“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, ESV
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 massive of 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.
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-importance 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.