In The Hands of the PotterPublished Feb 28, 2007
“And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hands, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:4-6, KJV)
One of the things I used to do as a kid was to help my mother when she was baking (yes, I do know how to cook!). I liked playing with the dough and sometimes made all kinds of characters and shapes with it. When one was not to my liking, I simply crushed it up and did it all over again. In primary school, we did the same thing with clay. We would try to mould an object and if it was not pleasing to the eye, we would not throw it away but we simply rolled it up and started over. Once, twice, and so on, until we got it just right. I could do whatever I wanted with the dough and the clay and I only had to think about what pleased me.
As I spent days reflecting on our text, those memories came back to mind. If a potter wanted to stay in business, he had to be just about perfect in his craft. He would sit at the wheels (v3) – two circular stones connected by a vertical shaft – spinning the lower stone with his feet causing the upper disc to rotate thus enabling both hands to be free to work the clay. He had to have the patience of Job to mould and remould until the frown on his forehead gave way to a smile on his face. That design had to be just right; just the way he wanted it. Unless it was a custom order, it was what pleased him that mattered most. It was the fascination of this imagery that God intended for Jeremiah to see as He sought to remind the prophet of His right to remould His people into what He intended for them to be.
In the events leading up to our reference text, we see a people that had gone contrary to the will of God. Of them the Lord said “…. they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction” (17:23). It would be safe to say that they walked in their own ways, totally forsaking the instructions and commandments of their God. Yet, despite their rebellion and spiritual adultery, like the potter, God did not throw them away but rather sought to remould them in a manner that pleased Him. We could ask the question “After experiencing all that the Lord had done for them, His many blessings and benefits, how could they not become the people that He intended?” As I pondered that question, I could not help but think that a significant number of us who call ourselves children of God are guilty of the same thing. As the Spirit of God seeks to direct our lives, sometimes moving us away from the things we think we need, and our respective comfort zones, we too often seek alternative paths. It is not unusual to often times walk in our own ways while keeping one eye open expecting God’s approval. Be it our choice of profession, mate, or goals in life, in the words of Frank Sinatra, we want to do it “My Way”. We want to be in control.
The struggle for most of us is that in wanting to do it our way, we are consciously aware that the real children of God are those that are led by His Spirit. To be led by His Spirit is to place ourselves in the hands of the Potter, to have Him mould and fashion our lives in a way that pleases Him, and in a way that will bring Him the most pleasure and glory. It is worth remembering that all things are, and were, created by Him and for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11), yet His handiwork – the work of His own hands – would eventually become marred and ugly by sin, and in that state, was no longer pleasing to Him. It is worth noting that before creating man, God declared everything He had created “good”. Of mankind He made no such pronunciation. That would suggest that in His heart, our God knew that unlike all His other creation, the one created in His own image would require constant remoulding.
As we reflect on the goodness of our God, isn’t it about time that we who declare ourselves followers of Christ, yield ourselves in His hands? God desires to fellowship with us but on His terms, and the greatest prerequisite to that kind of fellowship is a yielding of body and soul. In and of ourselves, we are failures. We are prone to wander from His presence; we are prone to leave the God we love. But, as clay is in the hands of the potter, so we can allow ourselves to be moulded and remoulded until the beauty of Jesus is seen in us. Even better is to be shaped by God in a way that will bring Him the utmost joy and pleasure. During my reflection, God reminded me that regardless of what I thought, my only purpose for being here was to declare His glory; to show forth the praises of Him who had so graciously called me out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
It is very difficult to not be in control. Like the clay in the hands of the potter, we have no say in the final outcome; we have no control over how often we are moulded or how often we are crushed. Isaiah reminds us “Woe unto the man that striveth with his Maker! …… Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makes thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” ……But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (45:9, 64:8). What we do know however is that however He chooses to mould our lives - through sadness, disappointments, heartaches, or pleasures - when He is through, it will be a job well done and one He will approve of. Come to think of it, all that is important is His approval. Nothing else really matters.
Two verses of a well-known hymn come readily to mind. I trust that this will be your prayer, not only today, but also for all the remaining days of your life.
“Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.
Mould me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, Living in me!”
Copyright © 2002 by Colin Wilson. All rights reserved.