In the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33), what is hidden is a highly destructive element that negatively affects God's realm. In the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, what is hidden is a priceless element that positively affects the realm of God's rule. As we will see, the treasure is an answer to the leaven.
While Scripture shows that “treasure” symbolizes several things, the imagery of hidden treasure has a narrower usage. In Job 28:1-11, Job describes hidden treasure in the form of undiscovered gems and lodes of precious metal. He talks about the effort men put forth to tunnel into the earth for what is valuable, setting the stage to contrast it with something even greater. In verses 12-28, he turns the focus to the superior value of wisdom and understanding, pointing out the impossibility of finding such hidden treasure without God.
In verses 15-19, Job observes that wisdom's value is so great that no man can purchase it. Verses 12 and 21 assert that nobody knows where to look for wisdom or understanding. He concludes by quoting what God says to man: “Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (verse 28). Thus, hidden treasure is compared to understanding, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord—a collection of valuables.
Solomon speaks in identical terms in Proverbs 2:4-5: “If you seek her [wisdom; understanding; verses 2-3] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” Isaiah 33:6 also links wisdom and the fear of the Lord with treasure, and in Psalm 119 the psalmist writes, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. . . . I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (verses 11, 162). These verses likewise show wisdom, the knowledge of God, the fear of God, and God's Word symbolized by hidden treasure.
Thus, God likens hidden treasure to a collection of interwoven things: Understanding, wisdom, the fear of God, knowledge of God, and God's Word, all of which are positive and powerful factors in living God's way of life. These are all things God must give, and they are hidden until He gives them. However, we must add one more element to this collection, something interconnected with all these symbolic hidden treasures. The gospels record Jesus finding something that matches this exactly—and it gave Him joy, as the parable describes.
Matthew 8:5-12 records one of Christ's healings. A centurion had approached Jesus to ask Him to intervene for his servant, who was a distance away. Even though Jesus offered to go to his home, the centurion humbly deferred. Notice verses 8-10:
The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
What Jesus found and caused Him to marvel was faith. Faith is inextricably linked with all the elements Scripture associates with hidden treasure: Faith comes by hearing—by understanding—and that comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is based on the knowledge of God and the fear of God, and faith and wisdom meet in right action. Therefore, when God gives a man these hidden treasures, they are all aspects of faith. God-given faith—which includes both trust in God as well as a body of true beliefs—counterbalances the leaven; it is the solution to corrupt belief systems.