Today’s reading: Deut 15:1–17:20, 2 Cor 4:7–18, Ps 37:1–22
Today’s theme: Treasure in clay jars
We hold the most valuable treasure in the world, even though we are only clay jars, this treasure is God Himself manifested most clearly in the message of His gospel. There are lots of lessons in today’s reading about being a good vessel in God’s hands, to His glory.
The blessings of obedience
if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. Deuteronomy 15:5 (ESV)
Notice that this great promise is conditionally based on obedience. We too are blessed when we obey the Lord.
Help the poor
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11 (ESV)
God does not want us to ignore the poor, but to open our hearts in generosity and love towards them. This call to justice and care in the community is seen throughout God’s word. We must recognise our call as the body of Christ, to serve the poor and needy. See Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:26 and Mark 14:7
Slavery in the Bible
It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do. Deuteronomy 15:18 (ESV)
When we read about slaves in the bible, we often mix it with the more contemporary slave trade of the 19th century, where countless families from Africa were stolen and sold into shameful, brutal shackled slavery throughout Europe, America and the West Indies. This is wrong. The slaves referred to here were paid for their work (or were paying off a debt) and had the opportunity to go free. This was like a cheaper form of labour and was crucial to Israelite society, this was the case for all cultures at that time in the ANE (Ancient Near East).
This is why slavery is not overturned in the New Testament, instead the relationship between workers (slaves) and masters (employers), is reformed. This was particularly radical in the Roman world where masters and servants would never be seen as peers. See Matthew 20:27, Romans 6:18, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 6:5
Give with joyful generosity
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. Deuteronomy 16:17 (ESV)
We should follow this principle in our giving to the Lord and should pursue a lifestyle of generosity and gratitude. The 10% in the tithe is just a basic guide pointing to us giving all. Let us not restrict ourselves to giving in a cold legalistic way, instead we should joyfully and willingly give generously, in genuine gratitude for all that God has blessed us with. Give whatever God has put on your heart to give, in faith and joy.
The law of the king
And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:17 (ESV)
God gave direction for the kings of Israel long before the people asked for a king. None of the kings of Israel obeyed this command fully, as many had riches, multiple wives and did not write the book of the law. They were all surpassed by the true king, Jesus. See John 18:37, Revelation 1:5 and Revelation 22:16
2 Corinthians 4:7–18
Treasure in clay jars
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)
The treasure is “the gospel of God’s glory revealed in Christ” as spoken of in the last verse. We carry this glorious and great message in quite unremarkable packaging. When we are saved we do not become superior to other humans, we are still made from dust, we are frail, weak, lowly, expendable, still having to face trials and are vulnerable like the common clay vessels.
These vessels are used as instruments in the Master’s hands, we humbly submit ourselves as vessels for the Masters use. We are like envelopes delivering the vital and important message of the Good News. The gospel is so glorious and life changing that those who receive it will know that it did not originate from us and that all the glory comes from and belongs to God.
The life cycle of the believer
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:10–12 (ESV)
The cycle of death and resurrection is vital in all of our lives as believers, we must walk in self-denial, humility and service, while undergoing persecution (all this represents death). While all of this is happening, the life of God by the Holy Spirit is manifested in us, because when we are weak God is strong.
Our dependence is on Him, our very life depends on Him. We are unified with Christ and He is our life source. In order for more fruit to come, the seasons must have their full cycle and we must abide in the vine in every season, this will bring more fruit and growth… the only way we can thrive in Christ is to die and rise in His power. As each one of us sacrifices our resources, time and energy, we bless others within the body also.
Encouraged by reward
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV)
The great reward God has in store for us should encourage and strengthen us through all struggles and suffering, Paul said the glory so outweighs the suffering, that they cannot even be compared.
Delight in God
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
We should find our pleasure in the Lord, we should enjoy God and find our greatest joy in God because He is our greatest treasure. When we take delight in the Lord, our life will find true fulfilment and the desires of our hearts will align with His and He will give to us abundantly, according to those desires. See John 15:11
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on 2 Corinthians 4