“Moab has been at ease from his youth, and he has settled on his lees, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither has he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” Jeremiah 48:11
The expression, “emptied from vessel to vessel” is a figure that speaks of winemaking. It relates to a method used to produce a well-refined wine, which is poured into a vessel and allowed to stand for a certain length of time. Then it is poured into another vessel.
Each time this is done, there is a settling of the dregs and sediment which remain in the container, as the wine-maker carefully pours the liquid into another vessel. This process is repeated until the wine is perfectly refined and yields a freshness of fragrance and color that is pleasing to the maker.
This result will not occur if the wine had been allowed to stay in only one vessel. Instead, it would have “settled upon its lees” and become scented with the essence of the dregs. Because the intention of the Lord is to bring us to spiritual maturity, we also are carefully poured from vessel to vessel; from one dealing to another.
As we yield to His purpose, the Holy Spirit will see to it that we are brought, step upon step (vessel by vessel), into spiritual growth and maturity. With our wills yielded, and our spirits mellowed, we shall then become “wine, well refined.”
Once we understand what we are by nature, we realize that no natural power could carry out so titanic an undertaking. If ever this is to be accomplished, the power must come from a source other than ourselves. Thus, the Lord simply asks us to become willing, yielded, broken material upon which to work, and He will furnish the means and power for our transformation.
Here, an object lesson is set before us, that this process might be more forcibly brought home. Have we not found ourselves being emptied from one vessel into another in God’s ceaseless dealings? These vessels represent the unique arrangements of trying circumstances, peculiar conditions, unexplainable leadings, tests in relation to healing, and the general array of experiences and changing conditions, which are common in the life of a consecrated Christian.
The Lord does not say the vessels are all alike. That would spoil the teaching given in this figure. Rather, the vessels are quite different, scarcely two being alike. Let us consider a few in order to enlarge our understanding.
The first is a vessel made of tinted glass. As the wine is emptied within, it assumes a color that results from the hue of the glass. This is the vessel of misunderstanding. People then judge the wine as being “off-color.” An endless course of reasons ensues as to the cause of its being thus.
The “wine” is aware of these remarks, and as a result has a difficult time remaining still and submitted, so the sediment might settle and cling to the sides and bottom of the vessel. All this keeps the wine in a disturbed state, until finally it discovers that it is really what it should be at this time of its development, since only the glass (dealing) is tinted. Thus there is a delay and a longer time is needed to produce clear wine.
The Maker waits for it to become settled and then carefully pours it into another vessel. All that is left behind are a few dregs of self-vindication and some shreds of the self-life.
As the wine is poured out, it beholds the new vessel, a large but shallow receptacle, gray and ugly. At first there is a shrinking, for the vessel seems so unusual, and so absolutely unlike any into which it had been before emptied. As the wine is poured, it is so wide that it fills the entire open vessel. This is the vessel of “public gaze.” It is where the Lord pours us when we are to experience “weakness.”
The wine cannot gather itself up to appear in any other shape. It must spread out flat and be open to public judgment and criticism. The snide remarks hinder the wine from becoming quiet, yielded, and silent. But as it realizes that this is a necessary step in its perfection, it becomes settled and is again poured out. Clinging to the sides of the ugly, gray vessel are the dregs of pride and self-preservation, but added to the wine is a richer hue.
The next vessel is made of clay. It is tall with a long narrow neck, and is not transparent. Thus, it reflects no light. As the wine is poured, it has difficulty getting adjusted, owing to the darkness and a fear as to the certainty that it belongs there. But at last it yields and fills the vessel in “quietness.”
Here it stands for a long period of time, in shadow and darkness. At times, the wine faintly hears the music and delightful cries of those without who are in the light, but the clay allows no participation, nor affinity of satisfaction. The wine can only remember the light it had found in former days, and simply trust that it will shine again.
This is the vessel of long, dark trial; the kind in which the Lord leaves us alone in order to prove us, even in shadow and darkness. But it works wonders in the wine. As it is again poured forth, it gleams with the light of faith, tried and tested. Left behind are the dregs of impatience, questioning, and unbelief.
Again the wine is poured into a new vessel, which is unusual in size and unique in design. It has many bulges and ridges. Therefore, the wine has a difficult time finding its way into the many bulges, odd nooks, and corners. Those who watch, immediately conclude that the wine is in the wrong vessel, and that it was never called to go into such a receptacle. Thus, it appears to others that the wine's leading and witness is wrong. This is the vessel of “misunderstood guidance.”
The Lord’s ways are not our ways; thus, His ways are often incomprehensible. The Lord seldom explains to others the leadings which He lays upon those who are His own. It is certainly death to our flesh to be led into situations that produce criticism from others, and then not be able to satisfy their reasoning’s. Thus, the wine finds no pleasure in this vessel, but it had been poured and must now fill the vessel.
We do not need to understand why the Lord does certain things. Neither should we attempt to explain to others why He leads us as He does. As soon as the wine is settled and the lesson is learned, the gentle hand of the Maker will again pour it. How it sparkles and gleams with fresh yieldedness and obedience. Left behind are dregs of distrust and fear.
The next vessel is made from a mixture of vastly different materials. This vessel would never have been the choice of the wine. And worse, the wine was not asked as to how this vessel should be formed. This speaks of the circumstances in which we often find ourselves; in which we are not at all to blame for the situation. This is the vessel of the “faults of others,” which is an awkward place in which to be. Some fail to do their duty. Others refuse to come or to go, as they should. Before we realize, we may be involved in a predicament quite to our disapproval.
Usually, we are willing to go through a trial when we are at fault; but for us to be dragged into a plight, which is not of our doing, is to our flesh a real death. But consider: Who made this vessel? The Lord is not blaming the wine for the trial, nor for its makeup. The wine has only to yield and be poured into and fill the vessel. We are not to waste valuable time complaining to the Lord about the size, shape, color, and texture of this vessel, for He made it. Rather, we are to trustingly melt and flow into it as He intended.
Enough has been said concerning these vessels that we might expand on what they teach. Let us turn to another phase of truth that is given here; how the wine may act in being poured. In my own experience, and in watching others go through trials and testings, I have found three ways in which we may act.
First, we may submit to being poured, but with an unbroken spirit. The will is surrendered and the pouring continues, but we remain rigid and unbroken in spirit. Thus, the purpose of the pouring is lost. The soul retains its own shape and does not melt so the sediment might settle. This person has truly surrendered to the Lord's will, yet has utterly failed in that his spirit is not broken.
Have you ever attempted to pour thick milk into a receptacle with a narrow neck? It is almost impossible, as the milk has become set and is incapable of yieldedness, or brokenness. The text tells us that because the wine was not emptied from vessel to vessel, it had “settled on its lees.” This is a Hebrew word which means to thicken or curdle. Some souls are so set that they become incapable of adjustment or change.
The question then is not, “have I been poured?” but rather, “have I become broken in spirit?” One may be poured into a hundred vessels and never learn the lesson of submission to the workings of the Holy Spirit. We must break in spirit as we are emptied, and as a result, there will be less agony, pain, and distress; for we will, with grace, melt and fill the vessel quickly.
Another reaction is to yield to the pouring, and find ourselves filling a number of different vessels. But we just endure it, as hidden away in our spirit is a “pout.” We recognize that the best thing is to yield and go through, but we do so by “enduring” and say, perhaps faintly, “Yes, Lord, I am going through, but I do not think it is fair, for you could have made it easier.”
We consent in will, but do not break in spirit. Many are enduring the pouring, but never seem to learn the lesson. Let us break, and allow the dregs to settle.
The third and right way, is to not only surrender in will, but to break in spirit. This is so pleasing to the Lord. As we break in spirit we lose our “setness” and become pliable, flowing easily into the most intricate parts of the vessel. Here we are truly able to say, “I delight to do thy will, O God.”
Now, a word as to the reason for all this pouring and emptying - Surely God does not thrust us into such trying places to mock us. If we are consecrated, our lives are not our own to arrange as we please, in order to avoid these many pourings. Therefore, it is important that we recognize that our Lord has a purpose in emptying us from “vessel to vessel.” He is producing within us a broken, yielded spirit to prepare us for a higher purpose.
Let us note a difference. A surrendered will is one thing, and a broken spirit is another. The surrender of our will is a basic, underlying principle in the life of a consecrated Christian, and is the foundation upon which the Lord works. This surrender of our will is giving the Lord permission to empty and pour us. As we say “yes,” He begins to empty and pour. This He must do in order to produce within us a yielded, broken spirit.
The second reason for pouring us out is to keep us from “settling upon our lees.” There is always the tendency for us to seek the easy way. We dislike disturbances and having to do things differently from the way we did in the past. It can rightly be said that “the road of least resistance is a rut.” Thus, if we are never poured from experience to experience, the wine will become spoiled and scented with dregs.
Do not be surprised if the Lord begins to pour you from the vessel in which you have been blessed, perhaps for months or even years. Because you are settling upon your lees, and since He is very particular of your relationship to Him, He may refine you yet more.
Another reason is to broaden us in our sympathy and understanding of each other. The one who has had but little trouble in life is not a particularly helpful person. But one who has gone through many trials, shattered hopes, and tragedies, has learned a valuable lesson. These who have learned through experience are of great value.
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4
These can enter into perfect fellowship with a person who is in unspoken agony of spirit and pressure of trial, and pray with compassion and understanding. They are able to look beyond the frailty of flesh, and remembering that we are but dust, are able to trust the Lord with a sublime faith for change and victory.
Someday, the last vessel will be filled and the last pouring finished.
May it please the heart of our Lord to find in us choice wine; rich, sparkling and well refined, because by His grace we have been emptied from vessel to vessel.