While the eagle was a powerful symbol for ancient Rome, it started, quite literally, as straw. Original standards were nothing more than a handful of straw gathered up and tied to a pole. Overtime legions opted for animal symbols that represented their spirit. In 102 B.C., Gaius Marius decreed that the Eagle alone become the defining emblem of Roman power. In his tome Natural History, the Roman writer Pliny The Elder explains, “Caius Marius, in his second consulship, assigned the eagle exclusively to the Roman legions. Before that period it had only held the first rank, there being four others as well, the wolf, the minotaur, the horse, and the wild boar, each of which preceded a single division.” For both the Greeks and Romans, eagles were held in high esteem, often being aligned with Zeus and his power. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder goes one describe how the Eagle was equal to a dragon in power and force, so that a battle between the two would be a duel to the death: “The dragon seeks the eggs of the eagle with a mischievous avidity; while the eagle, in return, carries it off whenever it happens to see it; upon these occasions, the dragon coils itself about the wings of the bird in multiplied folds, until at last they fall to the earth together.”
For Romans, the metal eagle attached to a pole was more than just a piece of military hardware that lead an army into war. The Eagle star Channing Tatum sums up concretely the emblem’s meaning: “There’s a saying in the book [The Eagle of the Ninth], “Eagle lost, honor lost; honor lost, all lost.” I think that is really how Rome felt. If you lost the Eagle then you sort of lost Rome.” For Tatum, his character Marcus Aquila is defined by the accusation that his father lost the eagle: “He has devoted his entire life to being the best soldier that he possibly can so he can rewrite his family’s name.”
Originally the eagle was probably made of silver with a golden thunderbolt in its claw. Above the eagle on the standard a gold bar bore the message SPQR (Senatus Populus Romanus), a title that honored the Senate and the people of Rome. While the primary function of the eagle was symbolic (representing not only the legion, but the Roman empire as well), it also proved a strategic tool. In the chaos of battle, troops would often look for the standard to orient their actions, often following commands to not move further than a few steps from it. When legions sets up camp, the eagle would be the first thing planted, often being given a tent of its own. One soldier, the aquilifer, would be given the honor of carrying the eagle into battle and guarding its existence.
In the movie “The Eagle” I saw so much honor reflected about this eagle that I wanted to pay tribute to the honor I feel about my Savior. Jesus took it all and left us with the “Blood” that purchased us back to Him and “ABBA”. The blood is worth dieing to myself daily just as these soldier showed honor to an eagle for thier belief I want to show my honor to my Savior.
I want to be an honored vessel in God’s House. It’s a privilege and an honor to be used by God in any fashion. I thank him for allowing me that chance. But before I can become a vessel at all there has to be a change in me.
Before I can become a vessel, God had to find me in the pit where I was nothing more than an impure lump of clay.
The Bible says in Psalms 40:2, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
That’s what the potter does when he begins to bring to pass the new creation that he has in mind for me to be. I’m not anything special, but I am a chosen lump of clay. I didn’t look any different from all of the other clay that was in the pit with me. All around me there were other people, other lumps of clay, we all looked the same. All of us were just dirt, lost in sin, stuck in the mire where there was no escape for we were are dead lumps of clay with no hope and no future to speak of. Some of those other lumps of clay, at least to my own point of view, would have been a lot better pick for the Master’s House. They had a lot more to offer than I did. But in God’s sight, he is no respecter of persons. The only thing God looks for in the clay he chooses is whether that clay will yield itself to his design.
Praise God! He chose me. God’s hand reached down into that pit, scooped up this old piece of clay, examined it and said, “Now here’s a lump of clay with promise.” He saw something in me that I couldn’t see.
There’s a song that I once sang and that Aunt Virgie and others have sang that says it this way, “Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own Son. I’m so unworthy of the stripes that he bore. Yet he chose the road to Calvary to die in my stead. Why he loved me, I can’t understand. Roll back those curtains now and then and remind me dear Lord, remind that I’m just a lump of clay and that without your hand leading me, guiding me, molding me and making me, I would be nothing more than a useless piece of dirt, unfit for the Master’s House.
I am reminded of the word of the Lord to the Prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 18:1-4, “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.”
The clay didn’t make the choice to jump into the potter’s hand. It was the potter that chose the clay.
John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
God chose me, and God chose you! The Great Potter, maker of all vessels and the one who will give honor to whom honor is due, chose us for his House!
Who are we to now question what God wants to do with our lives? Why do we strive against the Potter’s hands? Why do we think that we know more about ourselves than the Potter who forms us, creates us, molds us and has a design for us?
Yet every day I see the clay as it argues with the Potter! God, I can’t do what you have called me to do. Mr. Potter, I can’t bend that much; I won’t stretch that much; I can’t stand the pressure; I want to be a vessel; I want to be used; but why does it have to be so hard all the time? Can’t you mold me a little easier? Can’t you be a little more gentle; after all, I’m just a lump of clay.
Well, if you are just a lump of clay, then you need to shut up and let the potter have his way. The clay can’t mold itself. A pot doesn’t just form all by itself one day. It must come under the hands of the Creator before it can be anything other than just clay. But somehow we have convinced ourselves that we know more than God and we start trying to tell the Potter that we know more than he does.
Isaiah 29:16, “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?”
Pick up a handful of dirt and what do you see – Nothing but dirt! If that handful of dirt started arguing with me, I’d be very tempted to do either one of three things. I’d either throw it down out of surprise at it’s voice; or I’d slap it few times to make it be quiet; or most likely, I’d go check myself into an asylum somewhere. Who ever heard of dirt arguing with someone?
But that’s what we do. We are nothing more than a lump of dirt that argues with the Creator that spoke us into existence. That’s what I call the height of audacity!
Just being lifted out of the miry pit with all the other clay is a miracle of the highest order, but that’s only the beginning.
How many people get saved and yet never become useful vessels in the House of God? I can tell you that there are a lot of them. In fact, I wonder if the majority of the clay pots in the House of God aren’t just there for the looks, because many don’t seem to have a real job to do, or at least they aren’t doing it.
If we are going to be an honored vessel in God’s House there has to be a change from our natural condition where God found us.
God has to get all the hard lumps out of us and make us completely pliable.
Even in our natural state, if we find a lump somewhere in this body that we live in, we get concerned because that lump probably shouldn’t be there. Sometimes we call it a tumor, or a cancer, but it’s almost always something that has to be taken care of by the surgeon’s knife.
Yet we come to God and when he starts trying to take out the hard-hearted attitudes, and the hard-headed way of thinking, and the lumps of sin and shame, we often resist his hand in our lives. He is trying to get us into shape to be used and we are fighting him every step of the way.
Sometimes we are too dry, so God has to water us a lot with his Word so that we can be more pliable. That water of the Word softens the lumps.
But I’ve also seen some folks who have “too much water”. What I mean by that is that they become so spiritually minded that they are of no earthly good. They are too slick to work with because they think that they have arrived, when all the while God can’t get hold of them. They are sticky and oozing and you can’t get a certain shape out of them.
People like that stick to everything and everything sticks to them. Have you ever had your foot stuck in the wet clay? It will hold on to your shoe and you can hardly pull yourself free. And when you do get free, if your shoe comes out, the clay is stuck to it making it hard to walk.
That’s the same effect some old wet Christians have on you. You can’t get them to turn loose of their own way of thinking, and if you aren’t careful, their way of thinking will get hold of you. God can’t change them; you can’t change them, and they refuse to change themselves. God can’t make a useful vessel out of a lump of clay that won’t yield to his will.
The only way that you will ever be an honored vessel in God’s house is to become pliable in his hands. It has to be God’s work in you, and nothing that you can do on your own. The Holy Spirit has to lead and teach you. The Word of God has to keep you watered and pliable. And then you can be formed into the image that God has in mind for you.
Finally I want to say that being a vessel in God’s house is a glorious thing. But I don’t want to just stand around looking nice. I want to be used.
2 Timothy 2:20, “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.”
I know that there are ornate vases, fine china dishes, and very finely decorated pieces of pottery in a lot of homes. And then there are the every day dishes, like plastic plates or even ceramic cups that are used all the time. Some are there only to be seen while others are fulfilling the purpose of their existence.
All of them bear the marks of their designer, but not all are being used as they were intended.
In man’s way of thinking, it is the ornate, fine china and very delicate pieces that are the most valuable, but I believe that in God’s house, it’s the common vessels that are honored most.
I want to be used by God. God formed us into vessels to be used for a purpose, not just to stand in the corner looking good.
It’s those vessels that bear the marks of daily service that are the most honored. It’s those vessels that have a few chips on the edges, or a cracked handle, or a few scars of battle that give God glory.
In his letter to the Galatians Paul writes these words: Galatians 6:17, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
Paul was an honored vessel in God’s House. His life gave glory to the Potter. He was used like few vessels have ever been used. And yet he was scarred, battered and beaten because he fulfilled his purpose.
If you are going to be used by God, get ready for a few battle scars. But if you really want to be an honored vessel, then let God use you as he wills. Only those vessels that are willing vessels will be honored in Heaven one day. Those who refuse to be what God wants them to be will be cast into the pits forever.
I want to be an honored vessel!
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