On Pots and Waterpots

One of the most familiar objects in the Scriptures is the humble pot, variously described as a vessel, as a cruse, and as a waterpot. Throughout the Bible we have frequent references to this common utensil made of clay or of some other material.

In this article we would like to think of the faithful provision of God in four mentions of this receptacle in the Holy Scriptures.

Provision in the Wilderness

“And Moses said unto Aaron, ‘Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations’” (Ex 16:33). “The tabernacle … wherein was the golden pot that had manna” (Heb 9:3-4). The manna, conserved in a pot in the Ark of the Covenant, was a reminder of the faithfulness of God during the forty years in the wilderness. The Lord Jesus refers to this when He said: “I am the bread of life … I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (John 6:48-51).

This world is a wilderness which has nothing to offer to the child of God. He finds his satisfaction in the person of the Lord Jesus and is sustained throughout his earthly pilgrimage by the One Who gave His life a ransom for many. With what are we feeding our souls? In Numbers 11, we see the influence of the “mixt multitude” that lusted after the food of Egypt and carried away the children of Israel in their murmuring. The role of the assembly is not to cater to worldly tastes of “strange children” (Ps 144:11) but to feed the saints with the true bread from heaven, the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The element that demands “fun and fellowship” knows nothing of bearing the reproach with Christ outside the camp.

Provision for the Widow

“And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (1 Kings 17:12). This widow had no one to help her, but this text reminds us of the faithfulness of God to this soul in distress. Thus He leads His servant to Sarepta and in His grace meets her need with this inexhaustible supply of meal and oil.

The centuries bear witness to the faithfulness of God towards His people. We have the example of George Muller of Bristol who, during many years, provided for the needs of countless orphans, looking to God each day for their needs, never asking for material help in any way. He practised the teaching of the apostle: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God … But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6, 19). His testimony is a rebuke to those who send out letters speaking of the “needs” and who resort to carnal methods of raising support, as though the Lord of the harvest was not able to provide.

Provision at the Wedding

“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him” (John 2:11).

The waterpots were of no importance other than providing water for the ritualistic purification at the occasion of the wedding. This miracle is the first of thirty-five described miracles of the Lord in the Gospels. In contrast with many others, this is not a miracle of healing or of compassion. Some have expressed surprise at the very nature of the first miracle, teaching us not of the majestic awe-inspiring character of the Son of God but telling of the interest of the Savior in the every day circumstances of life with its joys and pains. This miracle has a symbolic value; the Scriptures teach that wine is typical of joy and gladness (Jug 9:13, Ps 104:15) and this miracle tells us that the gospel delivers the sinner from harsh obligations of ritualism and brings him into the joy of salvation. What a blessed provision!

Provision at the Well

“The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, ‘Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’” (John 4:28-29).

In contrast to the three previous events, here we have an empty waterpot. We have seen how the Lord provided bread, oil, and wine to meet the needs of His people. Here we discover how the Samaritan woman was going to receive something far better: a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman’s past was not something that the Savior dwelt on; He reminded her of her sins but at the same time brought her into an appreciation of saving grace.

The provision was not in a waterpot but in her soul; she found living water that transformed her life and brought her to speak of the One that had “told her all things that ever she did.” She left an empty waterpot at the well but had a soul filled with joy.

The apostle speaks of this blessing in writing to the Corinthians when he says: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor 4:7).

(The same Greek word is used for the waterpots at the marriage at Cana as the waterpot of the Samaritan woman.)