Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Jars of Clay

Jessin Varghese 
Carmel MTC, MA
8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. - Isaiah 64:8 

“But if I can't swim after forty days
and my mind is crushed by the thrashing waves
Lift me up so high that I cannot fall
Lift me up"

- “Jars of Clay “Flood”

Charlie Lowell is a lead singer from the band Jars of Clay, which is a well known Alternative Christian Rock band from the nineties. When he was asked where the name from the band came from, he replied that he thought about the name in college as the band was laying down it’s roots.  “He recalled a Bible verse he had read which discussed the frailty of man, and the irony that this amazing life has been breathed into our frail, physical bodies by our Lord.” (Lowell, 2007). This passage, which related the struggles of man and the testing of our wills and bodies, which ultimately provides us the strength to endure the hardships of life, included the phrase "Jars of Clay" (Lowell, 2007).  The phrase was penned by the Apostle Paul, and was from 2 Corinthians, chapter four verse seven: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us". The band thought that was a good way to keep themselves humble—to have a band name that would force them to continually realize that all of their blessings had come from God (Lowell, 2007). 

Imagine walking miles and miles in the desert-sometimes days on end-feeling physically weak and exhausted. Then you come across a small village. You see that there are tall jars of clay sitting out. You fall to your knees and bring it up to your lips and await the cool water as it rushes past your lips and soothes your cracked and dry tongue. You drink and drink and are filled. The coolness of the water spreads throughout your body and gives you a renewed sense of your life. This was one of the many purposes of jar clays back in Jesus’ days. It stored cool water which brought relief, quenched thirst, and brought renewal to weary travelers. So when Paul refers to himself as a jar of clay it was not without purpose. The gifts of the Holy Spirit within him, bring relief, quench thirst, and bring renewal. 

Clay was used significantly in Middle East and can be seen unearthed through many archaeological digs. It is noted that clay was the material of the common people to store various objects and for many uses. It stored water, oil, valuable items, and even broken pieces were used for writing etc (Smith, 2005). Therefore when we as Christians are referred to as Jars of Clay we are considered “vessels” of God. The treasure we carry in our hearts is the word of God. To be a vessel of God is to be His instrument and to carry out a specific service. Paul states in his role that his purpose as an instrument of God is gospel ministry. He declares that he is like a jar of clay which can be easily broken and delicate because through him His message can be clear. God stores this treasure in common men like people stored valuable goods in jars of clay because He uses it as a tool to transform them. He also uses their frailty to prove that the source of the message is from God himself. In other words, because they are so vulnerable no one should be able to doubt the work of God in them and the true source is The Maker. 

How does this connect to the theme of the new vision for the messianic age? Let’s quickly review what the messianic age means. The Messianic Age is referred to by past prophets in the Old Testament as the period of time in which the promised future King will arrive and provide peace universally. Isaiah is one of the first prophets to speak to this age, and to declare that this ruler descendant of David will deliver the people from their present state of war, gloom, and despair (Ross, 2004). In Corinthians, Paul points out that the Messiah had come in the form of Jesus Christ, suffered for our sins and resurrected. Christians differ from Jews based on this simple belief of the divinity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul and the prophets recognize that Christ has come and he will come again. It is the purpose of current Christians to spread that there will be a second coming where the glory of the Kingdom of God will be revealed. This completely changes the perspective of his role as a prophet, compared to other prophets. He is there to witness to the resurrection and life of Christ and therefore bring in a new perspective of the messianic age. When Paul speaks to the people of Corinth he is speaking to them during a time where many false prophets are presenting conflicting messages about the messianic age and about Christ. Therefore Paul states that he is set apart, because he speaks to the message of Christ and the source of the message comes from the Lord itself. He does not speak for his own glory as many other prophets in his time did (Smith, 2005).   He states that being a prophet of Christ may bring with it challenges, but he believes in its purpose. He subsequently points out that being a follower of Christ can be challenging but we should not despair because the glory in the kingdom of God surpasses all earthly difficulties.  

Again, he uses the term jars of clay because he wanted to point out how he and his fellow brothers of Christ are fragile and weak yet God uses them for His divine purpose. He has embraced this role and continues to live for that purpose and encourages all followers of Christ to do the same. If gospel ministry is not our role, how else can we fulfill God’s will for us? How can we be vessels of His word?  How are we using the talents and abilities that we harbor to glorify God? How are we being jars of clay for the Lord? How can we use the word to bring relief, quench the thirst, and renew the lives of those around us as we continue in this journey of life? 


Lord, help us to remember that You are the potter and we are the clay. We are the work of Your hands. You break us and mold us. Send Your holy spirit to dwell within us and help us to be vessels of Your love and mercy. Amen. 

Be vessels of God’s love and mercy. 

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