“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
Early in 1947, a teenage Bedouin shepherd from Bethlehem was searching for a stray goat in the cliffs on the shore of the Dead Sea. He came upon a cave in the cleft of the steep, rocky hillside that he couldn’t reach from where he was. He picked up rocks and began throwing them into the cave to see if his stray goat might come running out.
As he was throwing the rocks, he heard something shatter. Because it was getting late, he decided to come back the next morning with a friend to find out what he had stumbled upon. When they got to the cave, they discovered a stash of large clay jars, some of which were intact with lids in place. But most of the jars were empty, and the remaining few concealed nothing but old scrolls wrapped in foul-smelling rags blackened with age.
He brought back four scrolls to his Bedouin tribe. Three scrolls were hung on a tent post in a bag, while one was left on the floor where children played with it. It subsequently was torn apart and thrown out. The story goes that the Bedouins, unaware of what they had found, first considered using what you and I now know as the Dead Sea Scrolls as fuel for fire.
They decided, instead, to sell the scrolls. The Bedouin who found the scrolls returned to the cave and found four more scrolls. In March of 1947, the scrolls were offered to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. He tried to sell them but no one was interested. Four scrolls were eventually sold to a Syrian shopkeeper and the other three were sold to St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem. Eventually, all seven scrolls ended up at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum.
That Bedouin shepherd discovered treasure in earthen vessels – priceless treasure – but didn’t realize he had found a treasure. The antique dealers who refused to buy the scrolls also didn’t comprehend the value of the priceless treasure they held in their hands. Today, Israel would not sell those scrolls for any amount of money. Those scrolls are over one thousand years older than any previously discovered manuscript of the Old Testament.
I think ministers are like the shepherd and shopkeepers at times when it comes to Gospel ministry. We fail to recognize the treasure Gospel ministry is. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s painful. However, all of that pales in comparison with the privilege we have of proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that we make Jesus Christ known makes what we do priceless. No one else on the face of the earth has been called to do what Gospel ministers do.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels. My prayer today is that you will see Gospel ministry as a priceless treasure, and thus be reinvigorated with passion and zeal for what God has called you to do; that instead of seeing ministry as a burden, ministry will once again be a blessing; that instead of getting burnt out for Jesus, you will once again be fired up for Jesus. May God richly bless you, ministers of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!
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