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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

We are Clay in His Hands

“Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!"

Jeremiah 18:6b NKJV

The prophet goes by divine command to the small workshop located in the potter's house, set lower than his dwelling. Here he witnesses the work of shaping clay: it cracks and breaks in the skilled hands of the craftsman who does not throw it away, but places it back on the wheel and makes a new pot from it. The potter's work was laborious and meticulous, as he had first to collect the clay, purify it of impurities, and then begin working it by spinning it on a wheel and, leaving nothing to chance, exerting on the clay the pressure necessary to imprint it with the desired shape, inside and out. Clay is a sediment of different minerals and only when wet, it can be easily worked with the hands. That vision opens Jeremiah's heart to the revelation of the LORD who, just as the potter does with that work, does with his children. God has been the skilled potter since creation, when he molds the human being with his fingers. This image of God will offer the apostle Paul the opportunity to reflect on the sovereignty of his divine will that guides history, with patience and mercy, but with logic different from human logic: "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?" (Romans 9:20-21).

No potter can argue with Him arrogantly or deny His action, as Isaiah reminded us (29:16; 45:9). Whereas Isaiah's cry was a call for an intervention on God's part that seemed distant and that He had forsaken His people, Jeremiah has a different perspective. It is God who affirms that He is a potter and we clay in His hands, aware that the work we set out to do does not always come to completion in a speedy manner and without breaks and cracks. Even if there are cracks, the Lord does not throw away the clay, partly because often the cracks are others and not Him who caused them. He, however, patiently and lovingly wets the dough with the Spirit, softening it, and then puts it back on the wheel to create a new work, a new pot. Into this vessel He then deposits His Spirit and His word. In His action the Lord applies "variables": if there is repentance He might leave that broken vessel and in others make a new work, a new vessel. At other times, then, even though He has decided to plant and build He might stop the work. In the face of His action it comes naturally to ask questions, but as God has the final say, while we remain clay in His hands. We are called to have the same awareness as Isaiah when he affirmed that He who has His hands on us is our Father and is great in kindness and mercy: "Nevertheless, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the one who forms us; we are all the work of your hands" (Isaiah 64:8).

The prophet presents God as a Father and all of us as children. In this Isaiah makes himself a forerunner of Christ, making God's help flow not from works done but from the love He has as a father toward His children, like the loving father in Luke's parable. That simple adverb "nevertheless" encapsulates the revelation given already to the prophets: it is God, as Father, who draws near and not vice versa. We are the clay and He is the potter; despite the fragility of our being, we are earth in His hands. He is the one who can shape our life by perfecting it, improving it with new possibilities. We are urged to mature in faith, so that in situations of desolation we may be able to take responsibility arising from our actions. If we can no longer see or hear Him, it is not because He has turned away from us; He could not and never would; He is the Father! Whether God decides to demolish, tear down or destroy or to plant and build up, all actions have His hand in common. If the Father's hands are on the clay even in the activity of destroying or tearing down we can be sure that no one will be lost! Our only task will be to say, "Lord, I am like clay in Your hands, mold me since You know what is good for my life."


Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 28

July 08, Job 38-40; Acts 16:1-21

July 09, Job 41-42; Acts 16:22-40

July 10, Psalms 1-3; Acts 17:1-15

July 11, Psalms 4-6; Acts 17:16-34

July 12, Psalms 7-9; Acts 18

July 13, Psalms 10-12; Acts 19:1-20

July 14, Psalms 13-15; Acts 19:21-41


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