Friday, December 24, 2010

Commentary: Earthen vessels

Earthen vessels

When we talk about Containers we may refer to Items used to contain, store, protect, preserve and transport products.  Some obvious examples are: Cartons, Bottles, Cans, etc.  Some containers are used for Shipping; they include (among others): Crates, Wooden boxes, and corrugated boxes made of corrugated fiberboard.  Perhaps one of the most popular containers in the USA is the Food storage container. 

Bags are also containers.  There some are made for many applications and made put of many materials.  And, such is also the case with the above mentioned boxes. 

The vase is an open container, often used to hold cut flowers. It can be made from a number of materials including ceramics and glass. The vase is often decorated and thus used to extend the beauty of its contents.  Some vases look like what would have been in the past an earthen vessel.  Now, a vessel is a hollow or concave utensil, as a cup, bowl, pitcher, or vase, used for holding liquids or other contents.    The term earthen refers to what they are made of: compressed earth (as in some dams), or baked or fired clay.  So, an earthen vessel is a cask or utensil proper for holding liquors and other things, as a tun, a pipe, a puncheon, a hogshead, a barrel, a firkin, a bottle, a kettle, a cup, a dish, etc.

In Jeremiah 32, we find a mention of earthen vessels.  God tells Jeremiah to buy a lot of land, and register the purchase.   Let us read the passage,

Jeremiah 32: 10 And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.

Jeremiah 32: 11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

Jeremiah 32: 12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

Jeremiah 32: 13 And I charged Baruch before them, saying,

Jeremiah 32: 14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.

This seemed like an exercise in futility being that the land would be conquered, destroyed and uninhabited shortly thereafter.  But, it was a way of God letting the Jews knows that, "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land" (Jeremiah 32: 15).  So, the evidence of the purchase was put in an earthen vessel to preserve it. 

 This act was symbolic of the Gospel.  In the Bible the term vessel can refer to people.  Some examples are terms such as: Vessels of wrath, Vessels of mercy, and Chosen vessels.  The term earthen can refer to us also, since we are made out of the earth. 

Just as Jeremiah purchased the land, Christ bought us with His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Jeremiah sealed the scrolls that were evidence of the transaction.  Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 that He has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.   He follows in Ephesians 1:13-15, "… you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."

So, we - the purchased earthen vessels - contain the sealed evidence – the invoice and the deed - of Christ purchase for us.  Vessels can't do anything; it can however receive what is put into it and it is this that it can dispense; however the work is done by the One using the vessel.  Let us then allow Christ to use us as His vessels. Let us receive what he puts in us – His Holy Spirit (His Word) - so that we may dispense that to others.