Memo 1062: Earthen Vessels

Last week, we saw that David was anointed king of the tribe of Judah, and that there was constant warfare between his house and that of Saul's. Over time, David's house became stronger while Saul's weaker. Those years of his ascension to the throne were tumultuous times, with some history to which we pay little attention. However, let's look at some of the "headlines" from that era and see what lessons we can learn as we learn to fight for our own purpose place God has for us.


In the first few chapters of 2 Samuel, we read these verses along with these headings in the NIV Bible:

  • "The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men" (2 Samuel 2:17).
  • "But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back" (2 Samuel 2:23).
  • "Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner" (2 Samuel 2:30-31).
  • Abner goes over to David (2 Samuel 3:6-21).
  • Joab (Asahel's brother) kills Abner (2 Samuel 3:22-32).

Even though God had revealed His will for the nation and David, the people were stuck in their way of doing things, which involved bloodshed and hostility. Unfortunately, the same is true in the 21st century, even in church work (well, maybe not the bloodshed, but certainly the hostility). We ignore the truth found in 2 Corinthians 4:7: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." We have assumed that the Spirit's presence would somehow modify the human tendency to grasp for and abuse power and position, but rare it is that someone can overcome the intoxicating effects of leadership to truly serve others. We have underestimated how earthen our vessels are and overestimated the Spirit's willingness or ability to overrule the earthen portions of our nature.


I was once part of a church movement for almost three decades. I dreamed of being a leader in that network, but the best I could ever achieve was the position of administrator due to my strong propensity to organize and structure. Not once did anyone ever ask me what my vision was for God's purpose in my life. They were content for me to serve, and serve, and serve. My idealism led me to believe that one day, the leaders would step forward and bestow on me a leadership position as a reward for years of faithful service, but alas, it never happened. I knew if I was going to fulfill my purpose, I had to leave that circle of leaders and friends, which I did.

Then one day in Durban, South Africa, the Lord spoke to me in my hotel room and said, "What you will do no man will be able to take the credit. It will be my doing." That was consistent with the verse above: "to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." God has kept His word and here I am today, the product of His making, doing what it is that He created me to do with little help from other leaders. It's all been His work to make a place for me.

The lesson for you is that you must learn to serve and lead people without looking to them to do what only God can do. People (and that includes you) are still "earthen vessels" who will disappoint and even sometimes ignore or betray you when their own self interests are threatened. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you keep your eyes on Him and the prize that He has promised. If you see others as your source of fulfillment or provision, however, you will bestow your allegiance on them. If you God as your source, then you will keep your eyes on Him.

At the end of the day, God kept working on David's behalf because he said things like, "And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!” (2 Samuel 3:39). David was still counting on God's power to promote him to the throne and because he did, God moved on his behalf, even though he was surrounded by many unpredictable followers and enemies. If God did that for David, He will do it for you, no matter how often people disappoint you along the way. Have a blessed week!


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