Rev. Sudha Mehta MA©
My sister tells me even today in India it is common to see large Jars of clay being sold and used. I suppose I am dating myself when I tell you that when we were children growing up in India, this was the way we stored water for years before daddy was able to buy us a used Fridge. Incidentally that was the only fridge my parents ever had. It lasted that long.
Anyway, about clay jars: every clay jar is molded on the potters wheel. It is then baked in the kiln at high temperature. Jars come in various sizes. We had large round ones called “GHARA” that stored water for our cooking needs. We also had smaller ones with a long neck called “SURAHI” to hold drinking water. This could also be refilled from the large round ones if needed.
This was our cool water supply for the day even when the temperature and humidity became very difficult to bear. The jars were washed inside and out everyday before filling with fresh water, Otherwise it would get mildew, and bacteria could multiply, in which case it would have to be thrown, for the water would not be safe for use.
Since the jar was made of clay, sometimes it would crack and leak, which also made it useless and we would have to replace it.
Smaller clay pots that were also available. These were disposable and the making process was different. They were made on the potter’s wheel but not baked in the kiln, just sun dried. These were not as durable and hence cheaper. Often we would go to the store to buy hot or cold food and the shop/restaurant owner would put the food in these and we would carry it home. Once emptied these were pitched.
My favorite use for these smaller containers was to have tea in them. The tea tasted very flavorful, and when I was done, like a paper cup I would throw it in the trash.
At the market you could even buy nicely decorated and painted kiln dried jars. They were more pricey. but the water was the same in them . . . no different.
The Bible often refers to humans as being made of clay, and God as their Creator. Paul writes in:
2 Cor.4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but rather Jesus the Messiah as Lord, and ourselves as merely your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus the Messiah.7 But we have this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary power comes from God and not from us.
2 Tim. 2: 20 In a large house there are not only utensils made of gold and silver, but also those made of wood and clay. Some are for special use, while others are for ordinary use.
The Clay Jars that Paul refers to is us. In other words, Just as Adam was made from the earth, so are we his descendants. We are perishable just as clay jars.
A clay jar can be pretty and decorated but it is still ordinary clay.
A clay jar may come in different sizes in shapes, but it remains ordinary clay.
A clay jar can get a crack, be defective or just break.
A clay jar is made stronger by baking it in a fiery kiln.
A clay jar not baked in a kiln is not as strong or as valuable.
A clay jar must be washed everyday before use.
A clay jar that is unbaked can’t be reused again and again.
Furthermore, the Bible states in Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our potter; and we all are the work of Thy hand.
and in Romans 9:20b-21 Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
A clay jar doesn’t decide what shape it wants to be, the potter decides that.
A clay jar doesn’t decide what it wants to be used for, the owner does.
A clay jar doesn’t decide to go through the fire or not, the potter does.
If the shape doesn’t please the potter, he has the full right to break the pot, discard it or use the wet clay and knead it, beat it, and throw it back on the wheel to redo the shape.
The clay doesn’t have the right to cry and complain because it hurts.
In short, it is the potter who determines the size, the shape, and the purpose of the clay jar. The potter determines whether it will be a vessel of honor, or a vessel of lowly use.
Most importantly, the jar is by nature of little value even if it is decorated. the value of a clay jar is determined by what it contains. Whether baked or unbaked, the contents are what matter the most.
When I had tea in a small unbaked clay cup, the tea was delicious, It soothed me, it lifted me, it cheered me up; the container was good for me to hold the tea, but once emptied it landed in the trash.
If mom brought home yogurt, or lentils or anything else from store in the un-fired small or medium clay pot, we all enjoyed the food as part of our dinner, but once done, the pot didn’t get washed, it got pitched.
The pots that had been through the fire and strengthened by it, were of more use. we stored water in them. the water refreshed us and we used those pots again and again.
So, when Paul tells me we are clay jars, I like it. I recognize I am but a fragile jar of clay that has little worth on it’s own.
I recognize I had no say in my making, the Master Creator who made me determined not just my shape and size, but also my purpose and how long I would be used.
I recognize that I can be hurt, wounded, and broken.
I recognize if I don’t turn out to my Creator’s pleasure He has the right to break me and start over on the wheel to reshape me.
I recognize that if He chooses to make me a vessel of honor, He is likely to put me in the fiery furnace to bake me in order to make me stronger.
I recognize He will wash me as He molds me, and then when i come out of the fire He will wash me again.
I recognize He will use me again and again one I have been through the furnace, and He will wash me again and again to make sure i don’t get slimy or dirty or filled with mildew.
I recognize that what I look like, big or small, skinny or fat, old or young, dressed fancy or plain, doesn’t matter, what I carry in me does.
I recognize that if i want to be a vessel of honor in His house, I must be willing to be reshaped if needed, go through the fire as needed, and sometimes just to be set aside in between fillings just to wait for the time He has need for me again.
Now, you know, I am speaking of myself. I want to be used by the Master. I want to be a vessel of honor, used for His good purpose. I want to be filled with His message, His light, so He can use me to demonstrate His power, His love, His mercy, His goodness, His salvation to all.
I want to be filled with living water to bring a refreshing to all who are thirsty, to bring salvation through the good news.
I want to be filled with His message of hope and light, so people can hear, and come to know my loving Creator who died not just for me, but for all that have, or will ever live.
I want to be of service to Him who loved me (just an ordinary clay jar) enough to give Himself up for me.
These are all my “I” declarations, not of pride or arrogance, but prayerful supplications!
Question is, do you want the same? Since man is made from clay, all that applies to a clay jar, applies to you as well. What kind of a clay jar do you want to be? Who is your master, whom do you serve? Who fills you, and with what? If you do not know the One I serve, you can. Just ask Him!
If you will let Him, He can make you and mold you for His use. and I know He does all things well, The process may seem hard at times, but the results are always great. Try it!