PEARLS – THE GREAT COVERUP

Mat 13:45  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Mat 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Rev 21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Pearls! Merchants seek them, pigs trample them, and the Redeemed will pass through them. What does it mean?  In any case, I do not own any pearls. And even if I did, I would certainly not try feeding them to swine! I am also not likely to become a pearl merchant. And as far as the gates to the kingdom are concerned, although pearly gates would certainly be beautiful, does it really matter how we enter the City? Surely these verses were simply penned in the poetic style of the time.

On the other hand, if all things physical were designed to teach of the spiritual (Ps 19: 1-2,Rom 1:20, John 3:12), what spiritual insight might we gain from a study of pearls? What does the Ultimate Rabbi/Teacher/Designer expect that we will understand from His inclusion of pearls in these verses? Might it be possible that examining the process by which natural pearls form, will disclose information regarding the formation of spiritual pearls, if indeed such a thing does exist?

To explore that possibility, we will begin with that which can be observed; the physical. The following information has been compiled using Wikipedia as well as various jewelry sites.

A pearl is created by an oyster or mollusk quite by accident. Pearl producing oysters are simple creatures that languish in water and feed on plankton. Occasionally, while the mollusks passively feed,  a grain of sand or a parasite will lodge itself inside the soft inner body, under the mantle of the oyster, causing its host great discomfort.

Unable to expel the intruder, the oyster engages a defense mechanism within its body to protect itself from the intruder. The oyster begins to secrete a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the intruder in order to protect itself.  This substance is calcium carbonate based and is commonly referred to as nacre (NEY ker). As long as the intruder remains within its body the oyster will continue to deposit nacre around it layer upon layer. After a few years, the intruder will be totally encased in a smooth and lustrous cocoon of nacre which has now become a pearl. But how precious pearls are formed from what an oyster regards as merely protection against irritation, is one of nature’s most prized secrets. For all his technology and science, man is still unable to recreate this phenomenon outside an oyster. For nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of millions of microscopic crystals each aligned perfectly so that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the other to produce a tapestry of light and color.

Amazing! From the above, we learn that the process by which a pearl is formed begins with a problem. An impurity has entered the mollusk and is causing great irritation. The oyster is unable to rid itself of the culprit. Then, by the Creator’s design, a miracle begins to unfold. Nacre (NEY ker) is secreted to cover over” the impurity!  The nacre continues to encase the intruder, layer upon layer, until the infiltrate is completely separated from the body of the mollusk, and can no longer cause any harm. In fact, this process of covering over has formed an exquisite pearl! What once was a source of pain has now become a thing of great beauty and value!  In fact,  from this point forward, each time we see a pearl, may it register in our minds that this thing of beauty was the miraculous solution to a seemingly hopeless problem! And of great significance, as we shall soon see,  the lustrous pearl reflects light! It is really quite astonishing! And THESE are only the scientific facts surrounding the physical formation of a pearl!

In pursuit of natural pearls, pearl divers used to dive deep beneath the surface, and open many mollusks, in search of the exquisite pearl. Our search for the exquisite spiritual pearl will also require some deep diving. But finding that pearl of great value will be VERY exciting indeed!  

PEARL DIVING

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear anything described as “covering over,” particularly as covering over an impurity, atonement comes immediately to mind! This is probably because the Hebrew word translated into English as atonement, is kaphar, and does indeed  mean  “covering over.”  As a matter of fact, kaphar is the root word from which the word kippur is derived, as in Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement!

Here is the word in Hebrew as defined in the Strong’s Lexicon.

H3722         כּפר   kâphar    kaw-far’

A primitive root; to cover (specifically with bitumen); figuratively to expiate or condone, to placate or cancel: – appease, make (an) atonement, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, to pitch, purge (away), put off, (make) reconcile (-liation).

Hmmm.  We have just learned that a physical pearl is formed by a process of covering over. And now we see that the Hebrew word used in Scripture to describe atonement means a covering over! Are you in awe, as am I?  Do you see the correlation? Could it be that we have already discovered the exquisite and valuable spiritual pearl, formed by the continuous process of atonement? Selah (pause and think about that)

Studying His chosen Design for the formation of a physical pearl, discloses a mind-blowing illustration of the priceless spiritual pearl; atonement,  as well as what it does for us, and in us!  Like the process of physical pearl formation, the process of Atonement is activated when we need it most. As soon as we realize (are convicted) that a dangerous intruder (that would be sin) has taken hold deep within us, spiritual nacre (atonement) production commences.  Performing a service that we are powerless to provide for ourselves (that’s grace), the spiritual nacre covers over (that’s atonement)  the impurity (sin) that has infiltrated and is causing us harm. As the process of atonement continues (for as long as the intruder is present), with each additional layer of spiritual nacre, more distance is added between us and our sin. We are becoming a  new creation, separated from sin, holy – set apart.  

And as a byproduct of this process of covering over and separating, with each application of the spiritual nacre, more and more of His Light is refracted and reflected.  As atonement continues its work of forming a barrier between us and the dangerous intruder (sin), we find that now, in the very place deep within us that the destructive sin had taken hold, there is instead… a pearl!  A pearl of great price, which, by its very nature, reflects LIGHT!  

How appropriate that the Light of the World would be reflected through the finished process of covering over/atonement!  Perhaps that is why this pearl of great price is compared to the Kingdom of God! The Kingdom of God is filled with precious light-reflecting pearls, formed by this process of grace and atonement which has taken place in each of the Redeemed!

Wow!  Exploring in the deep waters is exciting indeed!  Let’s continue! Now that we know how pearls are formed, and realize that this process was orchestrated by His specific design, perhaps each time we encounter the word pearls in Scripture, we should think of atonement! With that in mind, let’s take another look at Matthew 7:6.

Mat 7:6 Give not that which is holy (set apart) unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls (covering over/atonement) before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Is it possible that this is meant to be a warning not to take our covering over, our atonement, lightly?   You see,  swine and dogs have at least one thing in common; they are driven by their animal nature, which lusts continually after food.  Their all-consuming focus is on what will fill the belly, to the exclusion of what will feed the soul!  In fact, if offered the choice between a rotting skunk and a treasure chest filled with priceless jewels, neither pigs nor dogs would even consider the treasure chest!  If it does not smell of food or drip with blood, they recognize no value in that which is put before them.  Likewise, though you may esteem your atonement highly, a person focused on their animal nature will ascribe to it no value at all! They will trample over you, AND your precious pearl of atonement, to get to the dead skunk diner!  And, sadly, perhaps we are also at times guilty of taking our pearl for granted as well.

1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.And now, at a different pearl harvesting location, we find this verse.

 Rev 21:21  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Revelation 21:21 was the pearl verse that I found most surprising and exciting! Take another look. How many pearls are mentioned?  Twelve?  Hmmm. I had always envisioned the pearly gates as a pearl on each side of the road leading into the City. However, if this were the case,  then of course, twelve gates would require a total of 24 pearls. Instead, Rev 21:21 specifically declares that each gate is  constructed of ONE pearl!  One pearl – one gate. Hmmm.  

With time spent meditating on this verse, attempting to imagine what this might look like, two possibilities came to mind. First, perhaps each gate is constructed of one pearl, hinged on one side, and connected to some sort of a frame. It is a possibility.  But it was the second prospect which really caught my attention and excited my heart and soul!

Imagine approaching the gates of the City.  Before you looms a huge, lustrous, light-reflecting pearl.  The “heart” of the pearl has been removed, with the resultant opening forming a gate. 

If this design is indeed what is meant by the above Scriptures, all of the Redeemed will actually enter the Kingdom by first passing THROUGH the place of kaphar/atonement/grace! Mi kamocha! B’alim Adonai!  Who is like Thee, O Lord among the gods!!!

Simply considering the beauty of the perfect and glorious picture He is providing should drive us to our knees!  What had previously been covered over, has now been completely removed and is no more! He has taken it away, providing an opening, a way for us to enter into His Kingdom. In its place, created through the process of grace and atonement — LIGHT!  As we enter through the pearl of  atonement and grace, we are bathed in the lustrous Light that emanates from the glory of God and the Lamb, as it is being reflected in layer after layer!  Truly breath taking!

Rev 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.  

It is difficult to even conceive of the beauty! And, how appropriate that within the design of a pearl, He has communicated not only the magnificent beauty and remarkable value of atonement, but the fact that man can never duplicate it!

For all his technology and science, man is still unable to recreate this phenomenon outside an oyster. For nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of millions of microscopic crystals each aligned perfectly so that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the other to produce a tapestry of light and color.

Also in Wikipedia, we find this interesting entry:

In the time of colonial slavery in northern South America (off the northern coasts of modern Colombia and Venezuela), a unique occupation amongst slaves was that of a pearl diver. A diver’s career was often short-lived because the waters being searched were known to be shark-infested, resulting in frequent attacks on divers. However, a slave who discovered a great pearl could sometimes purchase his freedom.

A slave!  It brings this to mind.

Joh 8:33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

A pearl of great value – Atonement. The Son sets us free through His continuous layering of spiritual nacre (His atoning blood). It will be available for as long as we need it. However, it is important to note that the whole purpose of the nacre is to free us/separate us from our sin. In the process of physical pearl formation, the nacre pushes between the intruder and the body of the mollusk, forming a separating barrier.  Nacre was never intended to allow the parasite to remain embedded but comfortable, but instead was designed to come between the parasite and the mollusk!

And it is interesting to note that one way to accomplish removal of the parasite would have been to remove/detach/eliminate the protective shell of the mollusk, allowing the intruder to be swept away. But this was not done because it would result in the demise of the mollusk. Instead, the goal was always to protect the mollusk from the infiltrate while leaving the protective outer armor in place. And so it is with spiritual pearl formation! The goal is to separate us from our sin. Removing the protective shield (Torah/Law/Teaching and Instructions) would have done the job (no Torah-no sin), but is not part of the plan, and in fact would be counterproductive.  For just as certainly as removal of the mollusk’s shell would cause greater harm, removal of Torah  results in forfeiture of its protection as well. Yes, indeed, as you have heard, Torah is, in fact, restrictive. It is, truth be told,  designed for that purpose, in the same way the shell of the mollusk, or in fact your own skin is restrictive by loving design.  Torah is meant to restrict us from sin/harm/ultimate destruction. It is loving, protective spiritual nacre, separating us from that which would harm us.  Now, that’s nacre (grace”)!

 

Today I am so very thankful that He loved me enough to apply layer after layer of atonement, purchasing my freedom, removing me from the evil slave master; sin/lawlessness (1 Jn 3).  I am eternally grateful and awe-stricken that He has covered over my sin, and one day will remove all evidence of its presence, providing an opening for me to enter into His Kingdom. My heart delights in the thought that we will at last enter the City where all sin/lawlessness has been cast away and exists no more. And I am exceedingly humbled by the thought that this atonement leaves behind a  thing of lustrous beauty, as a reminder of what was and is no more, and that this atonement will forevermore reflect His Light.

We conclude by reviewing the first Scripture mentioned above.

Mat 13:45  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Indeed, like the merchant man in the verse above, there is NOTHING that we own, or could ever own, that would come close to the value of our priceless atonement!  I am so very grateful that we are not required to purchase our atonement (nor can we). But if that were even an option, surely there would be no deliberation!  Box everything up! List it on Amazon, eBay, or Craig’s List! Purchase that PEARL!

Ahhh, the Spiritual Pearl!  The miraculous solution to a seemingly hopeless problem!

When the day comes that we enter into the City through one of the beautiful Pearly Gates, may we not take for granted, but stand in awe, as we pass through the place of atonement! May we truly comprehend that we are entering through the place of kaphar, bathed in His light in the very place where sin once was and is no more! May we fall at His feet, and pour out our gratitude for the gift of the Pearl of Great Price!

 

Amayn (may it be so)