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The Potter and the Clay

“The righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God.” (Ecc. 9:1)

“Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Rom. 9:21)

“Thou art the potter, I am the clay; mold me and make me, after Thy will.”

It is amazing to see how God works in the lives of people in the Bible. He took a poor, inexperienced young man named Gideon and made him into a great military leader. He took a shepherd named Amos and made him into a prophet. He took uneducated fishermen like Peter and John and made them into leaders of the greatest kingdom on earth. He took one of the worst enemies Christians ever had and turned him into the great apostle to the Gentiles. None of these men could have been who they were without the potter who shaped their lives to make them useful instruments for His plans.

But the image of the potter is an illustration. It does not mean our soul is as lifeless and passive as a ball of clay. A story in Jeremiah shows that we decide who we become.

God told Jeremiah to go to a potter’s house. The prophet watched as the potter tried to make a vessel and failed but tried again and made one that suited him. God said, “‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the Lord. ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it’” (Jer. 18:5-10).

God wants to mold and make us into what He wants us to be. But we must be willing. Jeremiah’s words show that nations make the final decision. So do individuals. God gave us free will. The destiny of nations and individuals depends on how they use that will.

Bible readers must not take the illustration of the potter and the clay too lightly or press it too far. We sometimes underestimate the ability of God to accomplish what seems to be impossible. We see stubbornness and selfishness and decide that there is no hope. We see walls that seem insurmountable and enemies that appear to have all the power. We need to read our Bibles more often. It is full of cases where His people said something God promised couldn’t be done but He did it by His mighty hand. We need more faith.Then there are people who think God will do everything for them. They see the Lord as a big government that gives them everything so they don’t have to work. This is one reason some come to church expecting everything but contributing nothing. They are accustomed to it. Some theologies also cause this thinking. Catholicism tells its members they can’t understand the Bible or have the grace they need without the authority and ceremonies of the Catholic Church. Calvinism says nothing happens unless God does it. That leaves out free will, so why should a person who believes it make any effort?

God provides the way, and we make the choice. “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God” (Deut. 11:26-28).

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin, January 28, 2024

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