The Potter And The Clay In The Bible

O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18:6

God asked the prophet Jeremiah to fulfill a very tough assignment. He gave him the task of prophesying messages the Israelites didn’t want to hear.

Sometimes, we act like the Israelites, too. We can get involved in secular or ungodly activities that we know the Lord would disapprove of.

We ignore the Holy Spirit’s convictions and keep doing them. If nothing changes, eventually, we replace reading our Bibles and attending church with other priorities.

If you allow that, you become a living illustration of what God told Jeremiah to observe. The Lord instructed him to watch the potter work with the clay.

The jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped. So he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Jeremiah 18:4

The context in this part of the chapter referred to how God would deal with the nations. The Lord offered two different scenarios. They depended on each nation’s actions.

  • If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. Jeremiah 18:7-8
  • And if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would. Jeremiah 18:9-10

How the Potter Uses His Clay

The Potter And The Clay

So, in what Jeremiah wrote, God would determine a nation’s usefulness or fate by their actions. Just like the potter would determine the usefulness of his lump of clay.

If his clay had too many impurities, the potter would completely discard it. But if they were few, he could remove the impurities and continue to work with the clay. 

The potter intends to make a pot from the entire lump when the clay goes on his wheel. God, however, varied from His illustration by revealing a different plan for the Israelites.

Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right. Jeremiah 18:11

I noticed that God transitioned from announcing to the entire nation to speaking to individuals. He addressed “each of you,” and He continues to deal with each of us.

Isaiah Speaks About the Potter

The Bible also brought up the idea of the potter and the clay in Isaiah 64. Before it mentioned them though, it described all of us before we knew Christ.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6

Thankfully, because of the Holy Spirit we can see past our sins to the one who forgives our sins. Only then do we recognize the importance of needing God to shape our lives.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Keeping with the illustration of the potter and the clay, Isaiah 45 gives us more insights. In this chapter, the prophet says we have no right to question God.

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9

If you don’t know the meaning of a potsherd, you’ll miss that verse’s impact. A potsherd is a piece of broken clay. Without Christ, we were among the broken pieces of clay on the ground.

The Potter and the Clay in Romans

The Apostle Paul also warned us about questioning God in the Book of Romans. As humans, we tend to compare ourselves with others. Especially those we feel inferior to.

So what do we do? We blame who we are or who we aren’t on God. We blame Him for our incapability’s and wonder why He made us the way we are. But who are we to do that?

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this? Romans 9:20

Paul, an astute Old Testament student, referred to Jeremiah’s writings. He used the same illustration of the potter and the clay but for a different purpose.

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:21

The apostle didn’t focus on being useful or useless, as seen in Jeremiah. Every member of the body of Christ has value, just like the parts of our own bodies do.

The Potter Determines Each Pot’s Use

God calls some to preach to thousands while He also uses others to minister one on one. We might think they differ in importance, but He considers them equal in value.

At the beginning of this article, the clay represented nations. But that quickly changed. The illustration of the potter and the clay today speaks about us as individuals.

Upon accepting Jesus, like when the potter puts the clay on the wheel, Jesus begins to shape us. Remember, the potter doesn’t throw the clay away. He just reshapes it.

Lord, You are the Potter, I am the clay. Melt me, mold me, fill me, and use me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

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