Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Monday, October 2, 2017

In the Potter’s Hand

I took a lump of clay and held it in my hands. I slapped it down, aiming for the centre of the wheel and missed the target I had made. I gathered it up, and slapped it down again. I was closer, but still off. I placed it in the centre and then smacked it down hard to help the clay stick to the wheel. I pushed my foot down on the pedal and the wheel began to turn. I pushed it harder and the wheel spun faster and faster and the lump of clay flew right off the wheel. I started over and began to get a feel of the wheel, managed to centre the lump, and began to mould the clay as I pressed into it with my hands.

It was the second time I had sat at a potter’s wheel.

What I imagined my finished handiwork would look like was far more elegant than the final result. In a unique way, I saw the beauty in it. But, you can see that it was inexperienced hands that gripped the spinning clay, not the hands of a potter that has developed their craft and precisely guides the lump into exactly the masterpiece he has intended.

As long as I relied on the experienced potter to give me direction and assistance, I was able to produce a lovely, modest piece of art. Left to my own, my lump of clay would have turned to a sloppy, wet, mucky pile of useless mess.

The first time I sat at a potter’s wheel, I held back for not wanting to make a mistake. The second time, I was a smidgen more familiar with the wheel and the clay, and a little less inhibited by my own inner critique, but still hesitant to charge ahead with any creativity.

I held on to that lump wanting to create something beautiful, but quite clueless as how to accomplish it.

My first opportunity at a pottery wheel, I had intended to fashion a bowl, but when the walls began to break down, I reworked the clay into a small plate. Recently, I had this second opportunity, and I managed to form a bowl. Although it will be functional, a keen eye will easily detect it is not a symmetrical bowl.

We laughed together as friends, as we took turns to sit at the wheel and watched each of our personalities wrestle with various aspects of the whole process.

Both times I tried my hand at pottery, I have grown in appreciation for the skilled artist who crafts stunning artwork on the wheel; who takes a lump of clay and turns it into practical and exquisite handiwork.

When I sit at the potter’s wheel, when I hold a lump of clay in my hands, I recognize that I have more in common with the lump of clay being transformed into something beautiful than with the potter holding the spinning clay with tender care and a gentle strength in his hands.

I have had a taste of what it is to be a potter. As my friends gathered in the little pottery workshop we recognized, with gratitude, that we are the clay that is sovereignly held in the hands of the Potter.

There can only be one potter at the wheel.

Several times in the Bible, God is portrayed as the potter to demonstrate His sovereignty. And we, his people, are the clay.

In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 18, we see that God commands Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. Jeremiah obeys, and finds the potter working at his wheel. We read in verse 4:

“And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
And in verse 6, we see the word the Lord delivered to Jeremiah and the prophet tells the people of Israel:
“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

The prophet Isaiah also calls the Lord, “our potter” as to demonstrate His power. In Isaiah 64:8 we read: 

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.”
And Paul, in Romans 9:20-24, says:
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
These truths are so magnificent that our human understanding falls short of being able to comprehend God’s ways. How foolish it is for the clay to contradict or talk back to the potter?

In a song of praise, Paul writes in Romans 11:33:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
We may at times think we are in the seat of the potter, fashioning a way for our selves, but don’t be fooled. God will do what is right. He will fashion the vessel according to his perfect will, just as He has done with the nation of Israel. And He will also build His church.

We may not understand it, but the truth is God is sovereign over all. He has a perfect plan for the world He made and the people He calls and redeems back to Himself.

Surrender to the potter, and trust Him as He continues to demonstrate His power and sovereignty in your life and in the world around you.

And join with Paul in Romans 11:36 with these words of praise:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
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