‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’
A pot of clay is carefully crafted but easily broken. Even if it shatters into pieces, it still is only ever a common and dull container with little aspirations beyond mundane use. Countless other nearly identical clay vessels can take its place.
That is a picture of humanity.
Psalm 2, describing the LORD’s overwhelming might over all earthly powers, states, “You shall break them… and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps 2:9). Isaiah 30 likens the destruction of the rebellious house of Israel to the “breaking… of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly…” (Isa 30:14). And Lamentations mourns the great downfall of Israel, crying, “how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands!” (Lam 4:2).
Like pots, we are mere creations made for the maker’s purpose. Like clay, we are weak, easily broken before the overwhelming might of God. Like clay pots, we are only commonplace and nothing special. In perspective, humans are exceedingly fragile and insignificant.
Yet it is this same utter fragility and insignificance that rose up to shake its fist at God. Like a clay pot obstinately deforming against the skillful hands of its master potter, or like the paint of a painter refusing to go where it is applied because it has decided that its own vision is best, even if it cannot see the whole painting–the whole picture that it is part of.
“Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’”
A creation complaining to its Creator, thinking that its own vision of glory is the best and most real one, failing to recognize that it cannot see the whole picture is who we are or, at least, were.
An insignificant and common clay pot, however, still has a maker. And the maker of a creation can give it worth. In Jeremiah, the LORD extends one of the most beautiful invitations for salvation to the house of Israel and ultimately to us.
“So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 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.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter as done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
In other words, you are scattered ruins, utter disasters, treacherous rebels, but I can remold you so that you are no longer any of those, God declares.
“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.”
The Word of God testifies that we, mere pots, do not just have a Creator whose design and wishes we must rightfully obey. We have a Father, one who cherishes His creation despite its weakness and rebellion.
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God has reformed us. Although still pots of clay, by nature weak and mundane, we have the Holy Spirit in us, Christ as our mediator, and God as our Father. The result? A clay pot that cannot be smashed or destroyed or cracked, no matter what anyone tries to do.
If Jeremiah 18 is one of the most beautiful invitations, 2 Corinthians 4 is one of the most beautiful expressions of trust and acceptance:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
(2 Cor 4:7-10).
An invincible clay pot isn’t something you come across on a regular basis—or even ever. The very fact that we can be afflicted and stricken and persecuted and harassed without shattering like clay pots do, declares loud and clear the work and power of our God. The very attacks that should crush us end up glorifying Jesus who saved us because we will not give way.
This means humility, trust, complete dependence, praise, boldness, and everything that flows from understanding who we are: clay pots readily obliterated. And why are we not obliterated? Jesus.
Every time you sign into StudyPlace and see “The Potter’s School,” remember your Creator, who chose not only to rule by good design but also by love and who is the only reason you are not devastated. And every time you pass by clay, recall your insignificance: the weakness and need that Jesus completely fills so that we can boast in Him and that although we are commonplace and inexpensive clay jars, we have treasure and hope and invincibility through Him.
Hymn Spotlight: “In the Hands of the Potter” ~ Casting Crowns
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