Summary: God shapes us. Applying it to Christian education.
WE ARE CLAY IN THE HANDS OF GOD.
Isaiah 64:8-9: Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord. Do not remember our sins forever.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re not always aware of all the changes that are taking place around us. For example, in the area of technology, sometimes I will look down at my cell phone, and it will tell me that it has just finished updating itself. Something was getting changed around inside my phone, and I didn’t even realize it. This is how it is with all kinds of things in our world today. Another example would be in the area of food. It is true that the food we eat today is very different from the food people ate a generation ago. Food today is more genetically modified, more protected from bugs and disease and decay by pesticides and chemicals. Some will argue that this is good, and others will argue that it’s not so good. I don’t want to get in the middle of all of that - but the fact remains that things in this world, like food or technology, are always changing, and you and I aren’t always aware of what’s going on around us.
The Bible says that you and I are always changing, and maybe we’re not always aware of it. Not just in the way we look, or the way we dress, but in our soul, our inner being. Our level of trust in God, our level of hope from the forgiveness of sins, our level of desire to glorify God – these things are always changing inside of us, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. We are like clay, the Bible says, something very changeable. And God is the one who can change us for the good.
This morning on this Lakeside Sunday, we’re going to be reminded of the special way God shapes and changes us, and especially young lives through the power of his Word in Christian education. He is the potter, and we are the clay in his hands. May God bless our study of his Word this morning.
Today we are looking at Isaiah, chapter 64, where the prophet Isaiah is talking to God about the nation of Israel. A long time ago, Israel was very faithful to God, hearing his Word and living according to it. But now they had fallen away. Earlier in this part of the Bible Isaiah spoke those famous words: “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.” (64:6) Isaiah was talking to God about how the people have changed for the worse. “No one calls on your name, or strives to lay hold of you, for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.” What happened? Instead of staying in God’s Word, allowing God to shape them, they pushed the Word away. The sinful world shaped them instead. Idol worship, materialism, immorality, selfishness - this is what was shaping Israel.
The same thing can happen to you and me if we push the Word of God out of our lives and let our sinful culture shape us. Sadly, the same thing often happens to our Lutheran confirmands. For 2 or 3 or 4 years, the grade school student spends time in the Word. There in those confirmation classes, God is the potter, and he shapes those students into the people he wants them to be. And then the student is confirmed, and some statistics show that within five years, two-thirds of them lose their connection to God and his Church. Just like Israel, materialism, immorality, selfishness – this is what shapes that young person. Without even realizing it, the young person has changed, and not for the good, because of the influence of the world.
Can you look back on your life and remember a time you let the world shape you? We are like clay, and without God continuing to shape us through his Word, we start to change for the worse, and maybe we don’t even realize it.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, Isaiah says, “Do not remember our sins forever.” God our Father looks down from heaven, and he loves us. He doesn’t want us to transform into a piece of clay that he can’t allow into heaven, covered with the filth of sin. And so God reaches down from heaven, and he shapes us. First he uses his law with all of its commands and threats, and cuts away our sin. Just like that first century potter who would dig clay out of the ground, and remove all the rocks and sticks that were stuck in that clay. Sometimes the potter stomps on the clay, pushing it through little holes in order to remove impurities.