If you have been reading the first two parts of this series, you have heard me talking about clay pots and how they are used to illustrate powerful truths in the Bible. I have also talked about how the skill of the potter results in the exact amount of pressure and heat needed to produce the vessel he has designed. I shared about the significant care that is needed to slowly remove the heat and cool the clay pot so it is not damaged.
As I read about the process and skill needed by potters to create the mug for my coffee, I am deeply grateful that we have a Potter with infinite skills and wisdom as He works to create our character so we will neither be too soft and fail to be of use or too hard and brittle so that our hearts cannot respond to Him.
What seems more startling still is that clay pots, earthen vessels, are the Lord’s choice given how precious the item it will be used for. Paul tells us in the II Corinthians passage there is treasure in this clay pot. One might think something grander than clay might be chosen if it is to contain treasure, but the story of a Rabbi I heard illustrates how crucial the material the vessel is made of can be.
In this story, an emperor’s daughter observes his mean demeanor and taunts the Rabbi. He replies by reminding her that her father keeps his fine wines in common earthen vessels, clay pots. The emperor’s daughter responds by asking the Rabbi to put the wines in silver vessels instead. He obeys, but the wines then turn sour so the Rabbi discerns that the humblest of vessels contain the highest wisdom.
The story illustrates how common vessels of clay provide the most excellent and perfect choice for the use intended. That encourages my heart when I reflect on my own vessel. The passage Paul writes uses the word treasure in some translations to describe the light of Christ. In The Message, the translation tells us the vessel looks very ordinary so that anyone looking at it might miss the brightness within it and He has specifically chosen us as ordinary clay pots so that His light, His life, and His message gleams more brightly and prevents anyone from thinking what they see comes from the clay itself.
Think of it! He has chosen me! He has chosen you! And He knew what He was getting from the beginning, the pluses and the minuses, the strengths and the weaknesses, the successes and the failures, the confidence and the doubt. He knew. He always knew what He could do with clay pots and exactly what would be needed with each one to create a character fit for His purposes.
In The Message, we can see the results as Paul writes, “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t been broken.”
He knows just how to make me. He knows just how to make you. He knows the shape needed, the temperature required, and only He can cool this vessel at the precise speed to produce His character in us to withstand whatever this world throws at us.