,â€ or â€œnormalâ€ sense, but is actually nothing but the naturalistic, or human sense. By means of this canon of interpretation, the prophecies of the Old Testament are made to contradict the interpretations of the New Testament, as if the same God had not inspired both, or as if he were the author of confusion and contradiction. Let us be aware of these false ideas, and avoid them! For they deny that we might be brought into Godâ€™s Israel as the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith, and relegate the entire Old Testament corpus of promises to the ethnic Jews alone, but first strip the promises of their greater meaning, so that they have to do primarily with the possession of a strip of land in Palestine. They have forgotten that Abraham himself saw through the type of Canaan and was searching for a better city, or that he saw Christâ€™s day and rejoiced. They have forgotten that all the promises made to Abraham were made to him and his Seed, which is Christ, and that all the promises have been fulfilled in him, that they have received their â€œamenâ€ in him, and that they belong to those who are co-heirs with him, and who have been made Abrahamâ€™s seed by their inclusion in his body. Ah, what treasures they have deprived themselves of, because they did not take into account this simple truth, that the Holy Spirit taught us how to understand the Old Testament scriptures through the New Testament interpretations of the apostles.
So then, keeping these preliminary considerations ever before us, let us observe a few points by which the Christ-centeredness of all the scriptures might be made more manifest, so that we might labor profitably in even the most obscure of fields.
First, we must always remember the unity of the biblical story. Oh, how many truths have been lost by the carving up of the bible into self-standing units, when it is at once manifest that it was written as one epic story! The bible is not a loosely-related collection of sacred histories and moral teachings, as some would have it to be; it is the divine and authoritative account of all of history, containing the very purpose for the creation of the world and all its subsequent affairs, and casting all into one vast, unified, and mutually-interpretive epic tale of one great promised Hero, and the work that he should do. All history is minutely designed for the self-glorification of God through the revelation of his Christ, and the bible is just the book that gives this story of world history from Godâ€™s perspective. It is a staggeringly powerful and beautiful story of a great and sovereign Creator, who made the most blessed of creatures in his own image; of the devastating fall that this creature suffered by his rebellion, plunging all his race, yes, and the whole of creation, into a curse of immense proportions; and of a promised Messiah, who from before time began had determined to accomplish the unthinkable task of redeeming and recreating so wretched a race and universe. It is a simple enough story line, but so manifold and splendid that its depths may not be exhausted by an eternity of searching; and when once this basic story has been forgotten, in the reading of any passage of scriptures, all will crumble into a pile of confused teachings, unsupported by the massive foundation of the gospel, from which one may only derive a few twisted moralistic maxims, simply because he has lost sight of the whole. The reading of the scriptures that does not take into account its unified story-line may be compared to the study of a mosaic that never considers the relationship of the individual tesserae to each other. One may learn much of the precise shape and color of each irregular piece, but until he steps back to observe how they all fit together to produce one beautiful picture, he is none the better for it.
So let us always keep the flow of redemptive history in mind, as we study any portion of the scriptures, for only then will we see how Christ-centered and cross-centered they really are. The incarnation, ministry, sin-bearing and suffering work of Christ, and the victory that he should accomplish afterward, is everywhere prepared for and typified in the Old Testament, and everywhere expounded and applied in the New Testament. It is the very center and essence of the bible, the sun around which all else revolves, and without which all must fall into confusion, the heart of the story pumping life into all the body, apart from which everything is dead and meaningless. Until the relationship of any portion of scripture has been related to Calvary, the greatest work of the great God-Man, then its significance has not been adequately understood, and its precious gold has not been uncovered.
Then, in addition to remembering the unified story of the bible, one may dig up many precious nuggets in various other ways, and so find himself rich in the truth of Jesus. One of these ways is to note the several theophanies by which God revealed himself to his people. As no one has seen God, who is a spirit, at any time, it is certain that many of these self-revelations are nothing but the pre-incarnate appearances of Christ to his people. Remember especially the Angel of the Lord, who speaks as God, and accepts worship from Godâ€™s people, and yet in the visions of Zechariah speaks together with God as a distinct person; is this not the Christ? Remember also the appearance of the Lord of Hosts to Isaiah, the brilliant glory of whom caused him to melt in despair, but the sovereign mercy of whom purified him from his sins. As the Evangelist John later declared, Isaiah then saw the glory of Christ, and spoke of him. Let us observe, then, that even before he finally took on flesh, the Son of God was already giving glimpses and foretastes of the ministry that he would one day accomplish, of revealing the glory of the Godhead to mankind, interceding and mediating for them, and enabling them to see God and live.
Furthermore, one may spend much profitable time in uncovering the precious gems of the Messianic prophecies, which are scattered here and there throughout all the Old Testament, as brilliant stars in the nighttime skies. Remember from the earliest stages the promises of a conquering Seed born of woman, of one from the tribe of Judah who would wield the scepter forevermore, of the morning Star that would one day arise, of the prophet like Moses, of the Redeemer who would rise again and plead Jobâ€™s case. Notice how, as the scriptures unfold, Godâ€™s plan becomes ever more clear and explicit, as a light shining always more brightly in a gloomy land, and the Messiah that he had promised takes on a more manifold and glorious character, as the root of Jesse reigning on the throne of David, the Almighty God whose kingdom would never end, Immanuel, our God with us, the suffering Servant who would bear menâ€™s sins, the glorious Warrior, robes stained red with the blood of his enemies, who would once again deliver his people with a mighty hand. Here, there is much fine gold to be had for the digging!
But Jesus is not only promised and anticipated in explicit prophecies: he is also typified in many marvelous and shadowy ways, throughout the pages of the bible. Who he should be and what he should accomplish are everywhere whispered in the lives and circumstances of Godâ€™s people: he is the burning bush, who burns as if with the fire of Godâ€™s wrath, and yet is not consumed; he is Joseph, betrayed by his brothers, sold for a paltry sum of silver, cast into the pit for no wrong of his own, and raised up by God to the right hand of the king, from where he gives many rich gifts to his brothers. He is the Passover Lamb, the ram taken in Isaacâ€™s place, the scapegoat for the Day of Atonement, the Temple, the Rock that followed Israel in the wilderness, the Manna that came down from heaven to nourish them for their journey home. In these and a thousand other ways, we may see Jesus the Savior foreshadowed in Godâ€™s epic tale of redemptive history; and not just in these particular ways, but in the history of Godâ€™s people as a whole, who at their birth as a nation were made to undergo the mad wrath of a king who spilled the blood of all the male children; who were then called from Egypt, underwent baptism in the Red Sea, were tempted for forty years in the wilderness, were eventually cast off and exiled for sins, but were then restored â€“ even as Jesus was born to the same mad raging of the king, was called out from Egypt, was baptized and tempted for forty days in the wilderness, underwent exile from God for our sins, and was gloriously restored the third day, when he rose from the dead. Jesus is Godâ€™s true Israel, who succeeded where the Jewish nation had failed, and in whom all the families of the earth have become blessed indeed. And such are the riches of the gospel-gold hidden in the Old Testament, that we have just stumbled along picking up the nuggets lying on the surface, and have already become rich indeed. Ah, what wonders shall we find beneath the surface, as we dig with all our strength? Things too rich to imagine, I suspect, with which we shall not fail to be delighted for all eternity.