Summary: The potter and the wheel remind us to: 1) Believe in a Master who can rebuild. 2) Accept the Master's design. And 3) Stay in the Master's hand.
Remembering Who is in Charge
We got interested in the potter’s wheel when our son became an apprentice to a potter for six months. What a fabulous art form! And beautiful to watch, as the wheel spins.
The great prophet Jeremiah observed a potter at work and heard God speak through it. God spoke of bringing entire nations success when they followed him and bringing down entire nations when they disobeyed him. The point was clear to the ancient Israelites gathered around Jeremiah: return to God’s ways and he will allow you to prosper again, as he did with Nineveh after Jonah preached repentance, and the people repented. But defy God and pay the consequences.
We know that when Jesus came, he called individual people to repentance. He grieved over Israel as a nation, as it refused to receive its Messiah. Yet, he also spoke of individual heart change. He spoke of God’s kingdom advancing through each changed life. And he called people to repentance.
Think about some of the lessons then from the potter’s wheel. Maybe the lessons for ancient Israel still speak to us today. First lesson,
1. Believe in a Master who can rebuild (v. 4)
Did you know we serve a God of second chances? That’s called grace. That’s called mercy. Verse 4 says,
"But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot..."
It was marred; it was ruined. The problem didn’t lie with the potter. No, he knew his skill well enough. The problem lie with the clay. Yet, the spoiled design didn’t deter him. The potter kept working with the clay until it produced another more beautiful design.
We have a God who keeps working with us. He is the potter and we are the clay. Yes, we have flaws. Yes, we have sin. Yes, we each have our own ways we have rebelled against God. I so often feel like Paul in Romans 7: I don’t do what I should do, and I do what I shouldn’t do. Yet, hear this: God is not done with us yet! As long as you have breath, God is working on your life, to make you more Christ-like.
Believe in a Master who can rebuild. And then,
2. Accept the Master’s design for you (v. 4b)
Notice the end of verse 4. The master was...
"...shaping it as seemed best to him."
You are a one-of-a-kind original. Your DNA is unique. God has made you, you. One time one of our grandchildren was upset because she didn’t feel as brave as her sister in jumping into the cold swimming pool. She said, “I want to be more like my sister!” Her wise father looked her in the eyes and said, “If you’re not you, then who is going to be you?”
God has designed you with certain talents and certain gifts and certain proclivities and personality types. And he has designed you that way for a reason. Don’t resist who you are. Celebrate who you are! Because God made you that way. Learn how to honor God with your unique shape. Saddleback Church developed a class for members to learn how to serve God in their own unique way. And the class used the acronym S-H-A-P-E, standing for spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. God uses all of these to equip you for unique ways to serve, to be a blessing to others. Max Lucado gets at it with this question, “What have you always done well and loved to do?” That’s what God can use for his glory.
Have you ever questioned God about how he has shaped you? The Apostle Paul addressed this idea, borrowing from today’s passage, along with those in Isaiah (Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9), to write this, in Romans 9:20-21:
“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?’ 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 9:20-21
Maybe you’re looking at your life and comparing it to someone else’s. And you wonder, “Why can’t I make people laugh like that? Why can’t I organize events like she does? Why can’t I shoot pool as well as him? Why aren’t I more outgoing? Why aren’t I smarter? Why aren’t I more attractive? Why aren’t I more of a leader?” And what you’re doing is what Paul says not to do. You the clay are demanding something of the potter. You walk into any studio on this planet, and you will never find a piece of clay complaining to the potter about what it wants to be! Clay doesn’t have an opinion. It just is.