The Potter and the Clay

The Potter and the Clay




The Potter and the Clay
God's child loves to sing: "Have Thine own way, Lord! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still." And no wonder: he is a vessel of mercy, prepared adore unto glory by God's sovereign grace. And therefore, he can well entrust himself to God as the Potter, confident that He will mold him unto everlasting glory. The hymn is undoubtedly an allusion to Isaiah 64:8, "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." Romans 9:19-21, which also speaks of the potter and the clay, is nevertheless different from that in the hymn we just quoted. This passage speaks not only of vessels of mercy, prepared unto glory, but also of vessels of wrath, prepared unto dishonor. And it maintains the absolute sovereignty of God with respect to both. Let us first read the text: "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 replies 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 honor, and another unto dishonor?"

The figure which the apostle uses to illustrate the relation of the absolute sovereignty in which God stands to man is a very familiar one. There is a potter, busily shaping vessels of pottery from the clay he uses as his material, which was done, as we learn from the Old Testament, on a frame or wheel. He has, according to the presentation in the words of my text, one lump of clay. 
There is, therefore, no difference in the quality of the material from which he shapes his vessels. But out of that same lump of clay he makes different vessels to serve different purposes: vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. Some of these vessels he shapes into things of beauty, into pretty vases, that you give a place of honor to adorn your living-room table or the mantle above your fireplace. And some he makes crude and unfinished, to serve as ash cans and garbage containers, vessels unto dishonor. He makes them all out of the same lump of clay, to suit his own purpose and fancy. Such is the figure of the potter and the clay.

And the meaning of the figure is very plain. The whole emphasis in the text falls on the power, that is, on the right, the authority, the sovereignty of the potter over the clay. When of the same lump he makes definite vessels, ash-pots, garbage containers, on the one side, and beautiful vassels, ornamental vessels that receive a place of honor in your home, on the other hand, the vessels have no right to protest, whatever they may be and whatever purpose they may serve in their finished form. The vessels unto dishonor, if they could protest and talk to the potter, have no right to say: "We had some rights of our own to begin with, and these rights you violated when you shaped us into ash-pots and garbage cans." They had no rights whatever. They were originally a mere lump of clay. This central idea of the figure the apostle himself emphasizes when he explains: "Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"

However, interpreters differ in their answer to the question what precisely is illustrated by the lump of clay of which the potter shapes his vessels. Some of the answers to this question are motivated by the desire to limit God's sovereignty by the freedom of man.

The sole reason why vessels unto honor and unto dishonor are made out of the one lump of clay is the purpose and the good pleasure of the potter. But the interpretation referred to above really finds the ground of the action of the potter, by which he shapes different vessels, some to honor and some to dishonor, in clay, that is, in the free determination of men with respect to their relation to God. Besides, according to the illustration the potter has the indisputable right to make vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. He shapes them so that they can serve an honorable or dishonorable purpose. But the interpretation would defend the right of the potter to use different vessels already prepared to the purpose to which they are most nearly adapted.
The potter does not make vessels unto honor, and permit vessels unto dishonor to develop by themselves; but he forms them both. And therefore, God is equally sovereign, both with regard to the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the reprobate.




Let us, then, humble ourselves and bow down in the dust before this great and glorious and absolutely sovereign God. We may not understand, we may not fathom the truth of God; we do not; I do not, and you do not; and I am glad to make the confession. God is infinitely great and glorious in majesty. I am infinitesimally small, and, besides, by nature corrupt. The finite does not, and does not have to comprehend the Infinite. But when He speaks, let us listen. Just hear what God will say. That is our salvation. And when He places us where we ought to be, prostrate in the dust; when He takes that darkness of sin out of our mind and that rebellious pride out of our heart, we will no longer reply against Him, but humbly worship with fear and trembling, and confess: Thou art the Potter; we are the clay; have Thine own way, Lord, forever and ever, and I will be still.


The Potter and the Clay The Potter and the Clay Reviewed by Kannuri JOEL on 04:26:00 Rating: 5

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