2 Corinthians 3, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, Bach, Bach's Chromatic Fantasy, Chromatic Fantasy, Corrie ten Boom, Glory of God, Johann Sebastian Bach, Naomi, The Book of Ruth, Tramp for the Lord, Treasures in Earthen Vessels, Treasures in Jars of Clay
There is a true story found in the pages of a book entitled, Tramp for the Lord. The story is that of brokenness, specifically the brokenness of the country of Germany after WWII. The people of that nation were devastated at the end of the war, and many were astounded to hear of Hitler’s atrocities. Some who had had positions of importance had lost everything, including their home, their job, their family, and their dignity.
It was into this scene that Corrie ten Boom enters, turning a concentration camp of horror into a transitional home for those who were destitute. While visiting such a transformed facility, she met an older woman who sat in a corner of a large room that she shared with three families. The woman had been a concert pianist and a professor of music before the war. Now, she had lost everything. However, a pastor offered her the use of a piano miles away in a church that had been demolished by bombs, but the piano was untouched.
One thing led to another, and Corrie ten Boom was invited to hear this woman play. After walking miles and miles (since there was no other mode of transportation), they finally reached their destination. As the woman sat down to play, she asked Corrie if she would like to hear something in particular. Breathing a prayer, Corrie responded, “The Chromatic Fantasy” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ5IkHlKQrw). Well, Ms. Ten Boom was appalled with her selection for it is one of Bach’s (and truly one of classical music’s) most difficult pieces ever written. Not only this, but though the piano had survived the bombs it had not survived the inclement weather. It was soggy, dilapidated, with all of its peddles broken off. The ivory of the keys was non-existant, and the chords were terribly rusting and some were even broken. Corrie looked on in horror, wondering what on earth was about to happen.
The older concert pianist smiled however, poised her fingers above the broken keys, and prepared to play. Her fingers flew across those decaying keys, and unexpected heavenly music danced in Corrie ten Boom’s shocked ears. How could such a weather worn piano play with such elegance, and how could such a war-crushed woman play with such poise? (For the rest of the story read: Tramp for the Lord, page 47-50, “Music from Broken Chords”).
We all in a way are like that piano. Even the woman in the story was like that weathered, battered piano. We too are weathered. She thought life had robbed her and left her a mere shell, devoid of purpose. We too have been through experiences that have left us less than perfect. The rains of life have left us soggy but not unusable. The rust of life has crept up on us over time, even as weeds encroach upon a garden, but our chords are still musical. We too are still capable of playing beautiful music. We too are vessels that can still be used by God.
There are many in the Bible who were weathered and worn, but one in particular stood out to me, and her name is Naomi. We read in the book of Ruth that Naomi first had to leave her home, family and friends behind because of a devastating famine (vs. 1). Then, while trying to survive in a foreign land, her husband died (vs. 3). Still reeling from the loss of her husband and hoping that all was turning around, Naomi went on to lose not one but both of her childless sons (vs. 5). All too easily we can glance over those verses and hurry on to the rest of the story. But truly it is astounding to note that in a mere 5 verses we catch a glimpse of the enormity of Naomi’s losses. For indeed, she’s lost everything. In verse 13 she states that she felt the hand of the Lord was against her (vs 13). Later when she returns to the land of Israel, she tells her old friends to call her Mara meaning “bitter” instead of Naomi which means “sweet” (vs 20). She goes on to say that when her family and she had left the land of Israel because of the famine, her heart and life had been full. There may have been a horrible famine, but life was good. However now, though she still owned the land, it meant nothing to her for she was returning to it empty (vs 21). She had no husband, no sons, no grandchildren and no prospect of them, no money and no prospect of it, and therefore, no future. Or so she thought…
For the story doesn’t end there, for unbeknownst to her, her daughter-in-law, the young, quiet, gentle, Moabite woman who begs to accompany her in her devastation and despair, is ordained by God to become the great grandmother of King David and was to be in the lineage of Jesus, the Savior of the World.
But, all too often we can be like Naomi, focused on our losses, focused how we used to be full but now are empty, focused on the past, thinking we’ve no future. The devil loves to keep us in the slough of despond, wallowing about unable to move beyond our present experiences. Or maybe we think our best days are over, that we’ve no real purpose now. The devil loves to keep us thinking like this too, for it keeps our minds on what we are not, instead of on who God is in us.
In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 we read,
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
Now, this passage talks to us about “light” and “earthen vessels” and “glory”. So let’s take a closer look!
First of all, what is this “light”? In Genesis 1 God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God separated the light from the darkness. This was a physical light that the darkness could not overwhelm. In John 1 God said He sent the Light of Jesus into the World. He is the spiritual light of the world that the darkness could not understand nor overcome. This same light of Jesus has shined in our hearts, and His fellowship with us has brought about illumination to our spirits that we might begin to comprehend who He truly is.
Second of all, what are the “earthen vessels”? In Exodus 31-32 God wrote His law on actual stone tablets. It says that with His finger He wrote it and engraved it. However, God predicted that the day would come when He would write His Word upon the hearts of His people and not on stone. 2 Corinthians 3:3 states that Christians are the “epistles” or letter of Christ written by the Spirit of God on “fleshly tables of the heart.” Indeed, we are those “fleshly tables,” those “earthen vessels” made of clay and extremely fragile. Nevertheless, upon these earthen vessels are written the very Words of God.
And lastly, what is “glory”? “Glory” means to think or recognize. It is the value of something or someone based on God’s perfect objective opinion. When speaking of the glory of God it means His unchanging essence.
When we give God glory we are giving Him His full recognition. Thus, the “glory of God” is essentially what He is, and the “glory of man” is what God created him to be.
2 Corinthians 3:7,9,13, 18 states,
“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance…for if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory…And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished…”
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Now, from these passages it appears that “glory” also has a light to it, because Moses had to veil his face because of the glory of God that shone from it. Not only did Moses’ face glow, but the glow faded. It was actually more the fading of the light that was covered by the veil than the glow.
However, the glory of God in the “face of Jesus” is unfading and undimmed, and we all look with unveiled face upon His radiance and splendor, and are changed from glory to glory to look more and more like Him. Though we are simple, fragile pottery made of clay, He has written His Word on us and has filled us with the treasures of His light and understanding. Each of us is written on by God, filled with the unfading glory of God, and are storage vessels of God’s vast treasure. We contain the wealth of heaven, glow with God’s essence and are engraved by God’s finger.
No, we may not be the grandparents of a king nor may we be in the lineage of the Savior of the World, but we are all individually God’s masterpieces created for good works in Christ, and those good works don’t end when we hit a certain age or when we lose a spouse or when we are unemployed or when we think we have no purpose. Bitter Naomi who thought life was over had impacted a young woman, altering that young woman’s life forever. In spite of all of Naomi’s disappointments and disillusionment, Ruth had seen the one true and real God in Naomi, and because of this, Ruth abandoned everything to follow Naomi and her God. Naomi still had purpose even when she thought she didn’t. Naomi thought she was too old, but she wasn’t. Naomi had given up, but God hadn’t.
Let us not limit God! For, indeed, no matter how broken we are, no matter how disappointed we are, no matter how flawed we are, no matter how old we are, no matter if our families are Christian or not, no matter how the rains of life have left us rusted and the strings of our piano broken, God has chosen to write upon us, to light us up with His glory, to stash His treasure into these vessels of clay, and to play His celestial music through our broken chords.