I have heard this verse so many times throughout my life. This morning, however, as I reread it, as so many times the Scriptures do, this verse just leapt off the page; well, two words in particular - "earthen vessels".
In some translations these words are replaced with "jars of clay". So, I began researching this concept....why these words? Why not just say something along the lines as 'these earthly bodies' or 'you're only human ya know'? God is SO smart (as if you needed to be reminded of that!) and He knew exactly what He was saying through Paul. Allow me to share with you my discovery.
Have you ever played with clay? Of course, as a child, we like to mold play-doh and clay into all types of shapes and figures and mothers just loooove when they have to remove our sculptures and pieces from carpets. But this is not the clay of which I speak. "Real" clay work is done with painstakingly and time consuming steps. It can get beautifully messy and the spectacular part is that ANYTHING can be remolded by the creator's hands with some water. It is a fantastically creative process that brings life into a lump of specially formulated dirt; a design that was formerly only known to the creator himself.
The most common use we see today for clay pots is flower or plant containers. But even this information, which I found written by Timber Press, is so incredibly transferable to our lesson...."Just remember that no plant can stay in one pot indefinitely and live. Unless it is repotted into a larger pot or has some if its roots removed and the soil replenished, it will choke itself to death. This may take anywhere from one to ten years, but you will notice when it happens as the leaves and stems begin to die off in great numbers and it is difficult to even water the plant."
In the time period in which we find today's scripture, clay was most used to fashion pots or jars, plates, and even cups. Clay pots, jars as they were referred, were used to store items, especially important items such as scrolls, etc because they could be buried without causing much damage to what was inside. However, due to an array of different atmospheric, organic and other factors, these jars would sometimes be damaged and the contents would need to removed so that restoration could take place to it's container.
WOW! So much to uncover here! Looking at what we discover from how the potter begins its process and what Timber Press says regarding plants and seeing ourselves as the "earthen vessel", or clay pot, how long can we expect to live within the same life practices, habits, lifestyles, etc before we "choke" on the circumstances that life brings? Have you begun to see the effects of that old life causing the happiness you seek to whither or "die off in great numbers"? Is it difficult for living water to even get in? Perhaps it is time to place ourselves into THE Potter's Hands so that He can wash us with His Living Water to make us soft and pliable once again and form us into the design He saw from the beginning. I cannot help but see how even the lesson of baptism fits here as water symbolizes the washing away of the old as we rise anew in Christ!
Once we have become a new vessel, God can entrust us with so many wonderful treasures of His Kingdom! We hold "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus"; we become the container in which He imparts His spiritual gifts to use for His glory. And, just as clay jars, we, too, can become cracked and damaged by our surroundings as they choke the roots of our faith. It is in these circumstances that God can trim away the withering leaves of our lives, wash us with His Living Water and replant us so that we, once again, can grow in His purpose.
How grateful I am to serve The God Who reminds us of our dependence on Him and His love and pride of us. So if you feel at times like a cracked pot as I do, take heart! Those are the ones in which God can do His best work and He isn't finished with us yet!