"A Vessel ... Meet For the Master's Use" (continued)
When I have said that I have just given you the whole of the prophecies of Jeremiah, you may not like this book and if you had your choice you would perhaps select Isaiah before Jeremiah, but if you will read the Book of Jeremiah with this one thought in mind it will be a great inspiration. Over the book is written: 'Cannot I do as I will? saith the Lord.' No one can argue with God. No one can challenge God's right or question the will of God. God says: 'I am the Lord. I will do as I want to do.' That will be a very good thing for all those who are on God's side, but it will be a very bad thing for those who are in opposition to Him.
Well, that is the Book of Jeremiah in a word.
You pass through the sovereignty of God in Matthew 27 - the sovereignty of fulfilled prophecy in the potter's field - and you come to the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. There the Lord is saying to Ananias about Saul of Tarsus: "He is a chosen vessel unto Me." Here, then, we have the principle that God does choose certain people for certain special purposes. Such vessels may have to go through many sufferings and afflictions, but if ever the sovereignty of God was seen in the life of a single man, it was in the life of the Apostle Paul. We said that God's choosing means God's authority, and sooner or later our attitude toward chosen vessels will prove to have been our attitude toward God.
We pass from Paul as a chosen individual vessel, and we come on to more common ground which brings us all in. We would not put ourselves in the same category as the Apostle Paul, and would hesitate to think that we are chosen vessels to fulfill some special purpose in history. Of course, that may be true of some of you - the end will tell whether it is true - but whether it is true or not, when you come to the Second Letter to the Corinthians, you are on right ground. Remember: it is to Corinthians that the Apostle is writing. Thank God, then, for the message to Corinthians! To all the Corinthians, and to all like them, the Apostle says: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7) - and what earthen vessels we are! We are very poor clay indeed, but the Word is" 'In this poor clay, these earthen vessels, we have a treasure, and the excellency is not our excellency - it is the excellency of God.'
"We have the treasure" - as one version puts it - "in vessels of fragile clay." I wonder what was in Paul's mind when he wrote that! You may get some idea of what he was thinking about if you look at the context. He gives a list of all the things that the vessel has to endure, the many persecutions and the trials that the vessel has to go through, but although it is a vessel of fragile clay and has to go through everything that would be calculated to destroy it, it is not destroyed. It just goes on burning because of that treasure within it.
You know, Paul only had the Old Testament as his Bible. Has your memory lighted upon what may have been in his mind? There are a lot of references to the Old Testament in this letter to the Corinthians, but in this case I think perhaps he was thinking about Moses and the bush which never burned. Any small match put to it might have consumed it and if you had passed by the next day you would have seen nothing but ashes. But this fire went on and on and on and the bush was never consumed. The earthen vessel had a treasure in it: IT WAS THE LORD. Come what may, if the Lord is in the vessel, it will not be destroyed. The testimony will go on. So Paul says: "We are ... pursued, yet not forsaken."
We pass from that to Paul's letter to Timothy, and there he says: "In a great house there are ... vessels ... some unto honor, and some unto dishonor" ... 'If a man will separate himself from those vessels unto dishonor, he shall be a vessel unto honor' (Timothy 2:20, 21).
Here, then, the Apostle introduces the great law of separation from everything that God cannot accept, and says: 'If you do that, you shall be a "vessel ... meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work." '
Therefore we are called to be vessels suitable for the use of the Lord, and our suitability depends upon our separation from all that which is not honorable to the Lord.
(continued with # 4)