Meditating on the Will of God: 17: More on Pottery
Rom 9:21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
In the early meditations of this series we considered the matter of us being clay and of God being the Potter. Well, perhaps we gave only some preliminary thought to it as we pondered on how God does that, and having pondered some other areas in between, we now come back to this picture again.
Those who portray God as the One who determines all things, the One who thus must be said to create both good and evil, those people love this verse of Paul’s and they say about this and the verses surrounding it, “See, God does just what He likes and so He does MAKE all beings as they turn out.”
I know we have touched on some of this before but I did also say that repetition is helpful. I have difficulties with that attitude just expressed because a) it is clear that God is holy and righteous and wants us to be holy and righteous and anything that is not holy and righteous does not conform to His original perfect design for this world. (That is what the Fall is all about). b) God may give human beings the freedom to be unrighteous and, indeed, the freedom to be evil, but He does not MAKE them be that. c) The other associated difficulty is what we are told about God, and which we have touched on once or twice, and it is the nature or character of God – that He is perfect, He is love and He is good. All of those words which Scripture is quite clear apply to God, deny that God can create and make evil human beings. Everything about unlimited love wants the good for every person and the good is that they are returned to their original design, free of sin and free of unrighteousness and free of evil.
Very well, that has established a foundation for approaching Paul’s words above. The hard fact is that virtually all Scripture needs interpreting and seeing in the light of the big picture. Our folly is that we start from one set of ideas, which may or may not be preconceived, and we only see the outcome as our (often defensive) stance allows.
So let’s come again to Paul’s verse: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”. In as far as we are so NOT like God in so many ways, we are mere clay. God is the Creator of all things and the upholder of all things and as such He alone could be called a Potter, a wielder of the clay
Isaiah brought God’s word, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”?” (Isa 29:16) How foolish of clay to ‘speak’ like that to the Potter; the Potter is so, so much greater than the clay! Later on Isaiah said, “Does the clay say to the potter, `What are you making?’ Does your work say, `He has no hands’?” (Isa 45:9)
When I look at my life I realise a number of things. First I do not know what I will be like in the years ahead. I do not know how the workings of God in my life will change me, only that I have said, “Lord, do it.” When we put ourselves into His hands when we come to Him through Christ we trust Him for the rest of our lives. We know He wants to make us into the likeness of Jesus, but being only a part of his body, we really don’t know how that will work out in detail, but we just trust that He loves us so much that He has something better for us than we are at the present.
The apostle Paul wrote, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil 2:12,13). The Living Bible expresses it, “For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you to do what he wants.” That is what the Potter does and He does it by His Spirit who stirs you from within, who speaks to you and challenges or encourages or comforts you. The ‘hands’ moulding the clay are simply the Holy Spirit moving within us and yet – and here is the scary thing – He never forces us. He may speak strongly and He may bring pressure to bear, but at the end of the day the decision making is still ours. How else can you account for people who come to a standstill in their Christian lives, how else can you explain people who backslide and drift away or, even worse, actively turn away from their faith?
But what about, “the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” Back to God’s foreknowledge. God knew that Jacob could be moulded into a man of God who would end up prophesying over his entire family, while Esau would continue to reject the whole possibility of being part of the family of God. We might even go as far as to say God sees and knows that within some, for whatever reason (and ultimately it is pride but even there it is a mystery), whatever He says or does they will continue to exercise their free will to be hostile to Him, just like Pharaoh and just like Esau.
So does He continue to speak to them until they depart this earth? We believe so, just as He did with Pharaoh throughout those plagues and down through Edom’s history. The fact that they have set their heart is another thing so, yes, they will appear to miss the target, rejecting God’s ‘noble purposes’ and end up as ‘common use’. When Pharaoh, Esau or anyone else for that matter who rejects God’s purposes for their lives, stand before God on the Last Day, they will never be able to say, “You didn’t tell me.” He did, again and again, and they rejected it. Thus they chose their destiny and God complied with that and we see ‘common use’.
In these studies thus far, we have tended to avoid personal conclusions, but may I ask in the light of these things, have you accepted God’s salvation in its fullness and are you allowing Him to mould you for ‘noble purposes’ or is your life missing the mark so it is not being fruitful and you are just ending up as ‘common use’, just filling in time on their earth until the day when you will be called to account? The choice is yours. He will work with whichever you choose!