Bible Questions and Answers

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What did God mean when he said I am the potter?

If God is the potter, are we the clay?

Thank you for your question.

God made man.

In a simile God is the potter, man is the vessel made by the potter.

As the potter by virtue of creating the pot can decide its fate so God can decide what happens to his creation.

On a national level God was responsible for the creation and prosperity of Israel as a nation.

The time came when they turned away from God and acted as though God had not made them and could not see the evil that they did. 

Isaiah 29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter‘s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Because of their waywardness God brought evil upon them.

Isaiah makes intercession for his people reminding them (and us) that they (and we) are God’s creation.

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Jeremiah is sent to the potter’s house to show the people in a parable that as the potter had complete power over the clay to make, break and remake so God had power over Israel.

Further that God would break Israel as a nation by the Babylonian Captivity because of the evil that they did.

The hope is held out that if in captivity they repented of the evil God would remake them again as a nation in their own land.

And if they did evil again, the cycle would be repeated.

Jeremiah 18:3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;

10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

The history of Israel is witness to God’s complete power over them in this respect.

There is a prophecy of a threefold overturning of Israel as a nation from the last King Zedekiah until Christ returns to claim the kingdom.

Ezekiel 21: 25 And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,

26 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.

27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.

The first overturning was the Babylonian Captivity; the second was the Roman dispersion in AD70; the third is yet future and described in Zechariah 14 along with Christ’s return.

On an individual level Paul uses the potter and clay simile to explain why the Gospel refused by the vast majority of Jews is now preached to the Gentiles.

He explains that God has mercy upon whom he will and we are not to question his judgment because we are just the clay.

Romans 9:8 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

He goes on to explain that God puts up with evil people to save the meek.

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 ¶ As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

This is easily understood if we accept the foreknowledge of God. That he knew from the beginning who would respond to the gospel and who would not.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The foreknowledge of God takes nothing away from our freedom to choose to obey the Gospeland become a vessel of mercy, prepared unto glory, or to reject it and become a vessel fitted to destruction.

I hope this helps.

Glenn Smith