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God's Chosen Vessels
years ago, my wife and I went to an arts and crafts show in
were there, Eleanor bought a china cup with a hand-painted rose on the side,
and it quickly became her favourite cup for drinking
isn’t a possessive person, and I don’t recall ever discussing it, but somehow I
knew that the next time I had to fix the toaster or the weed whacker, or
something like that, and I needed a container to put the nuts and bolts in, somehow
I knew Eleanor’s china cup with the hand-painted rose on the side wouldn’t be a
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all have things like that, don’t we?
wouldn’t be surprise if you ladies have an extra-large roasting pan that you
use to cook the Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey in.
rest of the time it just sits in the cupboard taking up space.
husbands, if you’re the kind of person who likes to service your own vehicle
and you need something to catch the old oil in, don’t even think about it!
roasting pan has been set aside for a
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God has His sanctified vessels, too, doesn’t He?
instance, the descendants of Abraham have been set aside for a special purpose.
And one of those purposes was
foreshadowed in God’s words to Abraham---“And in you all the families of the earth shall be
And the Bride of Christ has
been set aside for a special purpose.
We find that in 1
you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own
special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of
darkness into His marvelous light.”
So, just like
And not only that, but every believer has been set aside for a special purpose.
You might call it our
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Well, I’m sure you have already guessed
that the subject of today’s lesson is sanctification.
And as far as a Christian is concerned,
there are two kinds of sanctification.
There’s positional sanctification, which is a direct result of God’s
After all, we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”
And there’s what we would call practical sanctification, which is
progressive, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit is directly related to the
Christian’s free will.
So, in my opinion, I don’t
think we can get a proper understanding of sanctification until we have at least
some understanding of the sovereign will of God and the free will of man.
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First of all, let me say that these are
subjects that I can only comment on rather than fully explain.
Certainly they are subjects that have divided
Christians over the centuries.
However, I believe they are subjects that
God wants us, at least in our limited capacity, to understand.
The first thing we must recognize is
that both the sovereign will of God and the free will of man are found in scripture.
The problem, at least as far as man is
concerned, is that they seem to contradict each other.
If God is completely in charge of His
creation, which, of course, He is, then how can man have any choice at all?
John Calvin attempted to answer that
question by asserting that man does not have a free will.
According to Calvin’s way of thinking,
man’s earthly existence and his eternal destiny, be it heaven or hell, were
preprogrammed by God before man’s creation.
Of course, that makes man, who was
created in the image of God, a mere puppet.
And even though there are verses that
seem to support Calvin’s theory, what would you do with a verse like 2 Peter
3:9 that tells us God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
And how could Jesus’
invitation---“Come to Me,
all you who labor and are heavy laden”---have any meaning if man
doesn’t have the option to come?
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On the other hand,
evangelicals believe in the free will of man, and rightly so, and especially as
it concerns salvation.
We quote such verses as Romans
10:13 that say “---whoever calls on
the name of the LORD shall be saved,” and
many other verses that we could quote from memory.
However, because we often
have trouble putting these two concepts together, many evangelicals tend to
neglect the verses that emphasize the sovereign will of God.
So what is the answer?
Well, I don’t propose to
have the answer to a problem that has puzzled so many, but for myself personally,
I have found peace in the following explanation.
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It seems to me that the
only way these two principles can co-exist is if the one has been created by the
other---in this case, if the sovereign will of God was responsible for the free
will of man.
And the Genesis record
seems to verify that fact.
For instance, sometime
after God created mankind in His own image, we find Satan busily trying to
If she had been created
with no possibility of making a decision, then Satan would have been wasting
And as our whole history
demonstrates, he wasn’t wasting his
So, apparently, and from
the very beginning, one of the characteristics of being made in the image of
God is a free will.
And it was an attribute
that God considered so important that He included it in man’s make-up, even
though He knew His decision would eventually necessitate the death of His own
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And so, with this brief
outline, I think we are ready to consider the subject of sanctification, and we are going to draw our inspiration from a rather
Turn with me then to Numbers
6:1-8 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses,
saying, "Speak to the children
of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering
to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to
the LORD, ‘he shall separate himself
from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from
wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any
grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. ‘All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced
by the grapevine, from seed to skin. ‘All
the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until
the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be
holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. ‘All the days that he separates himself to
the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. ‘He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother,
for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. ‘All the days of his
separation he shall be holy to the LORD.”
And since we are talking
about a vow, we must of necessity be dealing with man’s free will.
And yet, once entered into,
there are some very stringent requirements.
The first one was a
complete separation from wine or any product of the grape.
I’m sure we all realize
that many of the social functions in Bible times, such as the wedding in Cana of Galilee, for instance, included wine as a beverage.
As a result, this first
restriction would greatly reduce the Nazirite’s involvement in social gatherings.
And as far as the man was concerned,
his long hair would have the same effect.
That’s quite evident from
Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 11:14----“Does
not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor
And by the way, I very much
doubt that the religious paintings we are used to are correct in portraying
Jesus with long hair.
No doubt these artists,
such as Holman Hunt, were influenced by the fact that long hair was popular for
men in their day.
You will also notice most
of them portrayed Jesus with the facial features of an Englishman, and with
brown hair, when everyone knows He was Jewish.
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Getting back to the
restrictions placed on a Nazirite, it’s not hard to
see that the first two would protect him from the distractions of daily life.
The third one was designed
to make him acceptable to the LORD.
You see, under Old
Testament law, any contact with a dead body would make a person ceremonially
We see that in Numbers
19:16 “Whoever in the open field touches
one who is slain by a sword or who has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave,
shall be unclean seven days.”
As a result, a Nazirite was not allowed to attend funerals, even of close
However, in spite of these
restrictions, we must not lose sight of the fact that it was a vow, and therefore voluntary.
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But this morning, we are
going to draw our inspiration from three Nazirites in
scripture who had no choice in the
The first one that I will
mention is Samuel.
In his case, his mother
made the vow on his behalf before he was born.
We pick up the account in 1
Samuel 1: 10-11 “And she was in
bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. “Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD
of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and
remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a
male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no
razor shall come upon his head.”
No, Samuel wasn’t a volunteer.
However, in spite of the
fact he had no choice in the matter, he was always a willing participant in what
he saw as God’s plan for his life.
Yes, he “---judged
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However, scripture records
two Nazirites who were set aside, not by their mothers,
but by the sovereign will of God.
The first one we will consider
is John the Baptist.
Like Samuel, he was a miracle baby, for both Zachariass and Elizabeth were too old to have children.
You will remember the angel’s
announcement to his father, found in Luke 1:13-16---“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer
is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his
name John. "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at
his birth. "For he will be great in the sight of
the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled
with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. "And he will turn many
of the children of
Yes, John’s commission was
He was to “turn many of the children of
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But who was the other Nazirite that God set aside for His own special purposes,
and what would his reaction be like?
Well, his name was Samson,
and his birth announcement is found in Judges 13:1-2 “Again the children of
Yes, this would be another miracle baby.
V 3-5 “And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,
"Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall
conceive and bear a son. "Now therefore, please
be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything
unclean. "For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor
shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver
Now, in view of our present-day
ruling on abortion, it is interesting to note the restrictions placed on Manoah’s wife.
In spite of the fact that
she wasn’t a Nazirite, she was to “be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean.”
Because her body must provide the proper environment for a Nazirite.
As the angel said---“the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb.”
No, not after he emerged from the womb, but he
would be a Nazirite from the womb.
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It’s also interesting to
As you will remember, when
the Angel Gabriel announced Jesus’ birth, he also told Mary that
And no doubt it was shortly
after that that Mary visited her.
Luke1:44 “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your
greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Our society has it wrong.
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Getting back to Judges 13:5
and the announcement of Samson’s birth, we read --- “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come
upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin
At this point, we will drop
down to verses 24-25---“So the woman
bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed
him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.”
childhood and teenage years had gone well, and he was responding favourably to the Holy Spirit’s influence.
But somewhere along the line,
Samson lost sight of the fact that God had raised him up to deliver his people out of the hand of
In fact, it appears he was
spending quite a bit of his time with the Philistines.
Judges 14:1 “Now Samson went down to Timnah,
and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the
So what was he doing in Timnah?
And if a young man spends
his time in the wrong place, it is almost certain that he will find the wrong girl.
That’s just the nature of
Judges 14:2 “So he went up and told his father and
mother, saying, "I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”
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At this point, we should take
a brief look at
When they first entered the
Promised Land, God laid down certain rules concerning their separation.
We find them in Deuteronomy
7:2-4 “and when the LORD your God
delivers them over to you (that is the people of the land), you shall conquer them and utterly
destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.
"Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter
to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. "For they will turn
your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD
will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.”
And time after time, that’s
exactly what happened.
They intermarried, adopted
their neighbours’ pagan ways, and were repeatedly led
And as we have already
noticed, they were presently under Philistine rule.
No wonder Samson’s parents
Judges 14:3 “Then his
father and mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the
daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a
wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
But it was like talking to
Samson’s only response was---“Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”
Of course she pleased him.
He was a young man, and she
was a beautiful girl, but what about his commission?
How could he defend
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2 Corinthians 6:14-15---“Do not be unequally yoked together with
unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what
communion has light with darkness? And
what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an
Of course this applies to
various alliances, not just marriage, but it does apply to marriage.
And since we’re thinking about
Samson, this might be a good time to ask our young men the question, How would you carry out your God-given
responsibilities if you decided to marry an unbeliever?
For instance, there’s your
obligation not to “provoke your children
to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
How could you do that, if
their mother didn’t live by those values?
And the list goes on and
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Getting back to Judges 14, we
might wonder if all of
Well, the answer is no!
In fact, Judges 14:4 is
quite an eye-opener---“But his father
and mother did not know that it was of the LORD––that He was seeking an
occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had
No, God’s sovereign will was not at the mercy of man’s free will.
His plan to liberate His
people would prevail, not because of any co-operation on Samson’s part, and as
far as that young man was concerned, at a terrible cost.
I think we all know the
During the wedding feast,
Samson put forth a riddle that his 30 young guests, Philistines all, couldn’t
And to show you the kind of
people Samson was associating with, they threatened to kill both his wife and
her father if she couldn’t discover the answer.
Not surprisingly, she wept
on Samson’s shoulder during the whole feast, and he finally yielded.
So, of course the young men
won the bet, and of course Samson had to pay each of them “thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.”
But there was no doubt in
his mind that he had been cheated.
And Judges 14:19 tells us “---the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to
And then he stomped off
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Well, Samson had really
stirred up the pot, and it was about to boil over.
Thinking Sampson had
forsaken his daughter; the father-in-law gave her to another.
And not surprisingly, when
Samson found out, he was beside himself with rage!
Catching 300 foxes, he tied
firebrands between their tails, and destroyed all of the Philistines’ grain
harvest, including their vineyards and their olive groves.
And when the Philistines
found out what had set him off, they killed his father-in-law and his wife.
And in retaliation for their actions, Samson
attacked the Philistines single-handedly, and killed a great many.
And then, in retaliation
for his retaliation, the Philistines drew
up their army against
Judges 15:11-15 “Then three
thousand men of
And that did it!
Realizing they had met
their match, the Philistines left
In fact, Judges 15:20 tells us, Samson “judged
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Certainly Samson’s great
strength was an effective deterrent, and certainly God gave him credit for
protecting His people, even placing him among the heroes of faith found in
Hebrews Chapter 11.
However, during those 20
years, there is nothing said about Samson’s personal life.
There’s nothing to indicate
he ever remarried, and I rather think he didn’t.
Oh, he continued to wear
his hair long, and even braided it in seven locks, seven being the number of
But at the end of those 20
years, we get a picture of a man in a very backslidden condition.
Judges 16:1 “Now Samson
Yes, Samson was living a double life.
By day, he was
V 2 “When the Gazites were told,
"Samson has come here!" they surrounded the place and lay in
wait for him all night at the gate of the city.”
But at midnight, he
escaped, taking the gate and its posts with him.
An amazing feat of
strength, but for the first time we don’t hear the words---“the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily.”
And there’s no indication
that this narrow escape made any impression on him.
Judges 16:4 “Afterward it happened that he loved a
woman in the
And we know the story,
He was seeking love, but he
Oh, he was able to outsmart
the enemy for a while.
When Delilah questioned him
about his source of strength, he satisfied her with lies.
First, he said seven fresh
bowstrings would hold him, and then it was new
ropes that would do the trick.
If they had any sense of
history, the Philistines wouldn’t have believed that one.
20 years ago, they lost 1,000
men because they had trusted in new ropes.
But, finally, after 20
years of victory, what the armies of the Philistines couldn’t do, the words of
a seductive woman did.
Yes, he finally told her
Judges 16:17 “No razor has ever come upon my head, for
I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s
womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak,
and be like any other man.”
She would have never guessed it!
And like some Christians,
it would’ve been better if he had never told her about his relationship to the LORD.
V 20-21 “And she said, "The Philistines are upon you,
Samson!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as
before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that
the LORD had departed from him. Then the
Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to
No, there was no magic in
his long hair.
He had been a special vessel with a special commission, but when the Holy
Spirit left him, he was powerless.
What a sad picture this is of
And what a sad picture this
is of a sleeping Christian.
Comforted by the world, he
sleeps on unaware of his perilous condition until it is too late.
Finally, with his spiritual
eyesight gone, and shackled by “the sin
which so easily ensnares us,” he is condemned to spend his days grinding for the world.
And not only grinding, but
mocked by the world.
Judges 16:25 “So it happened, when their hearts were
merry, that they said, "Call for Samson, that he
may perform for us." So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed
for them. And they stationed him between the pillars.”
What a picture of defeat we
have before us.
But wait---there’s still
If we turn back to V 22, we
will discover that the hair of his head had begun to grow while he was in
And what happened on the outside was happening on the inside.
V 28-30 “Then Samson called to the LORD, saying,
"O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on
the Philistines for my two eyes!" And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the
temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on
his left. Then Samson said, "Let me
die with the Philistines!" And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people
who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than
he had killed in his life.”
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This morning we have been
talking about God’s special vessels, haven’t we?
However, as has been demonstrated
in the lives of John and Samson, not all vessels can be used in the same way.
As 2 Timothy 2:20 tells us “---in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but
also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.”
And with these different
possibilities before us, Paul makes this application:
V 21 “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, (that is,
the iniquity spoken of in V 19) “---- if anyone cleanses himself from the
latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master,
prepared for every good work.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, and my will be lost in Thine.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou has
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thyself now glorified.
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