Call them what you will, they are made from mud, turned on a wheel, baked, and used either with or without painting. Though durable, they are somewhat fragile.
This kind of pottery is an earthly picture of our bodies.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,” II Cor. 4:7.
Hark back to the beginning: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” Gen. 2:7.
Still more: “For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return,” Gen. 3:19.
Yes, in one word, earthen vessels. We get sick very easily. It doesn’t take much to get hurt. We may try to “paint” the outside, but the hair soon turns gray, the skin becomes dry and wrinkled, the driving spirit weakens, the keepers tremble, the grinders cease because they are few, and man goes to his long home.
Though true, we have a treasure in this earthen vessel.
In the context of II Cor. 4:7 it becomes obvious that Paul is talking about the treasure of the gospel, more particularly the preaching of the gospel. As a preacher, he realized that it was a treasure to be able to preach the glorious gospel.
Though this has special meaning for all who stand with Paul and say, “We have this ministry,” verse 1, the idea carries over into all of our lives. Every God-fearing husband and wife views marriage as a station of service to God. When the Lord blesses that marriage with children, the treasure of parenthood prevails. It is a treasure to be able to arise in the morning and have work to do. It is a treasure to sit at the table and eat and drink with our children. They are treasures because they involve us in the development of the covenant of grace. God uses us to further His cause in this world.
Yet, that treasure is in earthen vessels. We may set high goals, but seldom are we able to realize them fully. We sincerely plan our days so that we may accomplish as much as possible in the few short hours, but night-time has a way of measuring our shortcomings. As preachers, teachers, workmen, parents, whatever our occupation, we must confess with Paul, we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
There is a reason for this.
“That the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us,” I Cor. 4:7.
Power refers to that which is accomplished. Indeed, sermons are preached, lessons taught, children cared for, work done, programs rendered, and on and on.
Do we boast in our labors?
Our earthen vessels remind us that the power is not in us; it is in the God Who is pleased to use us. Paul had to learn that personally. His earthen vessel had a thorn in it. Three times he prayed God to take that thorn away; yet the answer came, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” II Cor. 12:9.
The excellency of power is that of grace.
That keeps us going.
We appreciate the comparison that Paul makes in the verses that follow: troubled—not distressed, perplexed—not in despair, persecuted—not forsaken, cast down—not destroyed.
My dear reader, how many times have you wanted to do something, but you were prevented from doing it because you have an earthen vessel? Remember those days of sickness, heartbreaking sorrow, being down in the dumps; you suffered some spell in which you blacked out; you had a lapse of memory; fear gripped your soul; somehow you had to go on but you didn’t know how.
Yes, we all get these from time to time.
It’s our earthen vessels.
Returning to dust.
That the excellency of what power we do have, may be unto God!
Though the earthen vessel crumbles back into the dust, we arise with a greater awareness of the power of God.
We sing, saved by grace!
All glory be to our God forever!