Heavenly Treasure in Earthen Vessels

February 5, 2024

Heavenly Treasure in Earthen Vessels

In 1947, a young Bedouin boy was taking care of his father’s goats near the ancient settlement of Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. One of the goats went into a cave, so the young boy threw a rock into the cave’s entrance to get the goat to come out. He heard the stone hit something and make a shattering sound, so later, he and his companions went in the cave to investigate. There he found a collection of large clay jars, and inside seven of those jars were the ancient scrolls that we know today as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Up to that time, the oldest Old Testament manuscript in existence was dated about 800 A.D. But the scrolls that were found that day were more than 2,000 years old, about 200 years before Christ! That young boy didn’t know that what he found was of great value, but God had preserved a treasure—His written Word—in those earthen vessels.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, we read of another treasure in earthen vessels. That verse states, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Paul was writing to New Testament believers in the city of Corinth. He was letting them know that they had something precious within them, but it was not there to bring glory to themselves. The vessel was not important; it was what was inside the vessel that was significant. Most treasures are put in very protected places—vaults, lock boxes, or places deemed safe—but God chose to put His treasure in fragile, earthen vessels. Paul’s message to those believers in Corinth concerns us. We too are the earthen vessels of that verse in 2 Corinthians, and if we let Him, God will make us into usable vessels of honor.

Vessels made from dust

The Bible teaches that we were made from the dust of the ground. Dust consists of very small particles of matter. It has no value; those of us who are homemakers are always trying to get rid of it! But God created us out of dust. In Genesis 2:7 we read, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Because of the breath of God within us, “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Whether you are saved or unsaved today, and whether or not you recognize it, you are made of dust by the hand of God, and you are living because the breath of God is within you. The Word of God also lets us know that one day this earthly vessel is going to return to dust, and our spirits will go into eternity.

While we live here on this earth, however, we are God’s dwelling place if we are His followers. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we find these words: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” It is amazing that our great God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, would choose to come and dwell within us.

The eighth psalm describes the excellency of God our Creator, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1). The Psalmist continues in verses 3-4, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” This great God—the One who created the universe and even the galaxies that have not yet been discovered—decided to use man. He said, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:5-6).

Varieties of vessels

Earthen vessels come in all shapes and sizes, and they are not always shiny or pretty. Some may be attractive on the outside, others not so much. Some vessels likely look like they have been in use for a long time and others still look new. Some may even look broken and unusable! The same is true of us, as vessels. But no matter how the outside appears, our value as a vessel is not about us. It is all about Jesus, the One who is in us. He chose us. He told the prophet Jeremiah, in essence, “Before you were even formed in your mother’s womb, I called you. Not only did I call you, but I ordained you” (see Jeremiah 1:5).

God places each of us in situations and environments where we can be used by Him. Some are born in homes where they grow up in the Gospel—they are exposed to it from their earliest memories, and they give their hearts to God while they are young. That is not the case for everyone, but thank God, He is faithful. He has a plan for each vessel, no matter what our background, our age, or our earthly surroundings.

Preparation of usable vessels

It takes some preparation for a vessel to be usable. Psalm 51:5 tells us that all of us were born in sin and “shapen in iniquity.” That is even true of outwardly righteous individuals like Paul. In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul described himself before he met Christ. He was well-educated; a top scholar of his day who had studied under the best teachers. He was of the tribe of Benjamin—in his words, he was “an Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He said, “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6). We are told that there were over six hundred ceremonial laws in that era, but no one could accuse Paul of breaking them. However, in spite of all his admirable qualities, Paul could not be used by God until a change took place inside his heart.

That is true for us as well. To become vessels of honor for God, we must renounce our sin—we must be born again and become new creatures. When I was saved, my outer appearance did not change that much, but something happened on the inside. I became new! Until Jesus possesses the vessel, we are not going to be used by Him, because we are owned and under the control of someone else. The vessel may be beautiful, eloquent, or talented in other ways, but it cannot be a vessel of honor until it comes under new ownership.

Yielding ourselves to new ownership is voluntary; salvation is not forced on us. However, God will help us make the decision. God told the Children of Israel through Moses that they had a choice, and then He admonished them, “Choose life!” God will help us by sending conviction upon our lives so we understand our need for Him. He will cause us to desire to take on that new ownership. When we repent of our sins and believe, God does a supernatural work of grace in our lives. The experience of salvation has no human fingerprints on it; it only bears the fingerprints of God.

Once we have been saved, we need to be sanctified. The nature of the vessel has to change; its purpose has to change. The vessel must be set apart for God’s use through consecration, and then God makes us holy.

God has a purpose in preparing vessels for His use—that He may be glorified. People may admire us or offer praise, but we must continue to give the honor to God because that is what we are designed to do.

God’s care of His vessels

The fact that God is within us does not mean that we are without trials. Sometimes when people are newly saved, they have a false impression of what salvation will do. They may think, Now that I am saved, life is going to be trouble free. However, the Word of God says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Paul repeated that same message to the New Testament church. He wanted them to know that while they had within them a heavenly treasure, they were not exempt from troubles. He said, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Notice that Paul said, “We are troubled; we are perplexed.” He did not say, “We might be.” Paul was saying, in essence, “There is deliverance. This trouble will not take us out; we just go through it.” To be effective vessels of honor, we need to understand that we are going to be perplexed at times, but we need not despair. God always gives the strength to go through.

Paul said they would be “persecuted, but not forsaken” and that also applies to us. We face a challenge today as never before. Society has accepted what God has rejected, and we must take a stand. We are not being political, but we are chosen vessels and we must deliver what is within us by speaking the truth.

Over these last few years, we have proved that God will help. We do not know what is ahead of us if Jesus tarries. But whatever comes, we must not be discouraged. When God allows us to go through hard things, we are being given an opportunity to bring honor to Him. We are being used even when we do not realize it! And God is going to take care of His vessels; the enemy will not be able to destroy what is within us. The enemy may afflict the outward man, but he cannot go beyond what God allows. Remember that Satan had to ask God’s permission to afflict Job’s body. When we belong to God, He is going to take care of us—He will preserve the inner man. We can have that confidence.

 I remember a faithful man of God who had dementia. At times he did not even recognize who was sitting beside him, but he still gave a powerful testimony. There was something in him that dementia could not touch. There is something within us that illness or financial problems or job-related pressures cannot touch. We still have joy! That does not mean that every circumstance is enjoyable. We may have received a phone call that brought devastating news, but we still have the joy of the Lord. There is something within us that the enemy cannot touch.

Wherever God has placed us, He put us in that location for a reason. We can thrive there! We are not seeking the praise or approval of man; our purpose is to glorify God, and that can be done wherever we serve Him.

Today, no matter when, where, or how God may choose to use us, may we be vessels of honor!

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