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The Potter and The Clay (Rom 9:17-21)

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

In Jeremiah 18, the Lord told the prophet to go down to the potter’s house. Jeremiah obeyed, going down the winding, narrow streets in the lower city of Jerusalem, near the rich clay deposits in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. As Jeremiah entered the potter’s house, he saw the potter working on his wheel. The King James Version records an interesting historical note in verse 3 where it reads, “. . . he wrought a work on the wheels.”
The Bible contains many illustrations of potters and clay. The potter refers to God and the clay to His people. As we seek to understand the potter’s work, truths about our spiritual lives begin to emerge. We will look at five steps in the pottery-making process and draw lessons from each. There are valuable lessons God can teach us today from even the ordinary, dirty clay.

Gathering the clay: Before the potter can start, he needs to gather clay. He wouldn’t take just any clay. He spent a great deal of time picking the exact clay that he wanted. He carefully lifted out the proper clay and placed it in his container. This reminds us of the horrible pit from which we were drawn. When the Master Potter came looking for us, He found us in the filth of our sins. We were lost, damned, and without hope. With great love and infinite care, our Savior drew us up out of the filthy pit, set our feet on a rock, and established our going (Psalm 40:2).
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  • Cleaning the clay:* With infinite care, the potter kneads and molds the clay. He searches out and removes any little twig, stone or impurity. Sometimes this process is done with rods. The clay is placed on a table and beaten with the rod until it is smooth and all the impurities are removed.

  • This reminds us of our spiritual lives. After we are saved, God turns the great spotlight of His Holy Spirit on our lives and points out areas that need to be removed. The process can be painful but it is absolutely necessary. If the potter does not remove all the impurities and air pockets from the clay, it may explode when it is placed in the furnace. This will destroy the vessel and may damage or destroy other vessels that are in the kiln with it.
    Just so, if we are to be vessels that are useful in God’s service, we must stay on the table until all the impurities are removed. We must be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit as He instructs us about areas we need to remove. Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words . . . He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:21, 23-24).

    Shaping the clay: After the clay is thoroughly cleaned, it is ready to go on the wheel. The potter forms the clay into a lump and places it on the wheel. He begins to turn it. As the lump spins, he moistens his hands and shapes the clay. The moisture is very important. If it’s too dry, it will break and resist formation. If it is too wet, it will refuse to assume the shape the potter desires. Sometimes the clay is sticky and resists the potter’s efforts. As he works the clay, he may smash it down and start over.
    This process is rich in spiritual lessons. Sometimes we know what area the Potter is trying to change in our lives, but we resist Him. Usually the problem isn’t one of knowing what God wants. It is a problem of our wills. Sometimes in our stubbornness and arrogance, we continue to resist Him. How tragic that is, and what great harm it causes to our spiritual lives.
    Sometimes we allow God to shape us at first. We yield to Him, but then we resist Him, and God has to return us to the wheel. Our service for Him is marred and broken. But, like the potter, God can see what will be in our lives. God is a specialist in taking broken, ruined pots and making precious vessels out of them. The secret lies in our confession, repentance, and submission to Him. If you have been marred or broken, don’t despair. Allow God, the loving Master Potter, to mend and mold you into a beautiful vessel for His service.
    This picture is a powerful encouragement for those of us who have failed in some area of our lives. All of us are subject to failure. Sometimes we wonder if God can ever use us again in His service. But the God we serve specializes in mending broken pots. If we confess and forsake our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

    Drying the container: After the vessel is shaped and separated, the potter places it on the shelf for drying. The process slows to a halt at this stage. Before, there was lots of activity: digging, beating, probing, cleaning, forming, and spinning. Now there is rest. The unfired vessel will collapse if it is filled with water. It will break if it is handled roughly. The drying and resting are very important. The vessel will break and be useless if it is fired before it is properly dried.
    This is an example of what often happens in our lives. God can use these dry times in our lives to build maturity into us. Let’s be patient when God places us on the drying shelf. Let’s look forward to the many wonderful blessings which are being prepared for us in the eternal world.

    Firing the container: When the vessel has dried sufficiently, the potter places it in the kiln for the firing process. The temperature must be incredibly hot, approximately 2,000° Fahrenheit (1,100° Celsius) for the furnace to do its job. As it is heated, the vessel experiences changes in its molecular structure which make it useful and watertight. The vessel would dissolve if water were put into it before the firing. But after the firing, it will hold water for years. The vessel that was soft and easily marred becomes hard and durable. The fire that burned it caused it to become a useful vessel.

    All of us have one or more areas where we have to battle with Satan. He knows exactly what our vulnerable areas are. He is an expert at tempting us in those areas. It is so important that we recognize those areas and avoid the temptation. It is important that we be accountable to someone in those areas and not give Satan a foothold. Like the clay piece, the damage will not happen all at once. It will be a slow process of letting down our guard here or making a small compromise there. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Satan will steal our spirituality until we are cold and indifferent to God. We need to carefully guard our thoughts and our deeds in order to be certain Satan is not taking advantage of us.

    Never allow yourself to engage in a small or seemingly harmless behavior that you know is sinful. Satan only needs a tiny crack in our Christian armor to get a foothold in our lives. The pores in the bottom of that pot are microscopic in size, but they are enough for the moisture to do its damage.

    As we conclude, I want to encourage you today: never argue with Him, and always serve Him wherever He puts you.
    Paul says in Romans 9:20, “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Of course the answer is no. How ungrateful it is for us to complain to a sovereign God about His will.

    God, the Master Potter, is longing for each of us to yield to Him so He can shape us into beautiful vessels to be used in His kingdom. Will you continue to resist His will, causing pain and heartache to both Him and you? Or will you surrender your will to His desires and be a useful vessel for Him? The choice is yours!

    UPDATED: Mon, 31st May. 2021 10:57pm
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