2 Corinthians 4:7-12
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 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.”
What exactly is this treasure that Paul speaks of? If you are like me, you’ve read this verse countless times in the past, but never gave much thought as to what is in the jar of clay. It is evident from these few verses that whatever the contents of the jar may be, it is tied to hardship for the purpose of revealing the power of God and bearing witness to the life of Yeshua our Messiah.
I believe that taking a look at Yeshua’s reference to the word “jars” will be of extreme help to us in our search for the treasure. Let’s look at the parable of the 10 virgins as recorded in the book of Matthew.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
The wise virgins took oil in jars along with their lamps. These virgins were prepared unlike their foolish counterparts. Could the oil be the contents of the jars of clay Paul references in his letter to Corinth, and the identity of the treasure? And if so, how does one obtain the oil? Why is it something that cannot be given away and shared with others as the parable notes above? Can the oil be purchased?
To answer these questions, let us refer back to the Torah, the books of Moses, to gain understanding of the oil and its use in lamps.
“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.”
Israel was to make clear oil of pressed olives for use in the lamps of the gold lampstand located in the holy place of the tabernacle. The oil was the fuel necessary to create light and keep the lamps burning. One of the lamps, the ‘western lamp’ was to always remain lit. (for more info see here)
According to Jewish Encyclopedia.com, “For the best oil in Biblical times the fruit was crushed in a vessel without being pressed very hard (Ex. xxvii. 20, xxix. 40; I Kings v. 25; Ps. xcii. 11). Oil so obtained was used in the Temple.”
Olives that have reached full maturation are ideal for producing oil of high quality. Following harvest, olives go through a process known as milling or “pressing” where the oil is extracted from the olive. Before this process can begin, stems and leaves are removed from the olive, and it is usually rinsed with water to remove any debris or dirt. Next, the olives are grind or crushed to a degree that allows for the tearing of “the flesh cells to facilitate the release of the oil.” The process of pressing separates the oil from the rest of the olive segments. If desired, the oil can be go through additional filtering. (www.oliveoilsource.com)
The production of oil required cleansing, tearing of flesh, and a degree of pressing/crushing. Could this be a physical picture of a spiritual lesson? One that is applicable to our lives as believers in Messiah. Absolutely!
“For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way to life.”
According to the Proverbs verse above, the commandment is a lamp, a physical vessel, for shining the light of the Torah, which is spiritual (Romans 7:14). The oil required to keep this lamp burning is a product of discipline. Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines (Revelation 3:19). Discipline, whether welcomed or not, comes in the form of tribulation.
Thlipsis (Strong’s 2347): tribulation, persecution, affliction, distress – thlípsis – properly, pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation (http://biblehub.com/greek/2347.htm)
Tribulation equals pressure! Just like an olive requires pressing to rid itself of its fleshly components, we, too, require similar pressing to rid ourselves of our fleshly desires, those areas of our lives that are unpleasing to God and fall outside of His will for our life. The flesh is unable to submit to Torah and is hostile to God (Romans 8:7-8). God delights in disciplining us for the purpose of conforming us to His image. We were created to walk according to the Spirit. It is the Spirit that helps us to walk in obedience to the Torah. Times of distress and hardship help bring to light what is in our hearts. Will we humble ourselves and heed the voice of the Spirit, repent, and submit our way to God? Or, will we continue in our stubbornness and disobedience, remaining unchanged by our circumstances?
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
The wise virgins accepted the Lord’s discipline and delighted in their sufferings knowing full well what it produced; endurance, character, and hope. These ladies were mature and ready for their Bridegroom when He arrived. The oil they acquired was more than enough to keep their lamps lit during their wait for Him. A lamp that is fully lit is indicative of obedience to the commandments. The wise virgins were bearing the image of their Bridegroom, that of Messiah Himself, who obeyed His Father’s commandments.
The foolish virgins did not bring any oil for their lamps. They had chosen not to allow their sufferings and tribulations to be opportunities to conform themselves to the image of the Bridegroom, thus the Bridegroom’s response when they returned, “I do not know you.” When they asked to borrow some of the oil that belonged to the wise, they were refused. Oil needed for the lamp is truly a treasure of great price. It is something that cannot be purchased and cannot be shared. The wise truly understood its eternal value.
2 Corinthians 7:16-18
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Yeshua faced His hour of tribulation and times of temptation and persecution. He left us an example that we should follow. Though hard pressed on many sides, our lives, like those of the wise virgins, should reveal the power of God to endure, the ability to remain faithful and obedient to the commandments, and the character of our Savior and King. Our hope is in the promise that our Bridegroom is soon coming. While we wait, let us store up our treasure in jars of clay so that we have enough oil to keep our lamps burning continually, so that we may present ourselves as a Bride ready for her Bridegroom.
About Us Coastlands Congregation of Messiah is a gathering of believers who have begun the journey of getting back to the Word. We are not afraid to shed the traditions of man which override the Word of our King. We exist to encourage one another and be a place to build others up in our Messiah Yeshua. We have discovered the ancient path that Jeremiah spoke about and it has changed our lives and our relationship with God through our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). We meet each Shabbat (Sabbath i.e. Saturday) at 1 PM and are located in Washington, Pennsylvania which is just south of Pittsburgh, PA.
If you are hungry to grow in your walk contact us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-579-2739