“Vessels of mercy.” That’s the blip that shone brightest on my radar after this morning’s readings. A vessel. Literally a household utensil. Ordinary, domestic gear. Nothing special. Nothing that’s going to set you apart. Just stuff.
But when that vessel is a metaphor for a body, and when that body has been chosen to be an instrument, and when the Chooser is the God of Creation, though still a jar of clay, that ordinary vessel is elevated with an extraordinary value. A value and worth not found in and of itself, but possessing the quality and character of Another — the perfect Son of God. Made something because of divine determination and kindness. Useful because of a transcendent providential purpose. It’s earthly value founded in a heavenly economy. Thus, the vessel has no cause for boasting, save that it is a vessel of mercy.
Went back in my archives and found that I’ve only once before written about being a vessel of mercy. Allowed that past meal to satisfy this morning’s meditation. Sharing it again . . .
This morning I’m chewing on the sovereignty of God. That God’s will is accomplished not because we comply, necessarily, but simply because it’s His will. That what He determines is done. What He promises He performs. Kind of a mind stretching concept. The implications raising all kinds of questions.
Seems to me, that when it comes to the Divine determination, ours isn’t to try and fully comprehend how it works (we can’t), but to acknowledge that’s how things work and to be in awe and wonder that we are part of it.
I was reading in Deuteronomy 2 this morning. And what hit me was the realization that not only had God decided where Israel would hang their hats, but He had also reserved land for others. Three times I notice that God had told the people of Israel who NOT to contend with as they approached the promised land. They were not to encroach on the territory around Mount Seir because God had “given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession” (Deut 2:5). What’s more, the Israelites were not to harass Moab, their land was also off bounds, because God had given it to Lot “for a possession” (2:9). Same with the people of Ammon, none of the land was up for grabs because God had already determined it for another people (2:19). Though these ancient people may have thought they had laid claim to the land for themselves, the God of all the earth had determined their addresses in advance and for His purpose. Though they may not have acknowledged Him as God, nevertheless He is Landlord over all.
And then, it got real personal as I read Romans 9, Paul’s explanation of God’s sovereign choice of a people. People not of a particular bloodline, but a people purchased through a blood-stained cross. Not natural descendants by birth, but supernaturally determined children through faith. Not those who could claim they had worked their way to God, but those who’s sole testimony was that they were wooed to Christ. Not because of self-determination but only because of Sovereign delight.
Paul calls us “children of promise” (9:8), “sons and daughters of the living God” (9:26). But what’s evoking awe, wonder, and worship this morning, is the reminder that we are “vessels of mercy.”
What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory–even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
(Romans 9:22-24 ESV)
Honestly, I find it hard to connect the dots between “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and a God who is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pet. 3:9). But God is God and nothing less. And I am but a man, nothing more. And “who are you, o man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:20)
But what I do get — God’s Spirit bearing witness with my spirit — is that I am a vessel of mercy. A sinner called to respond to God’s great love shown for all sinners in the giving of His only Son to pay the wages of their sin. A lost soul who was invited by divine invitation to be found. Someone given ears to hear, and new heart to respond. A broken jar of clay called into service to carry the light of the gospel “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2Cor. 4:7). And this, for no other reason, than that He is God.
Why me, Lord? Because You are Sovereign.
A vessel of mercy saved by grace alone, to make known the riches of Your glory alone.