For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone 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 clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
— 2 Cor 4:6-7, NRSV
It’s funny. I spent about the last three years teaching out of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. I gave our study of Second Corinthians the title, “Treasure in Jars of Clay,” a reference to the text above, because the theme of God’s power in the midst of Paul’s suffering for the gospel permeates the letter.
Having finished Corinthians, I started what’s likely to be a two-year study of the Gospel of John, as reflected in recent posts. But only after a month of teaching on John did I make the connection between his words and Paul’s, as quoted in the passage above.
“The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul almost sounds like he’s parroting John, though Paul’s letter came first. In John, Jesus also reveals God, and speaks of the cross as his glorification by the Father.
Wait. Glory, on a cross? Or for that matter, glory in clay pots?
In the previous post, I suggested that we might need to rethink glory itself, especially when we are in dire straits and pray for God to reveal himself. Maybe we want God to show up with miraculous power as he did for Moses at the Red Sea, or Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-46). But later, when God spoke to Elijah, he did so not through a mighty wind, nor an earthquake, nor fire — but through what various translations render as “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, NIV), “sheer silence” (NRSV), or a “thin” and “quiet” sound (CEB).
“Glory” has many meanings in the Bible. It can be used of both people and things. When used of God, it can refer to a visible manifestation of his presence (the glory we see) or something more ineffable (the glory God has) that makes God worthy of honor and praise (the glory we give).
I suspect, however, that when we think of God’s glory, we think more of the Red Sea and Mount Carmel. That’s the kind of manifestation we want. That’s what we pray for.
In other words, when we think of glory, we don’t think of crosses and clay jars. But what would happen if we did? What would change about the way we pray for God to do something about the things that trouble us? What would we have to see, what would we look for, to be reassured of God’s presence?
I’ll offer a few brief suggestions in the next post.