What the Bible says about
Treasure, God's Special
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Balak puts Balaam to work almost immediately upon arriving. The diviner has Balak build seven altars, on each of which he offers a bull and a ram (Numbers 23:1). The bull and ram are the prime animals to offer because of their value, and the number seven has a long history of being especially propitious. By these offerings, Balaam is trying to ensure his ability to bribe a curse out of God.
God, of course, will not be bribed (Deuteronomy 10:17), so He puts a blessing on Israel in Balaam's mouth (Numbers 23:9-10).
Balaam was indeed standing in a high place of Baal at the time (Numbers 22:41), and evidently, from this height he could see the whole camp. What he saw was an immense mass of people that he could not begin to count, a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:16: "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered" (see also Genesis 15:5). Balaam's oracle suggests that this growth would continue, something Balak did not want to hear (Numbers 23:11).
In saying that Israel was "a people dwelling alone," Balaam notes its separation by covenant from the rest of the world and to God. This recalls God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, in which He prophesies Abraham's offspring returning to Canaan as a people (verses 13-16), and certainly, it alludes to the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17. This separation by covenant is ratified anew at Mount Sinai: "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6; see Deuteronomy 7:6-11).
The soothsayer's final words are a wish that he, a Gentile having no part in the covenant, could be included under it. The "righteous" are those who keep the terms of the covenant, which is obedience to God. His words of blessing may allude to Genesis 12:3, where God promises Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you." If he cannot join them, Balaam at least desires the blessings that come from blessing them!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Prophecies of Balaam (Part One)
Since God is holy, the people He chooses for Himself must also be holy, a principle that continues under the New Covenant. As God lives by high standards, so must His people keep those same high standards as an example to the rest of the world. Just as a human government sends out ambassadors to other nations to represent it in its affairs within those nations, God chose Israel to represent Him. What were His reasons?
» He chose Israel to be His own people, a special treasure for His own purposes.
» He chose them to demonstrate His love for them. He simply loved them. When God loves someone, He puts a great deal of responsibility on him.
» He chose them to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with whom He also had a special relationship.
» He chose them to make a covenant with them, under which they were to keep His commandments and obey Him in everything. In return, He would bless them immensely.
God's choice of Israel was an act of love for them, even though He knew from the start that they would ultimately fail. God knew from the foundation of the world that all mankind would need a Savior (I Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8), including Israelites. Yet, if any people were to succeed as God's model nation, it would be the children of Abraham. This is not because they were better, but because they of all people had a relationship with God, which had begun with Abraham. They had examples in their own ancestry that they could study to see that it could be done if they remained close to God.
To help them to succeed, God gave them His laws, another act of love. Moses writes:
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Even in their laws they were to be a model nation for the rest of the world, not just for the Gentiles to notice, but to emulate. The Israelites should have made a great impression on the Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, and all the nearby nations. This respect and admiration should have then spread beyond them to other nations.
Yet, because they failed to live by those good and righteous laws and to take advantage of God's nearness to them - in reality, they failed in just about everything He asked of them - their influence as a model nation rarely stretched beyond their borders. Too often, Israel was instead outright pagan!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)
Being chosen to be God's special treasure and become holy had nothing to do with any of our accomplishments, race, nationality, gender, IQ, or academic training. We are special and thus blessed because God loves us and because He is faithful to His promises to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reinforces these points by emphasizing that He is faithful, as well as by warning us that He is a God of justice.
Therefore, He is clearly stating that the foundation of this relationship is based completely in what He is within Himself, otherwise the relationship would have never gotten past the casual stage of mere acquaintance. The vast majority in the world who call themselves Christian are merely acquainted with God. By God's personal calling (John 6:44, 65), we have been made special—to have an intense and intimate relationship with Him. The very character of God, not any excellence in those He has chosen, is the basis for our being special.
This gives us no room for pride. He was not somehow attracted to us because we had been seeking Him all our lives, were so attractive, or had done so many good things. On the other hand, this blessing gives cause for a great deal of gratitude, and just as in a marriage, this specialness brings responsibilities.
God proclaims Himself to be the faithful God, and in Deuteronomy 7:11, He broadly states the means by which we are expected to prove our faithfulness in return: We are responsible to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments. As in a marriage, because the parties have become special to each other, they are responsible to be faithful to each other above all others. A covenant made before God binds us to this intense, marital faithfulness.
I Peter 2:9 states this responsibility in a somewhat different manner: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Notice his sentence begins with "but," introducing an explanation of why the chosen are to be different from the disobedient of verses 7-8, and of what they are obligated to do.
As stated here, the responsibility of God's own special people is to proclaim—to show forth (KJV)—the praises of Him who has called us. The proclaiming is accomplished through speech and conduct. We show forth His praises in our witness through faithful obedience, just as is commanded in Deuteronomy 7:11.
I Peter 1:13-16 shows that being a special treasure and holiness are inextricably linked:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
God emphasizes "special treasure" to impress us with the magnitude of His blessing in making us special and the critical importance of our difference from others expressed through holy conduct.
It is important to consider our calling as God's peculiar treasure a tremendous blessing that we never allow to slip from our minds. It opens the door to the knowledge of God, faith, forgiveness, His Holy Spirit, access to Him, transformation to be like Him, and an endless supply of other things He provides, besides everlasting life. However, there are specific things we must do and cannot do because we are special.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift
God listens to what we say. He wants to hear us speak to and help each other during these stressful times. He does not like to hear judgmental and condemning conversations among His people, but words of encouragement that spur others into standing fast in God. He likes to hear brethren urging each other to fix their attention on the true teachings of God and to have faith in what He is doing.
Soon, God will make us His jewels, a special treasure for Himself, and those who have conducted themselves wisely will be most prized by Him. We need to realize the dangerous times and attitudes into which we can be dragged. We must stay focused upon what God is working out in our lives and in the lives of others—wherever they may be fellowshipping. By doing so, we can fight against Satan's influences and overcome them in faith. God is preparing His own special, peculiar people (I Peter 2:9), and He will bring them all to a full and wonderful salvation!
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
The Whirlpool of War
The English word translated as "jewels" in verse 17 is not entirely wrong, but it is not a precise translation of what the Hebrew word, segullah (Strong's #5459, transliterated in various ways), really means. The simplest usage of segullah is to indicate personal possession. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words expounds its meaning (remember that we are being described):
Cegullah signifies property in the special sense of a private possession one personally acquired and carefully preserves. Six times this word is used of Israel as God's personally acquired (elected, delivered from Egyptian bondage, and formed into what He wanted them to be), carefully preserved, and privately possessed people. . . .
This is not the first time this word appears in the Bible, which distinction belongs to Exodus 19:5, "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine." Segullah is translated as "special treasure."
The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary explains:
This manifestation of the love of God to Israel formed only the prelude, however, to that gracious union which Jehovah was now about to establish between the Israelites and Himself. If they would hear His voice, and keep the covenant which was about to be established with them, they should be a costly possession to Him out of all nations. . . . Cagulaah does not signify property in general, but valuable property, that which is laid by, or put aside, hence a treasure of silver and gold. . . .
It is helpful to note how God emphasizes segullah to impress its importance on Israel—and now us—by saying, "For all the earth is Mine." This establishes a reference point, indicating that He could have considered any people on earth as His own personal and private treasure, but He did not. Just as a person carefully and discriminately chooses his personal jewelry according to his own criteria, so He chose Israel then and chooses us now.
In I Chronicles 29:3, segullah is again translated as "special treasure," but the context provides a clear use of the term. It involves the preparations David made for the building of the Temple so Solomon could construct it. David explains that from his own personally obtained and set-aside treasure, he gave so much gold and silver.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift
Acts 20:28 and John 3:16-17 show that the pruchase price for the field, the world, was His own blood—His all. So what is the lesson in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure? Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Our being hidden is the protection part. He, with His own life's blood, redeemed us with joy.
This should give us great confidence in our spiritual battles. The greatest battle has already been won, and that is not all. Since we are His treasure, and since He hides and protects us, sanctifying us through His truth—and do not forget that He prayed for our protection from the evil one—we have it better than it seems. We have more going for us than we might think, despite the spiritual battles we still have to fight.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure
The field is the world (verse 38). The treasure is a symbol of the members of the church. In the Old Testament, God calls Israel His "special treasure" (Exodus 19:5; Psalm 135:4) and "My jewels" (Malachi 3:16-17, margin: "special treasure"). In the New Testament, the apostle Peter states that the elect are God's "own special people" (I Peter 2:9-10). This title was transferred from ancient Israel to spiritual Israel, the church (Galatians 6:16). Since Israel is biblically a type of the New Testament church, the "treasure" in this parable represents the church.
The man hides his treasure in the world. "Hid" is used in a negative sense in the Parable of the Leaven, but the context of the Parable of the Hidden Treasure is positive. Prior to their calling, the individual members of the church are lost, but then they are found (called by God) and hidden again in the world (Ephesians 2:1-7). We were once hidden in the world by default because we were just like the world, but we were not hidden from God. He knew who we were before we were called (Psalm 71:5-6; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:76; Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 1:15-16; II Timothy 2:19-21).
The man is Christ. Jesus reveals here how He views the world in relation to the church. Instead of glorifying us immediately, He hides us after we are called (John 17:11, 14-18) by physically sending us back into the world. The world camouflages us because we still physically look like the world, but being regenerated members of God's church, we are radically different spiritually. We are set apart or sanctified by God's truth (John 17:17), and the world does not readily notice that we have His truth in our hearts and minds. No longer are we hidden in the world because we conform to it, but for the opposite reason. We are hidden in the world with Christ (Colossians 3:3), and the world recognizes neither Him nor us (see John 1:10).
Jesus gave His all, the ultimate sacrifice—His own blood—His life—for us (John 3:16-17; Acts 20:28). His attitude of joy in doing so shows the genuineness of His self-sacrifice for His treasure (Hebrews 12:2). Even though He had to endure crucifixion, He was elated to redeem or purchase His church—those who would become His bride (Revelation 19:7). Christ reflects His Father in every way, and God is a God of joy. When we receive His Spirit, we also begin to receive His joyous nature as a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). When we use God's Spirit, joy is produced. As God's elect, we have Christ dwelling in us, and by doing the will of the Father as He did, we can have His joy.
Christ now sits at the right hand of God, continually appearing in the Father's presence, making intercession for us as our Mediator (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:24). Jesus receives great joy from knowing that He is presently in the process of saving the firstfruits of God's Kingdom and will later do the same for the rest of humanity. He maintains His joyous excitement by looking forward to the glorious future of the Family of God and by always doing the will of the Father.
Jesus Christ our Savior found us, a special treasure in the world, and gave His all to call us out of the world and redeem us. He now owns us, and through sanctification, He protects us and hides us from the world.
Martin G. Collins
The Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Six): The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
This chapter extols the uniqueness of the church, which Paul refers to as "the purchased possession." Israel became God's personal possession through the destruction of Egypt, and more importantly, with the killing of Egypt's firstborn as the price for Israel's liberty. God "purchased" Israel and its liberties by this means.
What we see taking form is a separate and unique people. Even though all mankind owes its existence to God as their Creator, Israel and the church are both separate and unique because they belong to God in a way other people and nations do not. Amos 3:2 declares, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." God purchased these people at awesome cost and thus came into possession of them.
When Israel became His property, it gave them certain liberties. So it is with us, but we receive more besides. Among other things regarding the uniqueness of the church, Paul explains that its members have been set apart (redeemed and freed from the rest of mankind and its ways) and sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The term sealed is important because it embraces, not only the sense of ownership, but also security and guarantee. Individual seals were unique, used on documents to identify the sender and to render the content secure from prying eyes and theft, and so they were a guarantee that the contents would reach the intended destination.
God's children may look no different on the outside, but they have been given something inside, something spiritual, that makes them different from others and special to God. They are different only because of something God has done, which also makes them His personal, treasured possession.
John 1:12-13 declares, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That "something" is the right or power (KJV) to believe the Word of God, which opens our minds and imparts to us the knowledge of God and His purpose, faith, the fear of God, the love of God, and so much more.
Billions of people have access to the Bible. They read it and may even attend church and call themselves Christian, but they then ignore and disobey huge amounts of it, thus not living by every Word of God. This is actual evidence that those who are part of God's special treasure do indeed possess something that sets them apart and motivates them to obey more completely.
Deuteronomy 7:6 begins a section that reveals one of the major reasons why God has done this. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." Segullah appears again as "special treasure," but along with segullah is another, more familiar term that identifies being a special treasure as an aspect of a larger subject: the blessings and responsibilities of holiness.
Holy literally means "set apart." Being a special treasure has set us apart from other people. Others, without this advantage, are not set apart. When this principle from the Old Testament is combined with Ephesians 1:13-14, we can understand that the blessing of having the Spirit of God makes us special, different, and holy (Romans 8:9).
This occurs because, in God's self-revelation, His Spirit imparts faith and the love of God beyond what the natural mind is capable. It is becoming clear that being blessed as a special, holy people imposes responsibilities on us that we are required—indeed commanded—to meet. The standards within this relationship are high, requiring gifts and growth to meet them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift
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