Prisons have been in existence for thousands of years, originally as a place where people accused of crimes were held until their trial or judgment, while in more modern times imprisonment has also become a form of sentence itself. Prisons have also been used to silence or neutralize political or religious reformers. Throughout The Bible, God’s people very often found themselves in prison – in a world in which evil still reigns , their “crimes” were righteousness and truth.
“So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But The Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” (Genesis 39:20-21 NASB) (see Coat Of Many Colors)
“She said, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! And he awoke from his sleep and said, I will go out as at other times and shake myself free. But he did not know that The Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.” (Judges 16:20-21 NASB) (see Samson And Delilah)
“Then the officials were angry at Jeremiah [see also Prophets] and beat him, and they put him in jail in the house of Jonathan the scribe [see Scribes], which they had made into the prison. For Jeremiah had come into the dungeon, that is, the vaulted cell; and Jeremiah stayed there many days. Now King Zedekiah [see Kings of Israel and Judah] sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, Is there a word from The Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is! Then he said, You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon! [see King Nebuchadnezzar and Ancient Empires – Babylon] (Jeremiah 37:15-17 NASB)
“For when Herod [see The Herods] had John [see John The Baptist] arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:3-4 NASB)
“Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees [see also Who Were The Pharisees? andSanhedrin], and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of The Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, Go, stand and speak to the people in the Temple [see Temples] the whole message of this Life.” (Acts 5:16-20 NASB)
“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:1-3 NASB)
“I persecuted this Way [see The Way] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'” (Acts 22:4-7 NASB) (see On The Road To Damascus)
“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church [see What Is The Church?] in order to mistreat them. And he hadJames the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers [see Roman Legions] to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, Get up quickly. And his chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:1-7 NASB)
20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
I have seen men of high achievement in the world tremble with a sense of awe as they realized that on a given occasion they were the instrument of God’s working. I can tell you from personal experience that is something that is without compare in this life. It can happen anywhere, anytime. God works in wonderful ways, not always in very dramatic ways, but in ways we do not anticipate. It can happen to anybody. Being used of God is not confined to pastors, preachers or teachers. Anybody can be an instrument in God’s hands.
In the passage we are looking at this morning from Second Timothy, Chapter 2, beginning with Verse 20, the Apostle Paul describes what it takes to be used of God.
In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 RSV)
Most of the commentators take this reference to “a great house” to refer to the whole professing church. They see the church as the house of God, which is the term Paul used for this in his first letter to Timothy. But if we compare what other Scriptures say on this, we discover that Scripture itself forces us to extend this analogy not only to the church, but to the whole world. Every person in the world is a possible vessel for God to use, regardless of what his attitude to God may be.
Scripture reveals that God uses his enemies, even the devil, to accomplish his work. God’s sovereignty, his majesty, is such that no matter who we may be or what we may be like, we can be used by him. In the story of the Exodus, in the Old Testament, we learn that not only was Moses the instrument of God but so was Pharaoh. In Romans 9, Paul says that Pharaoh was used of God to resist the departure from Egypt in order that the greatness of God might be manifest. The apostle says that God raised up Pharaoh, set him on his throne, and used him for his purposes. In fact, in the ninth chapter of Romans, the 21st through the 23rd verses, the apostle uses this very same figure about vessels of mercy contrasted with vessels of wrath. He says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” (Romans 9:21 RSV). So Scripture itself supports the idea that God can use anybody, believer or nonbeliever.
In Isaiah we are told that Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God (Jeremiah 27:6), even though he was a Babylonian pagan. Cyrus the Persian king is called “God’s anointed one,” (Isaiah 45:1). God speaks of him as “my shepherd” (Isaiah 44:28), though he too was an unbeliever. If we understand life from the Biblical point of view, we must know that all people can be used of God. So it is not a question of whether you are going to be used of God or not. As this passage points out, the question is, How does God plan to use you? What is he going to do with you? To what purpose is he going to put you in his program? Will it be a noble purpose, or will it be, as this version says, an ignoble? Will it be for good or bad, blessing or judgment? We need to clearly understand this fact.
Recently I saw a sign on someone’s desk that said, “It may be that my whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” Everyone needs a bad example as well as a good one. That may be the purpose God will put us to.The Scriptures do not teach that only the righteous people are used of God. No, God can use anyone. He used Hitler to accomplish certain purposes of judgment and correction. God uses the basest of men; we all are instruments of his work. God used Judas, placing him in the apostolic band. Jesus knew that he would betray him. Judas fulfilled the Scriptures and the predictions of the prophets on that night when he lifted up his heel against the Lord and betrayed him. So God can use anyone.
What type of vessel are you choosing to yield to today? My quest of service is to the human being that is rapidly becoming an endangered species. Our youth are targeted for prison from schools and your family members also. Please consider my passion as my part to help fit others for service in life and their communities.
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