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Jars of Clay

We have this treasure in jars of clay II Corinthians 4:7

          Do you remember the Old Testament story of how David became king?  You can read it in I Samuel 16:1-13.  If one of us wrote the story it would probably go something like this:
          Once upon a time, the children of Israel looked around them and saw that other people had kings to rule over them and became jealous.  They insisted that God give them one too.  Finally God agrees but only after instructing the prophet Samuel to warn them of the pitfalls and the cost.
          Despite the warning, the people persist and Samuel is sent by God out into the country to find the man whom he has chosen to be their first king. His name is Saul and though he comes from the smallest of the tribes, he is a kingly type–handsome and tall (head and shoulders above anyone else).  In an ancient ritual, oil is poured over him, and “he is given a new heart.”
          Saul becomes a powerful and great king with God’s help.  But the day comes when he becomes “great in his own eyes” (too big for his breeches), turns his back on God, God’s Spirit leaves him, and God rejects him as king.
          The old prophet Samuel, who loves Saul, is given the painful and sorrowful message with instructions to anoint a new king.  He is sent to Jesse of Bethlehem and told that one of Jesse’s sons will be the king.  On a secret mission, he examines seven sons but is told by God, none of them is the one.  On inquiry, he discovers that Jesse has a younger son out tending the sheep.  David is called in and identified as God’s choice.  David is short, ruddy, and very young.  The anointing oil is poured over him and “from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” (v.13)
          Immediately, the people rally around David, Saul is removed from the throne, David rules wisely and well and everyone lives happily ever after.
          Or perhaps, David goes into a training program for future kings, where he is given the best of everything, all which befits one who is to be king.  Saul dies, David becomes a great king and lives happily ever after.
          But that is a fairy tale.  The real story is much different.
          After David is anointed secretly by Samuel, he wins the king’s favor by killing the giant Goliath and by his great musical ability with a harp.   However, as David becomes powerful and popular, Saul becomes jealous and drives him to live as an outlaw.  Nine different times he attempts to assassinate David.  Only after years does David become king.
          His life then is full of sorrow and pain, at least partly brought on by his sins, including adultery and murder.  A son, Amnon, rapes his sister, Tamar, and is killed by his brother Absolum in vengeance.  Absolum leads a revolt against his father and drives David out of the capital city.  Eventually Absolum is defeated and killed by Joab, David’s commander.
          No, we would not have done it that way would we?
          When a person is tapped by God, surrenders to him, receives His Spirit, all temptations, weaknesses, problems should  be over.  Or better yet, when a person becomes a Christian, she/he should no longer even have to endure the pain, struggle of continuing to live in a world like this, even the possiblity of sin, failure.  Why not take him immediately to heaven?
          David’s story always stands as a reminder that it doesn’t work that way.  And Paul gives insight in this in our II Corinthians 4:7:

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

You see, God deliberately leaves us in this frail human body, in this sin scarred world so that we will be  protected from the basic sin, pride.  It was an ancient Roman practice that after a victory the General rode a chariot with a crown held over his head.  There was the crowd’s applause BUT also shouting “Look behind you and remember you will die.”  This was followed by soldiers, who sang his praises BUT also hurled jests and insults.  The intent was to foster humility.
          Humility is necessary for the character God is forming.  If we separate ourselves to God, surrender to Him, we receive this treasure, this light and it is possible that it shines through to glorify God.  Someone has said that the cracks in the old clay pots let the light shine through.  This is demonstrated in the contrasts of human struggle and God’s sufficiency:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

It is in our human frailty, that the life of Jesus can be revealed.  When people see that we are real human beings and that God is at work in us, then Jesus will be lifted up–and will draw all people to Him.

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