Earthen Vessels

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The Light is Hidden, But Never Extinguished


Many of us might remember the great battle in the Book of Judges between the Midianites and Gideon’s Israelite forces. Gideon had instructed his soldiers to each carry a trumpet and a clay jar with a torch in it.

“And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.” (Judges 7:16)

When the three hundred had completely surrounded the enemy’s camp, they did exactly as Gideon has instructed.

“And the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’” (Judges 7:20)

The enemy was so startled and frightened, they actually turned their swords on each other, and the survivors then fled in terror.

Without retelling the whole story from the Book of Judges, it is important to remember that Gideon’s Army numbered only 300 men. Each man would carry into battle a sword, and a torch concealed within a clay pot. At the beginning of the attack, each man was to smash the clay pot and allow the light of the torch to illuminate the battle area.

That number of 300 men had been reduced from more than 30,000; most of whom went home before this battle because they were too frightened, and because they did not believe in the power of the Holy Spirit—the Fire of God.  

God had instructed Gideon to invite any of those who were frightened to return to their homes, 22,000 did just that. Another 9,700 were released after “kneeling down to drink” (Judges 7:5) water from a spring. This was done so that God could clearly demonstrate that it was through His power that the Israelites would conquer.

This light (fire) that was hidden in the earthen clay vessels of the brave 300 is exactly the same light that resides within each one of us, the light of the Holy Spirit of God.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

It is true that this flame is carried within our mortal flesh and is often masked by the difficult circumstances of our life, but the light is always there. If you have ever struggled with what appears to be a series of setbacks or moments of discouragement, or if you have sometimes felt as though you were having to fight all of life’s battles on your own, with no ‘supernatural’ assistance, then these Bible verses are for you. There are two very important lessons we can learn from them.  

First, what sometimes may appear as insurmountable odds on the surface, or in the material circumstances of our life, may simply be the intentional concealment of the work of God. He may want us to experience His power when we know that, on our own, we could not possibly win the battle. We sometimes evaluate how well our life is going by looking only at the evidence of our immediate circumstances and our limited ability to deal with those circumstances.

At times we might feel compelled to bow down under the weight of so many burdens. But, we must remember that we are spiritual beings having a material experience. Our earthly life is only a thin, temporary veil over the reality of the fire of the Spirit who dwells within each of us. We must remember that we live by the Spirit, and not by the flesh.

“But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9)

The second lesson is that there is not one single struggle, trial or challenge in our lives that we ever face alone, unless we ourselves choose to operate without the assistance of the promise of God. Instead of going it alone, we should always follow the direction of the Spirit.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

This is done primarily through prayer, a prayer that seeks to experience this silent fire hidden within our earthen vessel.

This is the way the Kingdom of God often works in the material world.  It is quiet, subtle, and often hidden. In order to perceive its light we must force ourselves to take the time to listen, focus on the still, small, voice (1 Kings 19:12) which speaks within us. We must look beyond our own limitations or the apparent size and weight of our trials and burdens. Instead, we must focus on the simple reality that it is God who will fight our battles, it is the Spirit who will scatter our problems to the wind.

One day this mortal flesh will be taken away from us, the earthen vessel that now covers the light that burns within us will be broken, and we will see our own light the way God see us. Let us all pray that we will accept St. Paul’s admonition to keep that light burning, and indeed increasing in power and glory with each passing day.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthian 3:18)

Please pray this week that we might be able to spend time in contemplative silence and experience the glory of the fire of the Spirit within us.

God Bless

Copyright © 2020 by Mark Danis


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About the Author

Mark Danis

Mark Danis, OCDS, is co-host of the weekly radio program, Carmelite Conversations, which aired internationally for six years on the Radio Maria network. The program focuses on the method and blessings of contemplative prayer practiced in the in our busy day to day lives. Episodes can be streamed at http://www.carmeliteconversations.com.

Mark's primary ministry is providing teaching and spiritual direction in contemplative prayer and removing the obstacles to prayer. He is grounded primarily in the teachings of the Carmelites, most especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Mark is a popular speaker and often gives large-group presentations and retreats on Prayer and Carmelite spirituality. He also writes a weekly reflection on prayer for a large nation-wide prayer community, and he leads a weekly prayer group focused on the Teresian Method of Prayer. Mark's most recent appearance was at the 2018 OCDS Congress where he delivered a powerful message to more than 400 Secular Carmelites.

Mark attended St. Michael’s college in Winooski, Vermont, where he received his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He later received a masters degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

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