Ordinary earthenware pots took on great importance in ancient days, when they became the repositories for gold and silver coins, valuable legal documents, and precious parchments. Those were days when there were no bank vaults or safety deposit boxes, so wealthy potentates used earthen vessels for storing their precious coins and other priceless possessions. Jeremiah tells of keeping in an earthen vessel the deeds to a piece of land which he had purchased (Jeremiah 32:14). It is now many years since the world heard the exciting story of a Middle East shepherd boy throwing into a cave a stone which cracked an earthenware pot, leading to the discovery of the famed Dead Sea scrolls. Ordinary clay pots, made on an uncomplicated potter’s wheel, have been used for centuries as storage containers for things of value.
It is encouraging to translate the thought to our spiritual lives, and to see ourselves esteemed by God as earthen pitchers, as were the precious sons of Zion (Lamentations 4:2); or viewed as vessels of mercy (Romans 9:23); of honour (2 Timothy 2:20) or for holding treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). It is good for us to remember the prayer of Job, “Remember, I pray, that you have made me like clay” (10:9). And the cry of Isaiah, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). Then to visit the potter’s house and see the once marred vessel made over again into something of usefulness, as the Lord has done with each of us (Jeremiah 18).
The skillful, unerring hands of the Almighty have shaped us for His purpose; to be vessels of trust, responsibility, dependability and honour in His house. This is when we are humbled by His matchless grace, and freely acknowledge that “… we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
The Greek word “skeuos” contains the thought of a weak or fragile vessel. Paul uses it to describe the saints as earthen vessels, holding the divine treasure of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6,7). Fragile vessels we are at best, but there can be great spiritual joy in store for us if we are willing that His light might shine out to others (Judges 7:20). What kind of vessel do I want to be?