Max Goldsack - The Potter - Honolulu, Hawaii, United States Special Meetings - 2016

Jeremiah 18:1-6, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, 'Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words.' Then I went down to the potter’s house and behold, he wrought our work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so the made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?' Saith the Lord, 'Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel.'” Matthew 27:7-10, “And they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore the field was called the field of blood unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet saying, 'And they took the 30 pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value. And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.'”

In this story about the potter and the clay, we read about the purpose of the potter, the power of the potter and the patience of the potter. The purpose of the potter is to make a vessel that he could use or someone else could use. And the power of the potter is to change the destiny of the clay. The patience of the potter is when there was a mar in the clay, he did not throw it away and he realised there is still great value in this lump of clay and it has wonderful possibilities and potentials. So he did not throw it away, but he made it again. The important thing was not the mar in the clay. It was the fact that the clay was still in the potter’s hand. The same thoughts can be included in a spiritual sense. The purpose of the potter can make a vessel out of your life and mine and that God can use us affectability and use it in such a way that we would bring honour and respect to His name.

The power of the potter is to change our destiny and if we take our own way and do our own thing, we are on a downward spiral spiritually and we are heading swiftly to a hopeless grave and a Christless eternity. The power of the potter can change our destiny and so all our energies are channeled into living for God and things that are eternal and one day, we will awake with His likeness and we will enjoy the benefits of a saved eternity. The patience of the potter, we all make mistakes and when we transgress and when we disappoint the Lord and that is not the important thing, but the fact that we are still in the hand of the potter. Too often we focus too much on the mistakes of others and their failings and sometimes we get a kind of cold comfort in looking at the failures of others.

We would like to remind you this morning that the important thing is not the mar or the blemish and mistakes whether it be in your life or another, but the important thing is that our lives are still in the hand of God just like the clay is in the hand of the potter, the Almighty God, the skillful potter. It is a wonderful thing when the clay is in the potter’s house, it is more wonderful when the clay is on the potter’s wheel and it is most wonderful when the clay is in the hand of the potter. The hope of each one of us lies in the hand of God and the hope of every human heart lies in the fact we can place our lives in the hand of the God. God can take up our life and make us into something that will feature in His eternal kingdom a little later on.

The potter’s field is where the usable clay was taken and find its way in to the potter’s house, onto the potter’s wheel, and in the potter’s hand. The potter’s field we were reading about, all the usable clay had been extracted and now that field had very little use and it now was used as a cemetery. A burying place for the poor and the homeless and the foreigners. Judas’s body was laid in a suicide grave in the potter’s field. John 3, Jesus found Nicodemus in the potter’s field, Jesus found him in the field, of dishonesty, religion confusion, and deception. John 4, Jesus found the woman of Samaria in the potter’s field, Jesus found her in the field of immorality and we could say religiously, her life was all mixed up and morally, her life was all messed up. And she said to Jesus, "How be it that you being a Jew, you are having dealings with the Samaritan, as the Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews?" God has no dealings with dishonest people, and everyone that Jesus worked with had a spark of honesty. I have been asked the question in our mission work and I have been asked, "Is a more religious people or nonreligious people that get saved?" And I say, "Neither," and I tell them, "It is only honest people that gets saved."

John 5 found an impotent man who was an invalid for 38 years and he was in the potter’s field and he was in the field of hopelessness and helplessness. This man said to Jesus, "I have no man when the water is troubled to put me into the pool." There was a belief amongst the Jews that they came and stirred up the murky waters of this pool, and they believe the first person to step in was healed of their infirmity, and there was nothing further from the truth than that. When Jesus looked upon this infinite man and Jesus saw no helplessness or hopelessness, and Jesus could see that he was hanging around that pool, and just like today, people hang around the dirty deceiving doctrines of the religious world. And we can say today that we have all been extracted from the potter’s field and now we are in the potter’s hand. There is no beauty, no usefulness, no hope in the clay unless it reaches the hand of the potter. Wonderful things can take place as a result of us submitting to the hand of the potter.

I like what Isaiah tells us about the hand of the potter. It is interesting to study all the references in Isaiah to the hand of God. Chapter 66:1, “Thus saith the Lord, 'The Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that ye build unto Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath Mine hand made.'” And this shows us the greatness of the hand of the potter. I do not know what it is that keeps people back from committing to the hand of the potter, because the hand of the potter is so great and powerful, and He can do a wonderful work in your life and my life that no man can do and we cannot do for ourselves. So we appreciate the greatness of the hand of the potter. The thought came to me the other day if God can do all things that are necessary even in the creation of the heavens and the earth, then He is in the position to do everything that is necessary in the case of your salvation and my salvation and there is nothing too hard for God.

Jeremiah 32:17, “Oh, Lord God! Behold Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.” It is good when we realise there is nothing to hard for the hand of the potter. Anyone who has committed their lives to the hand of the potter has ever come away and not experienced the greatness of the hand of the potter.

Isaiah 40:12, “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out Heaven with the span and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand? If we were to go down to the ocean and fill our hand with water, it would not even measure on the level of the ocean and it would not make the slightest bit of difference if we all went down and scooped out a handful of water. There the Lord is saying, "I can hold all the waters of the oceans and lakes in the hollow of My hand." It just explains to us to place our life in the hand of God.

When I was a little boy, I gave my Bible to a sister worker who I loved dearly to write something in it and she wrote a verse from Jude, “Keep yourself in the love of God.” And what Jude was saying, "Keep your life in the hand of God, and you keep your life in the hand of God and in return, I will stop you from falling." As the Lord is saying, "If you could put your life in My hand, not only will you have security, but I will keep you from falling and above that, I will present you faultless before the presence of His glory." What the Lord is asking us to do is very small and insignificant, in comparison with the benefits, and all He is asking is to keep yourself in the hand of the Lord and in the love of God and He will do more for us than we could ever do for our self. It is a very good thing to remember that the hand of the potter that is doing so much for us, they are the hands that were beaten and nailed and bruised to the cross.

That the hands of the potter are very sensitive, they are tender. The hands of one nailed to the cross and the hands that bleed for you and me, and as He works with His hands and strikes a little hardness in the clay and you could imagine how painful that is to the nail pierced hands of the potter. So when the Lord is dealing with us and He comes across something hard and that could be disobedience and unwillingness and that is something that could injure the hands of the potter. We never need to fear the hand of the potter. So many people fear the workmanship and dealings of God in their life, you and I need never fear, because the hand of the potter is soft and has never wrecked a human life. We need to fear what is in the clay and we need to fear what is in this human heart of ours. There is pride and envy and jealousy and selfishness and dishonesty and deception and all the things that are bound up in the human heart and we fear the power of those things. We are no match for them. Every human tendency that is bound up your heart and my heart it will destroy us if we do not destroy it, and it is more powerful than us and we need the help of God and if we don’t get the help of God these human tendencies will destroy us. With God’s help, we can destroy them.

When John was writing to the Christian people of his day, he said, "If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things.” If your heart condemn you, it can bring negative thoughts into your heart, but that is not right if your heart can condemn you, you are a very fortunate person. If we are sitting in a meeting and God is speaking to us and it brings condemnation into our hearts, that is a very positive experience, because every tendency we have in our human heart will condemn us on Judgement Day. If we are sitting here and God through His mercy is giving us an opportunity to put right that which is condemning us, that which will condemn us on Judgement Day and we can deal with it now, so it is a great comfort to us that our hearts would condemn us.

We often say in a gospel meeting, this wonderful story of the gospel will expose things and we can to do something about it, and it is good when God exposes things and makes us feel embarrassed, and we are fortunate God can bring that condemnation into our hearts now. God can expose our true condition and as God sees us, so we can have time an opportunity to deal with those things. I like how John puts it that God is greater than our hearts are greater than the condemnation in our hearts and He is greater than the human tendencies that will condemn us and we can deal with those things if we cooperate with Him, and as a result those things will be put out of our life and the hand of the potter is able to work skilfully with us.

One of the very first things that takes place in this art of pottery is that the clay has to be put through a grinder or a crusher. That did not happen in the days of the Bible and there was no such thing as an electronic grinder or crusher. Isaiah tells us what happened in the Bible days and he said, "As the potter treadeth out the clay." So that is how the clay was bought into a contrite state. Contrite came from an Old Russian word and it literally means ground to powder. This is in the Bible that a person with a contrite heart, and a person that has been led through experiences that have crushed the life to powder. And so today, the clay is passed through the crusher and the crusher deals with big things, it deals with big things in our lives and they are so big that you and I cannot deal with them. It always amazes me when people are doing something that contradicts what is written in the Bible and they say, "I can handle that," and we know very well that person will go down because we cannot handle it. God wants to deal with the big things so it will not make it difficult for God to make the vessel that He wants in His eternal home. So Jesus deliberately led His disciples through experiences and crushing experiences and bought them into a contrite state and then He was able to do wonderful things for them.

God does not like big things, He does not like big thoughts, big ideas, big plans and they are the things that man live by. So God has to deal with them and it is like going through the crusher and God leads us through experiences that will crush us, not to destroy us, but to bring us into the contrite condition and then God can do wonderful things for us and with us. Down in Egypt were many lumps of clay, and there were two prominent lumps of clay that God was working with. One was Pharaoh that big large lump of clay, and God was working with him and God had hope for that man also, and God did everything He could to help him and that man resisted the help.

The other lump of clay was not always like this and it was the meek soft lump of clay and that was Moses. When Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house and had all the privileges of the royal family and it says Moses was mighty in word and deed. And for 40 years, God led Moses to bring him into the state of being contrite. And this big hard proud lump of clay Pharaoh said to God, "Who is the law that I should obey?" Isn’t that what bigness does, our big ideas, our big plans and that is what big lump of proud clay does. Then you come to the contrite lump of clay Moses and Moses said, "Who am I?" And Moses was saying, "Who am I that I should be asked to do this great thing?" Moses said, "I cannot even talk and I cannot even speak and I cannot answer the words You want me to say," and that is just a difference how God dealt with bigness in two man’s lives. One of those men responded favourably and the other never responded favourably. And nothing can be done with Pharaoh and yet Moses continued to go on and he even features in the New Testament.

I like thinking of Peter and the time he was with Jesus and Jesus was slowly letting them know that His departure was soon, and Peter is saying, "Shall it not be unto Thee." And Jesus said, "Tonight, all men shall be offended in Me," and Peter said, "I shall never be offended in You." And Jesus went on to say, "Before the rooster crows three times, you will have denied Me three times," and Peter said, "If all men deny You, I will never deny You." And in great boldness Peter said, "If you are going to die, I’m willing to die with you." There was something big in the heart of Peter and Jesus knew it had to be dealt with if He wanted him to be the man Jesus wanted him to be and the vessel that God wanted him to be. We know the story that Peter was witnessing the trial of Jesus and the time came when the Lord looked at Peter and after the rooster crowed the third time and Peter broke down and wept like a child. A fully grown man weeping like a baby, because there was something big in Peter’s life and it had to be dealt with. I do not know what it was and it could have been self-ability and Jesus knew it had to be dealt with and that is how He dealt with it. And when Peter went out like a child, it broke down all the bigness and hardness and that was never a problem again, and it was dealt with so wonderfully and effectively.

And the next process is the clay has to pass through the sieve and that deals with all the small things. The things that went through the crusher will not get through the sieve and that is just further experiences the Lord wants to deal with us, and Jesus will deal with small things that will mar the vessel. I do not know what all the little things are and it could be a little root of bitterness, and a person having malice towards another. Unforgiveness toward someone could be a little thing. Malice is something that means that I would do nothing to hurt that person but I would be very happy if someone else did. All those little things need to be dealt with so that the clay can be useful.

There is a lot of water poured into the clay and the clay absorbs it, and it would be very interesting to know how much water clay absorbs. Water in the Bible is just like the word of God, is speaks about the water of regeneration and the Lord loves it when we just absorb His word. The miracle of the workmanship of God in our lives, and you listen to the Gospel story and you have listened to the story of the potter and the clay hundreds of times and you just love it and want to hear more about it and that is absorbing the word of God. We never will weary of absorbing the word of God. When the word of God is absorbed into our lives and it becomes an unconscious practice. There are many lessons taught and not many lessons learned. A lesson learned is when it becomes part of us an unconscious practice. There is a story about a little boy in America and he never liked to waste his words or talk much and when he was asked a question and his answer was, "Aha." One day, he came home from school and his father said, "Well son what did you learn at school today?" and he said, "We learnt to say, 'Yes, sir,' and 'No, sir,' and 'Yes, ma'am,' and 'No, ma'am.'" And he said, "You learnt that?" and he said, "Aha." A lesson is only learned when it becomes an unconscious practice. If we absorb the word of God like clay absorbs water and it becomes part of our life and when it is an unconscious practice. It is good when our salvation and Christianity becomes an unconscious practice.

Then the clay is placed on the wheel. And it is essential that the potter puts the clay right in the centre of the wheel. It cannot accomplish what he wants to do if the clay is on the outer perimeter, on the edge of the wheel. The world is just a picture of the will of God, and if God takes up our life, He wants to put us right in the centre of His will. If God is in control of our life, it will be in the centre of His will. And very often we resist that, and I don’t know why it is but we often find ourselves on the outer perimeter. And we look at some of our brothers and sisters and we say, "Why can’t God do for me what He has done for them?" And it is very simple, it is because we are on the outer perimeter of God’s will. And if we are not in the centre of God’s will it makes it very hard for Him to do what He wants to do. And quite often I have looked to God’s people and wish I could be like them. And sometimes I wish I could be more like David and I wonder why God is not doing that for me, and then I realise I am not in the centre of His will, and I am on the outer perimeter. And sometimes I feel I am almost ready to fall off the wheel. And to one day awake with His likeness is that today we will be in the centre of the wheel. And for our vessel to be perfectly balanced, it has to be in the centre of the will of God. And the Lord wants to make you and me a balanced vessel. And there was no one more balanced than Jesus. He does not want extremist in His Kingdom. He does not want religious fanatics in His Kingdom. He wants a balanced people, people with a balanced life so that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth and set up on a hill. And to be  balanced, we must be bought into the centre of the will of God.

I was thinking of some of the experiences that Peter and the other apostles went through that revealed mars or blemishes in their lives. You may remember the time when Jesus was telling His disciples that He was going to die. And Peter said, "Be it far from Thee, Lord. You do not have to suffer like that as you are the Son of God. You do not need to take that course in life." The moment that Peter said, "Be it far from Thee, Lord," his vessel was marred. I feel for Peter and he must have thought about it and he could not imagine someone like the Son of God, so holy and harmless and undefiled would have to suffer so much cruelty and that is why Peter said, "Save yourself and You do not have to suffer in that way." And so Jesus had to deal with that and make that vessel again.

This is how Jesus made the vessel again. Jesus said, "Get behind Me, Peter," because Peter was way out in front and he was a leader and telling Jesus what to do. And Jesus said, "You get behind Me as you are not the leader and you are the follower." And how often does the Lord Jesus have to say that to us, "Get behind Me and you are not in control of the situation? You get behind me and be a true follower and you just submit and you get into a state of being contrite and I can do something for you." And Jesus continued and said, "Get behind me, Satan. Thou art an offence unto Me." Save yourself came for one of the best disciples that ever walked on this earth and Jesus was quick to recognise that thought has come from Satan. And had not Jesus helped Peter it would not be long and Satan would be telling Peter, "You save yourself and you don’t have to go through these experiences." The vessel was marred and Jesus made it again and it did not have any of those blemishes in it.

On two occasions and possibly three and the disciples were wondering who was going to be the greatest. And by what I can see, it was just a genuine question that came into their mind. They could have been thinking, "Who was going to take Jesus place and be the leader?" And the second time they reasoned amongst themselves, the Lord said, "Come reason together," but when the Lord is doing the reasoning all is well, but to fall back on human reasoning and it is some of the most dangerous ground you could be treading on. And reasoning leads down the corridor that will bring us a lot of heartache. Jesus had to correct that situation. And as soon as they reasoned amongst themselves and said, "Who would be the greatest?" the vessel was marred. Jesus took the little child, and put the little child in the midst, "You come and humble yourself like this little child."

And the third time was when it was getting close to when Jesus was going to leave and there was a debate amongst the disciples who was going to be the greatest. It was not just enquiry or reasoning, but it was a debate and they were arguing. And could you imagine the setting and one disciple saying, "I will take that place," and then they started to argue. It was a full blown argument and the vessel was marred. And Jesus used the same illustration and said, "If you don’t become like this little child." Jesus is not asking us to become like little children in that sense, but Jesus is wanting us to adopt the spirit of a little child, and the attitude of a little child.

Heard this morning about Jesus beginning to wash the disciples' feet, and Peter said, "You will never wash my feet," and at that moment the vessel was marred. And Jesus said Peter, "If I don’t wash your feet, you will have no part with Me." And Peter wanted a part with Jesus on earth and in eternity. There is nothing more foreign to Peter’s mind that he would be separated from Jesus on this earth or in eternity. And when Jesus said, "If I don’t wash you, you will have no part with Me," that was how Jesus removed the mar from the vessel. And then the Peter said, "Lord Jesus wash me all over," and Peter was saying, "Wash my mind as that is what bought that thought to him, wash my hands, and wash my feet, and wash my whole body."

When Jesus sent the apostles out to preach the gospel the same way that Jesus had gone Himself, and it says that they returned with joy and that just proved that it worked. And Jesus got the disciples together and said, "When I sent you out without a purse, and a food bag and a sword," and Jesus said, "You lacked nothing," and they said, "Yes, we lacked nothing and it worked and we have proved that." You have all been witnesses to that when you see the workers come to your house with nothing and it works. And then Jesus set a trap and the disciples fell into it badly. And there was an important part of Scripture to be fulfilled and had they not fallen into that trap that scripture would not ever have been fulfilled.

And Jesus said, "If you haven’t got a food bag and if you haven’t got a purse and if you haven’t got a sword sell what you have and go and get one." And they said, "Lord we have one," and they fell into the trap and Jesus was numbered with the transgressors, and they had transgressed the commandment that Jesus had given when He had sent them out to preach the gospel. Peter must have been one because he had two swords and as soon as they said, "We have two swords," the vessel was marred. And then Jesus knew He had to make a vessel again and Jesus said, "It is enough." And not for one moment Jesus meant, "That is enough swords to defend us," and this is a thought I get from this statement, "This is enough. It is enough for you to know now that I know you had two swords." You cannot hide anything from the Lord and you cannot get away with anything. And it was all to fulfil those Scriptures that He was to be numbered with the transgressors.

And we turn to Hebrews 11 and there we have the useful vessels and the beautiful vessels and vessels of great value that will grace the kingdom of heaven for all eternity. We read about all those wonderful man and women in Hebrews 11. And I want to couple this up with Jude verse 24, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” And we think of those in the Old Testament that was very faithful and yet they were all marred vessels, and God remade them and when you read Hebrews 11 and you read about the same people, you do not read about their mars and they had all been remade without a blemish, they were beautiful vessels, useful vessels and valuable vessels and they are going to grace the kingdom of heaven for all eternity. And may we be numbered with these wonderful vessels.