A friend, Jeremy, lives in Israel. He was in a small village, inspecting some earthen pots which traditionally were used to store drinking water. His hosts told him that they were considered the best for the task since the water would actually become cooler once placed inside of them without any modern refrigeration – an incredible advantage for inhabitants of arid lands. The very idea seemed too good to be true, but it turns out that the villagers were not making this story up and that this is common knowledge in some parts of the world.
While swallowing this bit of information my friend was reminded of a verse written by Paul regarding the ministry of reconciliation between God and man. His thoughts encourage me:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
Paul was describing how God committed his greatest work into the hands of men formed from the dust – in spite of their lowly state and their natural tendency to be shattered. What Paul does not specifically mention is one aspect of an earthen pot that every desert dweller would have known: its ability to cool water down so that anyone who drinks would be refreshed.
In spite of our fragility as vessels of earth, we have an advantage that vessels made out of gold and silver lack. We can give a "cup of cold water" (Matthew 10:42) to a thirsty world. Countless believers today seek the glitter of a miracle or the epiphany of some angelic being (or God himself) as proof of God’s nearness, but it is no less a miracle when God uses a simple earthen pot to supply a thirsty man with a drink of cool water.
Jesus himself became an earthen vessel, so it should be no surprise that God uses jars of clay to speak into our lives and even give us the guidance we request. Indeed, we should rejoice in the privilege of being served in that way. The encouragement that comes from hearing the victorious testimony of someone who came to know God through weakness and suffering is also a cup of cool water poured from a fragile earthen pot keenly aware of its limitations.
I by no means reject miracles and other supernatural wonders, but hearing the story of the earthen vessel has caused me to become all the more thankful for the miracle of God using vessels of clay to pour out the water of life in cool and refreshing abundance to a dry and thirsty world.
As a side note to today's post, the image at the top was provided by Roel Wielinga. Tracing the links needed to properly credit the photograph led me to Roels Story, a website dedicated to documenting the story and art of Roel, as he undergoes treatment for leukemia.
You can read Roels Story: http://roels-story.net/blog/.