We walked into church one morning to see the entire platform covered with plastic sheeting and a potter’s wheel in the middle of the stage. One of our missionary deputees was planning to go to a country closed to the gospel. He and his wife were gifted artists and planned to use their skills to work in the country, establish relationships, and and look for ways share the gospel. He was going to actually throw some clay on the wheel that morning and bring out some parallels to God as a potter.
We get that imagery of God as a potter from a few passages in Scripture. Isaiah 29:16, Jeremiah 18:1-12, and Romans 9:20-21 assert God’s right to do as He will with the vessels He made and the ludicrousness of the vessel answering back or questioning the potter. In Isaiah 64, the people understand that they are under deserved judgment for their sin, but they issue a plaintive appeal in verse 8, reminding God “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.”
An experienced potter’s hand are skillful and sure. The potter, in his wisdom, know just how much pressure to exert where in order to make the shape he has in mind. He wants to make a vessel that’s useful but also pleasing. He has nothing but the best results in mind for the vessel. This particular potter, Mickey, wanted to make excellent and beautiful vases and vessels not only to open doors of ministry, but to reflect his own Creator. Many potters have a distinct style: one can see certain vessels and sculptures and know at a glance who made them. Our Creator wants the vessels He makes to reflect His own glory, not because He “needs” to be glorified, but because it’s by beholding His glory that we’re changed to be more like Him.
But the one picture that stood out the most to me at this demonstration, the one that had not occurred to me in any thoughts of potters, was what Mickey called the intimacy with with he shaped his vessel. He pointed out that the wheel and vessel were practically in his lap, he was bent over it, and both hands were shaping it. His attention was riveted and almost his whole body was involved, surrounding the vessel he was shaping in the closest proximity.
What a picture of our Father’s attention and care as He shapes us! He’s not “watching us from a distance,” as one song used to say. He’s up close, surrounding us, intimately involved in every detail of our shaping.
The pressure the potter exerted on the clay might not feel good, if the clay could feel. But that pressure is necessary to shape the clay into something besides a useless lump.
It’s comical to think of a piece of clay standing up to talk back to the potter, to ask him if he’s sure he knows what he’s doing, to make suggestions. And yet we’re prone to do just that.
How we need to just yield to His wise, skillful, and loving hands.