Roger Ramsden - Visiting Worker to Maroota - 2012

Hymn 92 – God is Longing

2 Timothy 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” I have been thinking about these vessels. A vessel unto dishonour has been mentioned as being like a garbage can, but I think Paul was speaking about something else. I think that vessels of honour were vessels that were an honour to God and to themselves. Vessels of dishonour were an honour to God, but a dishonour to themselves and as a result, they brought glory to God and condemnation to themselves.

We get a little message when we think about the potter working with the clay. Jeremiah 18:1, Jeremiah saw a vessel that was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made another vessel that pleased him. The message that the Lord had for the children of Israel was, “Cannot I do with you as this potter?” Most of them had strayed from God, and He had tried to speak to them, but they would not change. I feel that King Zedekiah had a certain amount of respect for what Jeremiah said, but he was afraid of the other nobles and did not have the backbone to stand up and accept the message of God. Jeremiah 38:24, "Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and say unto thee, 'Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us and we will not put thee to death.'” King Zedekiah didn’t want anyone to know that he had spoken to Jeremiah. The Lord wanted to make a new vessel out of them, but He had to send them into captivity under a pagan king; they were brought down and then the Lord could work with them again.

I have noticed that the potter puts the clay in the centre of the wheel. It would be very difficult to work with it if it was off to one side; the vessel would be lopsided. Maybe we have a tendency to concentrate on one thing and forget about other things, maybe some things seem so important to us and other things don’t seem so important. But in the centre, the Lord tries to impress on us everything that has to do with His will.

Every so often, the potter throws a little bit of water onto the clay. The water is like the word of God; maybe He works with us a little, then brings to our attention something in His word and tries to work it into our lives. If the potter was to throw a whole bucket of water onto the clay, it would do nothing for it and most of it would wash away. It isn’t in our power to try and understand everything, but as the potter deals with us, He works a little bit more into our lives. Sometimes we hear people say that they have appreciated all they heard and want to put it all into practice. One brother reminded us that when we try to do that, we end up doing nothing. It is not possible to work everything into our lives and it is good to have one purpose and work at that.

Another thing the potter does is to take a pin and poke holes in the clay. He is looking for pockets of air and gives the air a chance to escape. Maybe at the time it doesn’t seem so important, but when the vessel goes through the test of fire, it will explode. In life also, we feel that some experiences reach deep into our soul. What are they trying to do? We have something in us by nature that only wants to destroy the vessel when the tests and trials come, and that is our human pride. If it is not dealt with, what is our reaction when things become difficult? If there is too much pride, the vessel will be marred. Pride is something we all struggle with. A few years ago a young brother spoke about the different ways human pride shows itself and the list just went on and on.

In order to make a useful vessel, the potter works with one hand on the inside and one hand on the outside. It is the only way he can make a vessel that he can put things into later. When the potter has both hands on the outside, maybe he could make a beautiful ornament, but you cannot put anything into it. The Lord wants to put the riches of His kingdom within us and it is necessary for Him to have one hand on the inside and one hand on the outside of our lives, working together. We could just conform the outside of our life to what we know the Lord is looking for, but as far as the Lord is concerned, it has no value. Vessels of gold and silver go through the fire. The fire takes out the dross that would only take away from the value and beauty of it. When the potter makes something beautiful, he puts it in a place where everyone can see it. I have been thinking about a few vessels of honour that the Lord has made; He has set them before us and said, “Look at this.” We are thankful for those who have been willing to submit themselves to that work, and there are many we could mention.

* Job. Job 1:8, “Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” The Lord was very pleased with what He saw in Job. I don’t know all that Job did, but one thing was that he offered up sacrifice for his sons and daughters. It doesn’t say that they were doing anything wrong, but it was in case they had done something wrong. That is intercession. It was for the good of others and he did his part so the Lord could look down in mercy on his own children.

Job 29:15, "I was eyes to the blind . . feet to the lame . . a father to the poor.” His heart went out to others and he tried to do all that he could to help them. That was part of the process that made him such a useful vessel. No doubt, his greatest concern was that he wanted to be found acceptable before God, and he seemed to be diligent in doing that. How could he understand the reason for the experiences he faced? The reason was that he was a vessel of honour, so the Lord let Satan do what he wanted with Job. Satan said that Job would curse God, but Job never cursed God. The experience tried him and made him more perfect to God.

* Joseph. Another vessel the Lord presents is Joseph in the Old Testament. He was not very old when he was sold by his brothers. Before that, he had fellowship with his father and I feel this brought maturity in his life naturally and spiritually. When there is good communication between parents and their children, it seems like the children become mature quicker. In the fellowship meetings, when the younger ones can have the same fellowship with older ones and listen to their experiences, it seems to help them in their own experiences.

Joseph was close to his father and we wouldn’t know what they talked about, but we know that Joseph clearly understood the work of God in the lives of others. The Lord was able to reveal to Joseph what was in store for him, not in the beginning, but maybe when he was separated from his family. I appreciate Joseph’s spirit. Joseph’s brothers filled the right conditions to be used by the Lord for His plan, but not for their glory or honour. Years later, they were still carrying this thought, “We are guilty men.” The years that passed did not take away the memory of what they had done and they felt ashamed. Maybe they didn’t understand it, but it was the Lord’s plan that they would be taken to Egypt and He sent Joseph first to prepare the way.

When Joseph was in Egypt by himself, nobody in his family knew where he was. His father thought he was dead, so he couldn’t pray for Joseph. In their condition, what would his brothers be praying before the Lord? In all those difficult experiences, it doesn’t seem like Joseph had the thought, “Why?” He didn’t dwell on it and he did what he could to prosper in that place. Joseph kept his spirit right towards his brothers; he didn’t allow anything to tarnish the work the Lord had done in his life. We don’t read about any faults of Joseph. We know he wasn’t perfect, but we admire Joseph highly for what he was.

* David. 1 Kings 15:5, "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” David wasn’t perfect but we can see why the Lord appreciated him so much. The Lord prepared the way for him to become king over Israel. David had proved the power of God in the secret place where nobody else was watching. 1 Samuel 17, he saw the giant come up against the armies of Israel and defy the God of Israel; he knew that the Lord needed someone to use, and David presented himself to the Lord. He knew it was the Lord’s battle and knew it would be the Lord’s victory but he had prepared himself for the battle.

1 Samuel 14:6, “and Jonathan said, ' . . Come, and let us go over unto the garrison . . it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.'” Jonathan was there that day when David fought the giant. Jonathan had proved the Lord with him in battle but maybe he did not have enough faith at that time to go out and fight the giant. But David did. Jonathan highly appreciated David, maybe because he had a greater faith than he had.

Another thing about David was that he consulted the Lord in all the experiences of his life. 1 Samuel 23, the Philistines presented themselves against the children of Israel and David consulted the Lord before going to battle, and got the victory. It wasn’t very long until the same enemy presented itself again in the same circumstances, and David could have said, “I know how to fight this enemy.” But he consulted the Lord and the Lord told him to fight a different way. That just shows me that David was very, very careful in consulting the Lord. He didn’t leave anything to his own reasoning even though things looked the same, and the Lord gave him a different way to go and fight the enemy.

* Peter. Hardly a convention goes by that we don’t hear about Peter. During the time he was with Jesus, he said and did a lot of things and the Lord had to correct him. But Peter was willing and I am very thankful for all that is written about him because there is a lot to learn from Peter. I cannot help but feel I would have done the very same things but the thing I appreciate is what we read in the Book of Acts, when the Lord was able to lift him up and use him. He had been moulded by the Lord’s hand before that and he was prepared to carry responsibility and he had a vision of things when it seemed that some of the others didn’t. He became such a useful vessel.

I was also thinking of some vessels of dishonour. One of the first that comes to mind is Pharaoh, in the time of Moses. He would have known the history of Egypt but why didn’t he recognize what Joseph had done? The Lord used Pharaoh to show His own greatness when Pharaoh would not let the Children of Israel leave Egypt. The Lord used him to prove His power to the people of Israel and to the people of Egypt and to the nations around.

The Lord used Nebuchadnezzar to bring the Children of Israel into captivity at a time when they were not willing to submit to the Lord’s will. He used Nebuchadnezzar to break them down, and cause them to go into captivity. I have enjoyed reading the book of Daniel. So often I have concentrated on the thought of Daniel and his three friends. But you know, the Lord did something in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, too. He had found Daniel and his three friends to be wiser than all the magicians in his kingdom. Daniel 2:2, “Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams.” Of course, that was impossible. So Daniel went to the Lord, and the Lord gave him the answer, then he told Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of it. The one thing Nebuchadnezzar understood was that there was a God in heaven, and not only that, but that the God of heaven had communication with men on the earth.

Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol of gold and he insisted that everyone in the kingdom would bow down to this image, but Daniel’s three friends did not do that and they were cast into the furnace. Verse 17, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” When those three men were cast into the fire, Nebuchadnezzar saw four men. What did he learn that day? There is a God in heaven to protect His people and there was no experience that He could not save them in. He was becoming acquainted with the God of heaven.

Daniel 4, this is Nebuchadnezzar’s own personal experience with God. He had a dream and the message was that the Lord was going to bring him down and Daniel pleaded that he would humble himself. Verse 30, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty . . there fell a voice from heaven, saying, ' . . The kingdom is departed from thee.'”

The Lord brought Nebuchadnezzar down, down, down to the animal kingdom until he recognized the greatness of the God of heaven and then he was taken back to his place. Verse 34, "Mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever.” The result of that experience was that he understood the power of the God of heaven. He was a vessel that the Lord used to accomplish His will.

Judas knew what he was going to do. He was a vessel to dishonor because the Lord saw in his heart a tendency to enable the Lord to use him to fulfill scripture. It didn’t have to be Judas, it could have been anyone, but Judas fulfilled the necessary things and the Lord used him.

Pilate was another one. He knew Jesus was innocent, but he could not turn against those who were crying against Him. The Lord knew that, so He used this man as a vessel of dishonour. The Lord can use us as He sees fit, and we make a choice if He is going to use us as an honourable vessel or a vessel of dishonour. We are clay in His hands and we want to be willing for whatever He wants us to be. We won’t always understand the reasons but if we are willing to fit in, He can make a beautiful vessel unto honour, and may that be so.