“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
Luke 15:1, 2
After the Pharisees and scribes had murmured against Christ and the work He was doing, He, knowing their hearts, told a series of parables that are recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. Each one of these parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son—conveys the same principle and was told in the presence of the Pharisees and scribes who were so actively impugning Christ’s work.
In Testimonies, vol. 3, 99–104, there is a presentation of these three parables which clearly indicates that the object of each one was to open the eyes of Christ’s listeners to the fact that when a sinner, represented by the found sheep and coin and the returning son, turns from his sinful ways and returns to Christ, there is to be rejoicing, not condemnation.
Another possible explanation for these parables is that the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son could be understood to represent this world. According to the Spirit of Prophecy, of all the created worlds, this is the only one that has eaten of the forbidden fruit and been lost (see Christ’s Object Lessons, 190, 191). As we return our allegiance heavenward, what if the angels treated us just as the son that remained at home treated the prodigal? Surely Christ will say to them, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Luke 15.32.
While both of these interpretations are applicable, there is perhaps a third interpretation for the parable of the lost coin. We read Christ’s words, “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:8–10.
In the parable, it was a woman who lost one of ten coins. In Scripture, a woman is used to represent the church. Thus the first point for us to note is that the church has lost one of ten pieces of silver—interestingly, the same number of coins as the number of commandments.
Does the word of God provide a hidden treasure in this parable?
“Those who desire to find the treasures of truth must dig for them as the miner digs for the treasure hidden in the earth. No halfhearted, indifferent work will avail. It is essential for old and young, not only to read God’s word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 111.
In Psalm 12:6, we read, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
In Proverbs 2:1–5, the Bible records the enlightening words of Solomon: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”
In these texts, the Hebrew word translated as words can also be translated as commandments. When we compare scripture with scripture, an interesting interpretation of this parable begins to unfold. Is it possible that the lost coin also represents a lost commandment as well as a lost sinner and a lost world?
How did the woman find the lost coin? She lit a candle to shed light on her search. In Psalm 119:105, we read, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Therefore a suggestion for an alternative interpretation to this parable might be that the church lost one of the ten commandments and by searching for it in God’s word, they found it.
In 1885, Ellen White preached a sermon in Grimsby, England, in which she spoke of how Sabbath reform in the early Seventh-day Adventist Church came about as a result of the proclamation of the third angel’s message:
“The open door in heaven reveals the temple of God, in the most holy place of which is the ark, and in this ark is the law of ten commandments written with the finger of God on tables of stone. The light that shines forth from the open door attracts the attention of the people of God, and they begin to see what that ark contains—the law of ten commandments. They are seeking for light, and as they trace down that law, precept by precept, they find right in the bosom of the decalogue the fourth commandment as it was instituted in Eden and proclaimed in awful grandeur from Sinai’s mount, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it’ [Exodus 20:8–11]. They then see that instead of observing the seventh day, the day that God sanctified and commanded to be observed as the Sabbath, they are keeping the first day of the week as the Sabbath. But they honestly desire to do God’s will, and they begin to search the Scriptures to find the reason for the change. Failing to find this, the question arises, Shall we accept a truth that has become unpopular, and obey the commandments of God? or, shall we continue with the world, and obey the commandments of men? With open Bibles they weep, and pray, and compare scripture with scripture, until they are convinced of the truth, and conscientiously take their stand as commandment-keepers.” The Present Truth, November 3, 1885.
Can we not conclude, then, that the parable of the lost coin was in one sense a prophecy about finding, through searching the word of God, the lost commandment that clearly shows the seventh day as the true Sabbath?
In searching God’s word, comparing scripture with scripture, we find a surprising number of references from Christ Himself regarding the commandments as a whole and the implications of keeping them.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21.
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10.
“Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men. … Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:7–9.
From these texts as well as from many others, it is clear that Christ kept His Father’s commandments and exhorted His followers to do the same. Let us look at one example in God’s word of Sabbath-keeping that should confirm to anyone who doubts the importance of finding the lost piece of silver, the lost commandment.
In Luke 23:50–56, there is a clear indication of faithful—and maybe even surprising—obedience to a commandment that many today seem to have lost. “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”
Doesn’t this story make it clear that if we want to serve our Lord, we must do so according to His commandments? May the world soon realize that there is indeed a lost coin, a lost piece of silver, a lost commandment that must be found and returned to its rightful place in our lives if we truly love the Lord.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” I John 5:3.
John Pearson is part of the Steps to Life team. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.