God is the Potter and We are the Clay
Before Christ came to earth; God often lead the Jewish people by speaking to them through the prophets. The ancient Israelites recognized that these prophets (men and sometimes women) had been raised up by God and were not speaking their own words but they were speaking Gods’ messages.
Often the prophets were unpopular because they delivered messages that the people did not want to hear. The prophets would speak out Gods’ words of love, comfort and hope to the people. But there were other times when God would speak through his prophets to condemn the people for worshipping idols or for neglecting the poor. And He would plead with the people to repent and turn from their sins. And all too often the people enjoyed their sins and did not want to change or repent.
God called Jeremiah to be a prophet in 626 B.C. and Jeremiah faithfully delivered Gods’ Words to the nation of
for forty years. Jeremiah was often
laughed at and treated badly by his fellow citizens because most of his
prophecies were not upbeat messages of good cheer! In Jeremiahs’ day many of the people in Israel were
worshipping idols instead of worshipping God and Jeremiahs’ messages were often
warnings that God would punish them if they did not return to Him. These messages were unwanted and unpopular! Israel
Our story today begins as God is giving Jeremiah another message for His people. God first tells Jeremiah to go down to the potters’ house where he will receive a message from God. Scripture tells the story this way. “So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw the potter working at the wheel. But the pot that the potter was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands: so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the Word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of
can I not do with you as this potter does?’
declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in
the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.
O house of Israel ….” (Jeremiah 18:3-6) Israel
God wanted to speak to Jeremiah and to His people and He used the analogy of the clay in the potter’s hands to help them understand a spiritual truth. Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house and finds the potter at work at his wheel. He watches as the potter reaches into his container of clay, pulls out a lump of it, sprinkles it with water, and begins to pound it on the wheel. Then the potter twists the clay, pulls it apart, and pushes it together. Jeremiah watches as the potter pounds the clay, rolls it out again and wetting his hands starts the wheel turning with his feet. From that round lump of clay, a beautiful, useful vessel starts to emerge, shaped by the careful and skillful hands of the potter.
Can you picture Jeremiah, sitting there in the potter’s house watching the clay being molded and worked by the potter? And as he is watching he hears the Lord speaking to him and saying, “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of
.” And then instead of the clay being shaped in
the potters’ hands, Jeremiah can see God’s people being shaped by Gods’ hands. Israel
Jeremiah stays and watches as God, like the potter at his wheel, is at work in his world, shaping, forming, stretching, pushing, and pulling us into shape.
Like a potter at the wheel, God takes hold of our lives and smoothes and presses out the flaws and imperfections that can weaken us and make us less fit for the kiln – those fiery times in our lives that have the possibility of making us stronger. Sometimes the Potter presses hard- and we feel the pressure and sometimes the shaping can be rough as if the vessel will be destroyed when, in fact, it is made stronger to face the fire.
God continued speaking into Jeremiah’s heart. “O house of
. If at any time I announce that a nation or
kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned
repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I
had planned. And if at another time I
announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted. And if it does
evil in my sight and does not obey Me, then I will reconsider the good I had
intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10) Israel
God is telling Jeremiah that if His people choose to do good He will work differently in their lives than if they choose to do evil. He limits His actions on the basis of the response of the people. God searches every heart to see how we are choosing to live our lives. (Proverbs 15:3) God longs to bless his people and hates to punish and there is always opportunity for them to repent.
God is speaking here about how He shapes and molds the nation of
as well as other nations. But Scripture
says that we individuals are also in Gods’ hands and if we allow it He will also
work with us and shapes us into what we are to be. God is
our potter and we are His clay.
“God the potter has the right to make out of the same lump of clay some
pottery for noble purposes and some for common use.” (Romans 9:21) Scripture says “The Lord
directs the steps of the godly. He
delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23) and “He will guard the feet of
His faithful servant…” (1 Samuel 2:9) “In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He
shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6) Israel
God has ways of molding and shaping us that are beyond our wildest imaginations. Psalm 32:8 tells us: “…I will guide you with My eye.” His Holy Spirit guides and directs us and nudges us along the way. God can use words or thoughts or the influence of other people in our lives to change us. And God can use the experiences that we have to help us become the persons He wants us to be.
But we need to be available to God to allow Him to change us. God has given each of us the gift of free will and He will not force us to love and follow Him. That has to be our choice. What the potter makes depends on the quality of the clay: and what God makes of His people depends on their response. The clay can frustrate the potter’s intention and cause him to do something different with the vessel. As the quality of the clay limits what the potter can do with it, so the quality of the heart of a person limits what God will do with her or him. We can harden our hearts to Gods’ shaping of our lives.
Irenaeus, a Christian in the Second Century wrote these words. “Keep your heart soft and pliable for Him: retain the form in which the Artist fashioned you, having moisture in yourself, lest becoming hard you should lose the marks of His fingers. ..For to make is the property of God, but to be made is that of humanity.”
Are we able to trust God enough to place our lives in His hands and yield our lives to God as clay in the hands of the potter? The words of an old Christian hymn go this way: “Have thine own way Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter: I am the clay. Mold me and make me. After thy will. While I am waiting. Yielded and still.” Can the words of this hymn be our prayer?
Several passages are taken from the sermon of Pastor Tim Bruster of the First Methodist
. On Mar. 8,2013 Church of Fort Worth, TX