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When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:6 and 7, He applied a mixture of spittle and clay to the man’s eyes before telling him to wash at the Pool of Siloam. Such prophetic actions always have purpose and meaning, because the divine intent is to link it to a biblical truth or pattern.
Jesus always did what He saw His Father do. Jesus saw His Father create the first man in His own image out of clay and water, and so He did the same with the blind man. By healing his blindness, Jesus restored the man (prophetically speaking) to His Father’s likeness.
The Prime Vessel of Dishonor
A secondary pattern is seen again in the prophecy of Israel in Isaiah 45:9, where the prophet asks,
9 Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—earthenware vessel among the vessels of the earth! Will the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?” Or the thing you are making say, “He has no hands?”
God has Creator’s Rights, and man has no right to question His right to make any man into the type of vessel that He chooses for whatever purpose pleases Him. Neither does man have the right to claim that God is somehow handicapped, saying, “He has no hands.” Paul affirms God’s rights in Romans 9:21-24,
21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
It appears that Paul was drawing on the examples from Jeremiah 18 and 19, where two clay vessels were pictured. Jeremiah 18:1-10 spoke of a vessel made of wet, pliable clay, which was flawed in the potter’s hand, beaten down, and then remade into a useful vessel. This clay jar pictured the House of Israel, that is, the northern tribes, who had been beaten down by the hand of the Assyrians and sent into exile a century before Jeremiah’s ministry. God was remaking them into a “vessel of mercy” that would be used “for honorable use.”
The second clay vessel, on the other hand, was a jar of hardened clay representing the House of Judah and Jerusalem. The prophet’s indictment begins in Jeremiah 18:11, 12,
11 So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you. Oh, turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds. 12 But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’.”
This is the vessel of wrath or the vessel of dishonor, which was fashioned for “calamity.” So we read in Jeremiah 19:1, 2,
1 Thus says the Lord, “Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests. 2 Then go out to the valley of Ben-hinnom [i.e., Gehenna], which is by the entrance of the potsherd gate; and proclaim there the words that I tell you.”
The prophet was told to pronounce judgment and destruction upon Jerusalem by smashing the jar in Gehenna, which was the city dump where they disposed of all broken jars. After giving reasons for such divine judgment, the prophet says in Jeremiah 19:10, 11, 12,
10 Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you, 11 and say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth [“burning”] because there is no other place for burial. 12 This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,’ declares the Lord, so as to make this city like Topheth.”
Hence, the earthly Jerusalem was said to be a vessel of dishonor and destruction, and when God finally destroys the city, it “cannot again be repaired.” It is only the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, which is the vessel of mercy. Its inhabitants are true Israelites, which I have defined in greater detail in my book, Who is an Israelite?
Yet note that God yet appealed to individuals within the earthly Jerusalem to repent and turn back to God (Jeremiah 18:11). Even though the majority would refuse (vs. 12), nonetheless, there are always some who will indeed repent. God always has a remnant, even within a nation or city that is to be destroyed.
The man born blind is one such example, for he was an inhabitant of Jerusalem. When Jesus put clay upon his eyes to heal his condition, He essentially changed the man’s identity from a vessel of dishonor to a vessel of honor. The sixth sign, then, showed us the way of healing our blindness, as well as the way to avoid the coming destruction upon Jerusalem.
The Two Jerusalems
The underlying lesson here, seen in Jesus’ use of clay and spittle, is that when one is healed of spiritual blindness, he is no longer part of the earthly Jerusalem that was a vessel of wrath, but is now part of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is a vessel of honor. That vessel of honor, like Israel, was flawed at the beginning but is being remade into new vessel that is fit for Kingdom use.
This lesson is lost on most people today, both Jews and Christians, first because they do not distinguish between Judah and Israel, and second, because they think that the Jews (or Judahites) are the Israelites. Likewise, they think that the New Jerusalem is just a new version of the earthly city by the same name. This is the peculiar blindness that prevents both Jews and Christians from escaping the coming destruction. Instead, the trend in the past 150 years has been to identify with the earthly Jerusalem—the old earthenware jar—believing that this city will have a glorious future as the prime vessel of honor.
Perhaps the key to healing such blindness is to understand that there are two Jerusalems. In fact, the Hebrew word Ierushalayim literally means “two Jerusalems.” The Old Testament prophets never distinguish between the two, but the New Testament reveals this clearly. In fact, John often quotes the prophets, who speak of “Jerusalem,” and yet he applies those prophecies to the heavenly Jerusalem.
For this reason, one cannot assume that Isaiah’s “Jerusalem” must refer to the earthly city. Compare Isaiah 60:19 with Revelation 21:23. Compare Isaiah 60:3 with Revelation 21:24. Compare Isaiah 60:11 with Revelation 21:25. Compare Isaiah 60:5 with Revelation 21:26. In each case, Isaiah speaks of “Jerusalem,” but John applies the prophecy to the heavenly city.
Which City Do You Seek?
No doubt the blind man whom Jesus healed was set forth as a prophetic type of those who would leave the old city with its Old Covenant manner of worship, and heed the appeal written in Hebrews 13:12-14,
12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
Like Abraham, we are called out of the earthly Jerusalem. We seek “the city which is to come,” even as Abraham sought a city and country that was not in the old land (Hebrews 11:14, 16). Leaving the old city is the way to leave the Old Covenant and its imperfect worship. Paul thus identifies the earthly Jerusalem with Hagar (Galatians 4:25), and her children are those who continue to trust in the Old Covenant. While I do not doubt their salvation, those who adhere to Hagar-Jerusalem are not inheritors (Galatians 4:30).
In the past 150 years, with the rise of Jewish Zionism, followed by the rise of Christian Zionism, the blindness has manifested once again. I can understand Jewish Zionism and the desire to claim the earthly city as the “mother” of Judaism. But Christians, who have been given a greater revelation in the New Testament, should know better. Many have placed their faith in Hagar and have thus become children of the bondwoman, refusing to believe Paul’s admonition in Galatians 4 or even John’s teaching in Revelation 21.
Blindness is upon both Jews and Christians. Let us pray that Jesus will intervene and heal that blindness in our time, so that we may leave the old city, bearing His reproach.