“JESUS, PRICELESS TREASURE”
“Unto you therefore which believe He is precious…” (1 Pet. 2:7)
INTRO.: A hymn which identifies Christ as the one who believers find is precious is “Jesus, Priceless Treasure.” The text was written by Johann Franck, who was born on June 1, 1618, at Guben in Brandenburg, Germany, 79 miles southeast of Berlin. His father, a lawyer and judge also named Johann, died when his son was only two years old. The boy was brought up by an uncle named Adam Tielke, who was the City Judge and had him educated at Cottbus, Stettin, Thorn, and the University of Koenigsberg where he became a lawyer but also developed his verse-writing ability. His religious spirit, his love of nature, and his friendship with such men as Simon Dach and Heinrich Held, kept him from participating in the excesses of his fellow students. Returning to Guben in 1645 at the urging of his widowed mother, he was elected to the Guben city council at the age of thirty during the last year of the Thirty Years War, and developed a friendship with hymn publisher also from Guben, Johann Cruger (1598-1662).
This hymn, which had been produced in 1641 and modeled after a love song by Heinrich Albert that began, “Flora, meine Freunde, meiner Seelen Weide,” using the same structure, was first published with six stanzas in Cruger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica, fifth edition, of 1653. In 1661 Franck was chosen mayor of the city, and in 1670 was elected to the council of the Margrave of Niederlausitz. His own Teutsche Gedichte bestehend im Geistlichen Sion, including the hymn, was published in 1674, and he died at Guben on June 18, 1677. The English translation was made by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). It was first published in her 1855 Chorale Book for England, though she revised it in 1863 and again in 1869, so several different versions exist. Originally Winkworth translated only five stanzas, but later she added the sixth.
The usual minor tune (Jesu Meine Freunde) was said to be a “traditional German melody,” some think perhaps adapted by Cruger from plainsong origin, when published with the hymn in Cruger’s book, but it is usually attributed to Cruger himself. It was arranged in 1655 by Franck’s friend Christoph Peter for his Andachts Zymbeln. It was further arranged and harmonized in 1723 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). For those who have trouble with or do not like minor melodies, the 1961 Trinity Hymnal published by Great Commissions Publications of the Orthodox Presbyterian Chirch provides another tune (Lindman) composed, probably around 1871, by Norwegian musician Ludvig Matthias Lindeman (1812-1887). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the hymn has appeared in the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1994 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, all with the Cruger tune.
The song introspectively looks at what Christ means, or should mean, to the true believer.
I. Stanza 1 refers to Jesus as our Friend
Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source (Fount) of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Long my heart hath panted, (Ah, how long in anguish)
Till it almost fainted (Shall my spirit languish,)
Thirsting after (Yearning, Lord, for) Thee. (?)
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb (Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!)
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Ask for naught (Naught I ask) beside Thee.
A. Jesus is the source or fount of purest pleasure because we can rejoice always in Him: Phil. 4:4
B. Therefore, He is the truest friend to us: Jn. 15:13
C. However, to have this pleasure from such a good Friend, we must hunger and thirst after righteousness: Matt. 5:6
II. Stanza 2 refers to Jesus as our rest
In Thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
God dispels our (Jesus calms my) fear.
Sin and hell in conflict fell (Lightnings flash and thunders crash);
With their heaviest storms assail us (Yet, though sin and hell assail me),
Jesus will not fail us (me).
A. Jesus calls us to come to Him for rest: Matt. 11:28-30
B. The rest that He gives us will help us be more than conquerors over all foes: Rom. 8:37-39
C. In this way, through His love He dispels our fear: 1 Jn. 4:18
III. Stanza 3 refers to Jesus as our power
Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great power guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.
A. We can resist Satan, the devil: Jas. 4:7
B. We can overcome the world through faith: 1 Jn. 5:4
C. The means by which we do these things is God’s great power manifested through the gospel of Jesus Christ: Rom. 1:16
IV. Stanza 4 refers to Jesus as our greatest choice
Hence with earthly treasure! (Wealth, I will not heed thee,)
Thou art all my pleasure (For I do not need thee),
Jesus, all (is) my choice;
Honors, ye may glisten (Hence, thou empty glory!),
But I will not listen (Not to be thy story)
To thy (Told with) tempting voice;
Pain or loss, nor shame nor cross,
E’er to leave my Lord shall (Shall not from my Savior) move me,
Since He deigns to love me.
A. Wealth or treasure should not be our greatest choice: Matt. 6:19-20
B. Rather, Jesus must be our greatest choice, for if we do not choose Him we are against Him: Matt. 12:30
C. We must choose to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Him: Matt. 16:24
V. Stanza 5 refers to Jesus as our protection
Evil world, I leave thee (Farewell, thou who choosest);
Thou canst not deceive me (Earth, and heaven refusest),
Thine appeal is (Thou wilt tempt in) vain.
Sin that once did bind (Farewell, sins, nor blind) me,
Get thee far (ye all) behind me,
Come not forth again.
Past thy hour, O pride and power;
Sinful (Worldly) life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee (Farewell) now forever.
A. We are tempted by the evil of this world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life: 1 Jn. 2:15-17
B. If we yield to temptation and sin, it binds us so that we become slaves of sin: Rom. 6:16
C. However, Jesus protects us and gives us strength to sever those bonds by making a way of escape: 1 Cor.. 10:13
VI. Stanza 6 refers to Jesus as our peace
Hence, all thought(s) of (fear and) sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whate’er we (I) here must bear,
Still in Thee lies (Thou art still my) purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!
A. Jesus wants to enter into our hearts: Jn. 14:23
B. To have Him in our hearts, we must love the Father with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength: Mk. 29-30
C. If we do this, then we can let the peace of God rule in our hearts: Col. 3:15
CONCL.: The parentheses indicate variant readings from different hymnbooks. The German chorales of the Reformation were translated into English during the 1800s and became popular in the Anglican Church, as well as in Lutheran and German Reformed churches of America, but only a few found their way to other Protestant groups, and not many came into use among churches of Christ. The harmonies are often complex, and even the melodies can be a bit difficult at times. But they certainly represent themes that are worthy of our consideration. Especially during times of trial and tribulation, we should look for comfort to “Jesus, Priceless Treasure.”