Monday, June 05, 2006

Earthen Vessels

John 9:1-7 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus is not limited by methodology - He healed various people in various ways. He even healed blind men in several different ways. Many find His actions here puzzling, but I find them intriguing. Why did Jesus heal the man with clay He had formed with His own hands? I think a look at various passages of Scripture will give us the answer.

Jesus indicated that the man that was born blind was made so by God that the works of God should be made manifest in him. It wasn't an accident - God had a purpose in this disability. God the Father was glorified and Jesus Christ was exalted through the healing of this man, but I also believe that Jesus was proclaiming who He was through this miracle.

On the sixth day of creation, the Lord God formed man - out of the earth:

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The man (and the human race) was named Adam, signifying what he was made out of physically: earth or red earth. In fact, there are various places in the Bible where our bodies are referred to as earthen vessels. Several are:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 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 dishonour. 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.

Lamentations 4:1-2 How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!

Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines vessel as: Something containing. He gives the following examples:

Vessels of wrath, in Scripture, are such persons as are to receive the full effects of God's wrath and indignation, as a punishment for their sins.

Vessels of mercy, are persons who are to receive the effects of God's mercy, or future happiness and glory.

Chosen vessels, ministers of the gospel, as appointed to bear the glad news of salvation to others; called also earthen vessels, on account of their weakness and frailty.

Romans 9:20-23 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.

Two other passages that portray earthen vessels as types are found in:

Leviticus 14:5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. This is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came down from Heaven, to be killed in a human body - an earthen vessel. (See my study on Leprosy for further explanation of this type.)

Jeremiah 32:14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. This is a wonderful type of the believer - though it is beyond the scope of this study to expound on it. (Lord willing, one of these days I hope to get my friend's sermon notes on this passage, where he really opens up this neat picture. He preached his message about three or four years ago.)

Webster's gives this definition of earthen: Made of earth; made of clay; as an earthen vessel.

Earth when mixed with water becomes clay. It is interesting to note that the verse just prior to the account of God making man out of the dust of the ground states this:

Genesis 2:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

I had always connected this verse with the previous verse (verse 5) about the plants and herbs and the fact that it had not rained yet - but today I noticed it in connection with verse 7. Scientifically, we know that our bodies contain the same chemical elements as common dirt, and that we are composed mostly of water. Earth and water... Clay - in the hands of the Potter!

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

This is probably the most known passage on the Lord God being the Potter and man being a clay vessel in His hands:

Jeremiah 18:2-6 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 a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he 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.

Man is as clay in the hands of the Potter. That is a theme that the book of Job brings forth again and again:

Job 4:19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

Job 10:9 Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?

Job 13:12 Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.

Job 33:6 Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.

Man formed out of dust, out of clay - an earthen vessel in the hands of the Potter - in the hands of God the Creator. How easy it is for the Potter to put the earthen vessel He is molding back on the wheels and reshape it into a form that will bring Him honour! If it is cracked or broken, He can fix it. If it is marred, He can remold it so that it is better than it was before. The Creator has all power to recreate His vessels as He chooses. From a vessel of dishonour to a vessel of honour in His hands. With a touch of the Master's hands (to quote a well-known hymn) that which was broken is made whole.

John 9:6-7 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

The Potter remolded His marred clay vessel, and fixed what was wrong with it. The Creator touched His creation of clay and made it whole again. Jesus, the Saviour, healed the blind man - with a bit of saliva and some dirt - clay in His hands. And with that little bit of clay, He repaired His earthen vessel in a manner that testified to who He was - God manifest in the flesh, the Potter Himself!

Notice the progression of this man's understanding of who it was who had healed him:

John 9:15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

John 9:17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

John 9:24-25 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

John 9:26-27 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?

John 9:30-34 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

John 9:35-38 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

First the Potter healed the blind man physically, then He healed him spiritually. First Jesus healed this man's physical blindness, then He healed his spiritual blindness. When the man who was born blind, but who now saw, when he realized who it was who had healed him, he placed his faith in the Son of God.

The Potter, the Creator who made every one of us, has the power to remake us for His glory. Jesus has the power to take every blind man and give him sight - take every hellbound sinner and open their eyes to understand the truth of the Gospel. He can take every marred vessel and use it for His glory - He can take a vessel of dishonour and make it into a vessel of honour, through faith in Him and His finished work on the cross of Calvary. Then the Lord is glorified by the lives of those earthen vessels that were once marred but now are miraculously recreated; He is magnified by the testimonies of those He has healed; and He is worshipped by those whose lives He touches and transforms!

Are you an earthen vessel that Jesus has touched and changed? If not, you can be. The Potter who created you also has the power to recreate you - He can change your sinful, sin-filled vessel of wrath into a vessel of mercy that will honour and glorify Him (see Romans 9:22-23). Will you turn to Him and let Him remake you according to His perfect plan?

If you will turn from your sin and receive the Heavenly Potter, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Saviour, then He can transform you into a vessel unto honour and use you for His glory. Though you are an only earthen vessel, a weak vessel made of clay, you can be sanctified (set apart for the Lord), and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work, as the power of God works in your life and through you.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

June 6th/06
Jerry Bouey

On Friday, June 9th, I had an opportunity to preach my study Earthen Vessels from John 9. God sure does have a sense of humour!! The power went out just before I got up to preach. A darkened room where no one could see, except for the light behind me, really got the message of the healing of the blind man across!

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