"PLEASE LET ME DIE!"
By: Dan Revoir
TAKING A TURN ON THE WHEEL
It was a beautiful day near the end of August of 1987, and yet even as our family enjoyed the warm sunshine, the breeze had a definite kiss of fall in it. At Greenfield Village Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, we were like excited children rushing from shop to shop, pushing Martha in her wheelchair because her leg had not yet healed.
We watched with fascination as various tradesmen demonstrated their skills: the glass blowers molding molten glass into beautiful vases and pitchers, a steam powered lumber mill sawing great trees into planks and boards for building, and wooden wheels being made for carriages.
Then we went to the potters' shop and there we watched a young man working on his potter's wheel, a process that is several millennia old. We were mesmerized, watching this young man dip his fingers in water and slowly work the revolving lump of clay into a beautiful creation. After finishing a beautiful vase, he started working another lump of clay, but it was as though the clay had a mind of its own. It resisted the potter's powerful hands as he patiently tried time and time again, to mold this stubborn lump of seemingly worthless earth.
Finally, in a maneuver of finality, he smashed the misshapen vessel and started over. Again, the inanimate object seemed to have decided its own destiny, refusing to be conformed into something useful. Again, the potter smashed the lump, then took his instruments, cut it from the board and flung it into a pile of refuse.
It was appalling watching this scene of conflict where an inanimate object seemed to defy the creator who had all power over it. Another passage from God's Word brought to mind a similar example found in Jeremiah 18:1-6:
"The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 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."
In context, this speaks of the nation Israel where God likens her to a lump of clay on the potter's wheel. The prophet Jeremiah was instructed by the Lord God to go to the potter's house for this illustration. And as it was when I saw the potter, the same is true of Jeremiah, the clay was "marred." (The word "marred" in the Hebrew refers to being destroyed). The clay obviously, either had a stone in it or else it was not of correct quality. So the potter would break it down until he could work out the impurity. Then sometimes he would make an entirely different object out of the clay.
God's message to the prophet for Israel, was that as the potter forms a vessel on the wheel, He, as sovereign over this universe had power to conform Israel to His will for His purpose. I believe that God also uses suffering and affliction to sometimes conform us to His will.
I Peter 1:6-7, "In this ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold trials, That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
I Peter 4:12-13, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffering, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
Here we see the metaphor of gold being refined by fire; in this
passage the gold is our faith.
LIFE IS THE PITS ...
In Genesis 37, we see the account of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, later called Israel. Even as a young boy of 17, shepherding his father's sheep, he knew God was going to greatly use him. He did, however, make one mistake: sharing a dream with his brothers. The dream portrayed them bowing to him. His brothers, already jealous, devised a plan for him. The plan was somewhat extreme. They were going to kill him. But Ruben, his older brother came to his rescue with Plan B. So they threw him in a pit and decided to have lunch at the pit site.
As they were trying to decide Joseph's fate, a company of Ishmaelites on caravan came along. To make the story short, the brothers sold Joseph into slavery and he was transported to Egypt. Then God began the conforming process in Joseph. He was conformed to a con as in convict, when the amorous Mrs. Potiphar tried unsuccessfully to seduce him. After several years in prison, Joseph was released by Pharaoh after interpreting the ruler's dream of a coming famine. So Joseph went from prisoner to president as second in command of the kingdom. In his plan to advert the famine, Joseph storehoused grain for seven years. Of course, the famine affected all the surrounding areas of Egypt and a group of men came from Canaan to buy grain. This particular group of men were his brothers.
Imagine in your mind's eye the scenario as they are ushered into the presence of the second most powerful man in all Egypt, their own brother Joseph. He recognized them immediately, but kept his own identity a secret even speaking through an interpreter. One verse of scripture stands out "like a sore thumb"...
Genesis 42:6, "And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and BOWED DOWN THEMSELVES BEFORE HIM with their faces to the earth."
Joseph's dream was fulfilled; groveling on the ground before their brother would become a commonplace thing, which is readily apparent as one reads chapters 42-45.
Finally Joseph reveals himself to his brothers with tears and hugging, but let us conclude with the point we have been pursuing.
Genesis 45: 4-8, "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me here; FOR GOD DID SEND ME BEFORE YOU TO PRESERVE LIFE. And these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in which there shall neither be plowing nor harvest. AND GOD SENT ME BEFORE YOU to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. SO NOW IT WAS NOT YOU THAT SENT ME HERE, BUT GOD: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."
To put it very succinctly, the suffering of Joseph was for the glory of God and the preservation of the nation of Israel. God has not changed. There are many accounts in the Bible that portray suffering and affliction, pain, and gory death. The life of Moses and several prophets teach us that the servants of God will suffer affliction.
PAUL'S HAUNTING MEMORIES ...
Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish zealot who was an instrument of destruction. He felt appointed of God to annihilate the followers of "the way," a new religious sect of his day. After his glorious conversion on the road to Damascus, he received not only his sight from Ananias, but also a message of pain and sorrow.
I paraphrase the message Ananias was to deliver: "Go tell him he is a chosen vessel for me, and he will bear my name to the Gentiles, and kings and to the children of Israel. FOR I WILL SHOW HIM HOW MANY THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME'S SAKE."
Paul relates one pounding beat after another of pain, suffering, torture, imprisonment, hunger, thirst, and fatigue! And the most crushing burden he bore was his love and care of all the churches and the persecution of other believers, CONSTANTLY BEING REMINDED OF THE BURDEN OF GUILT HE CARRIED IN HIS OWN HEART AND SOUL HOW HE HAD PERSECUTED THE CHURCH! He mentioned that several times in his writings to various churches. How much did Paul suffer? Was he a super spiritual man who was completely victorious over every testing he faced? No, is the answer. Paul was just like you and me showing his despair in II Corinthians 1:8-9.
"We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life." God used affliction in Paul's life to shape him into a vessel to give the gospel to the Gentiles.
Everywhere I turn in God's Word, I am brought face to face with the realization that...Yes, God does allow suffering to accomplish His will. Indeed it MAY BE PART OF THE CONFORMING PROCESS. Even as it was in the great heros of the faith. God had revealed a tremendous insight into suffering that conforms us to be Christlike, and the verse that I had read probably a hundred times, suddenly clicked in my mind. And with that verse came the realization that possibly this was part of God's plan for my life!
Romans 8:28-29, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be CONFORMED to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
The word conformed in the Greek means to be completely reshaped inside and out. We are then shaped to be more Christ-like! They say that as gold is refined, it shimmers in the refiner's heated furnace. But as bee's wax or nitric acid is added, the impurities are removed. Then, when the gold is pure and free from that which makes it impure, it stops moving and the refiner's face is reflected clearly in it. As purified gold, people should see the reflection of Christ in our lives.
Let me share a poem from
a series by Christina H. Goforth, entitled,
"IN HIS GRACE"
(Psalms 61:2 ).
I am weary Lord.
Please give me strength to bear the trials
that You have sent my way,
And give me the grace to faithfully serve You
and live as I should, day by day.
Guard my tongue that the words I speak
be only right and true,
And guide my feet, that my daily walk
will glorify only You.
Keep me faithful, keep me trusting,
in all that I may do
And let me find my hope and strength,
my light, my peace in You.
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