Clay in the hands of the Potter

Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on July 30, 1978
      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. . .
      Jeremiah 18:6
      TURN YOUR BIBLE TO JEREMIAH 18: “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then l went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he,” the potter, “wrought a work on the wheels.”
     G. Campbell Morgan translated this verse, “Behold, he wrought his work on the wheels.” I do not think that the original Hebrew allows that translation, but the context allows it, as you will see in a moment. “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.” That is the contextual justification of G. Campbell Morgan’s translation.
     “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel. . .” The New Testament makes it clear that we have become the branch, grafted on to the trunk of the tree God planted called Israel. So I would personalize this passage: “O Gene Scott, and all the people of the LORD who have been brought together at this church, 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.”
     Every time I read this passage in the book of Jeremiah, I pause and think about potters’ houses that I have seen around the world. It is hard to find an old-fashioned potter’s house in this country today. Out of curiosity, I have looked for them in every city and primitive culture where I have traveled. I have seen them in Calcutta, India, and I have seen them in La Paz, Bolivia. The clay changes, the skin color of the potter is different, but there are certain elements that are always present: there is a potter, there is clay, and there is a potter’s wheel on which the potter shapes the clay.
      As I have watched what goes on in a potter’s house, I have come to know why God sent Jeremiah there. Jeremiah was one of the most faithful prophets that God ever had, yet he was treated the worst by his circumstances. Jeremiah preached God’s word and was thrown into a pit. When the people asked him “Do you have a word from the Lord for us?” Jeremiah said, “Yes, I do. Don’t go down to Egypt.” But the people did the opposite of what they were told to do. And God made Jeremiah accompany that band of rebels when they went down to Egypt. But nothing could break this man’s spirit; he was tough.
      Several voices in God’s book were also led by God to the potter’s house. Zechariah speaks of the potter’s house, and he was one of the strongest prophetic voices. In times that had crushed everyone else’s spirit, except for the prophet Haggai, Zechariah rose to the challenge and brought God’s people back on track. Isaiah also speaks of the potter’s house. In the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up. Everything was collapsing around him, but Isaiah became the strength of the nation. He prepared them for the Assyrian conqueror and he gave faith to Hezekiah when all hope was lost. And in the New Testament, the apostle Paul talks about the potter’s house in Romans 9.
      The real men, whom God is able to use in the most troubled times, are the ones He makes go to the potter’s house to teach them His ways. It seems as though the tougher the man, the more he needs to learn the lesson. This is always God’s problem with us. It is His problem with me today; it is His problem with you today. Most people are like the children of Israel: they see God’s acts, but they do not understand His ways. Moses came to know the ways of God. The rest of the people would jump around and rejoice only when they saw the result of God’s actions. God’s ways are revealed at the potter’s house.
      I want you to write four words in the margin of your Bible: there is a principle, there is a purpose, there is a process, and there is a Person. Each one of these words is like a set of spectacles through which we may take a new look at this potter’s house. We pick up and put it on and we can see one facet of the message. Then, we lay it down and pick up another one and put it on, and suddenly a new facet is revealed. These words give me the spectacles to see what God is teaching us through these verses in Jeremiah.
      What is the principle taught in the potter’s house? God has a right to do with us whatever He wants. I do not know any other lesson in God’s book, or any other experience like going to a potter’s house, that teaches this principle, and I pray God never lets me forget it. Isaiah 45 puts it in these words: “Doth the clay say to the potter, what fashioneth thou?” “Hey up there, Mr. Potter! What are You doing with me? Why did You speed up the wheel? Why did You push Your thumb down at that spot?” I was shaping myself all right, and just when I was enjoying this ride, He slaps that clay down with a splat! Have you ever said, “What are You doing to me, God?”
     On some days, when I feel like I have really worked hard for God, it is very easy for me to decide what God ought to let me do tomorrow. But God has a right to do what He wants to do with us. That is the principle that religious humanism has forgotten. Too much of Christianity has bought the bill of goods that God is the clay; or worse, that He is some kind of rubber genie that we can twist around to our advantage anytime we want. We are always working on God, trying to shape Him in our own image. No, God is the Boss!
      That is the most important principle that the church can learn in today’s world. When it is learned, we will no longer have people who are led astray by the message, “Come to God because of what He is going to give you. Come to God because of what He is going to do for you. Serve God so that you can get rich and never be nervous or anxious, never have problems and never have anything go wrong in your life.” God is working on the clay; and the principle of the potter’s house teaches us more graphically than any other illustration in God’s book that the clay has no rights of any kind. It must become pliable in the hands of the Potter, and it has no right to back talk. The clay is to be shaped by Him. “Well, that isn’t a very popular message. What if I am 72-year-old clay? Don’t I graduate at some point where I can say, ‘You’ve bent me around enough, God. I want to tell You what I want to be now?” There are no favorites. We are all clay in the hands of the Potter. That is the principle.
      What is the purpose that is taught in the potter’s house? We change, but God never changes. This is a message for a pastor as well as for a congregation. Once in a while, a preacher has to raise the concern that Paul raised: that in preaching to others, we might become castaways ourselves; that while we are doing God’s work for Him, we forget what it is really all about, which is God doing His work on, in and through us.
      Let’s look again at G. Campbell Morgan’s translation, “Behold, he wrought his work,” not just “a work.” God is not engaging in modern, free-expression art. He is not just throwing clay on the wheel and saying, “Well, goodie, goodie, it came out looking like something.” God has a work in mind for each and every one of us, and God has never changed in His purpose. That work was defined when He created man and said, “Let us make man in our image.”
     This point is made over and over again in Scripture, and we need to pay attention to “God’s repeatables,” the things that He says many times throughout His book. Romans 8:28 says, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” That is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. The original Greek says, “God entereth in to all things and worketh His good.” What is His good? Read the next verse: that we might all be conformed to the image of His Son.
      We are called to be saints. In Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, he tells us that we are by faith made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. There was a wall of partition between us and God that kept us apart. That wall of partition was broken by the sacrifice of God’s Son, and we have now become the habitation of God through the Spirit. Paul then begins to cry and pray that we might comprehend the breadth, the length, the depth and the height of God’s love.
      Paul goes on to say that we are one body in Christ. God gave to this body, which is His church, gift ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In the King James Version, it says that these gift ministries are given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,” as though the preacher has two different jobs: perfecting saints and the work of the ministry. No. The literal Greek says that God gave these gift ministries “for the perfecting of the saints to the work of the ministry.” It is the saints who are to be equipped to do the work of the ministry, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith.” How? By coming to a “knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man.” Then, Paul declares the purpose: till we all come “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
     This is an old truth, but I am going to lay it in front of us today. God has never changed what He is about. There is one purpose that is the same for each of us, and it is just as true today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. God wants to bring forth in each clay vessel one thing He has been seeking since the day He breathed into His creation from the dust of the earth. He wants His image coming forth in you and me.
      Having communicated in various ways throughout the Old Testament, the literal substance of God, hypostasis is the word in the Greek, moved into a tent of human flesh. And though no man has seen God, Christ hath declared Him. The word “declared” translates a Greek word from which we get our word “exegesis.” It means He led Him forth and brought Him from behind a curtain and put Him on display. God is not as interested in using your talents as He is desirous of bringing forth the image of Christ in you. God can use your talents, but that is incidental to what He is really about: He simply wants to make us “little Christs.” That is the purpose.
      We have heard that a thousand times, but how often do we remember it? How often do we let some other purpose come to the forefront? How often do we let some other objective move to the front, whether it be your role as a father, mother or wife, or your career? God is in the business of bringing forth sons who are like Christ, who one day will march by those citizens of eternity who faced the void of one-third of heaven being emptied when Lucifer and his angels were cast out. On that day, we will be like Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, which literally means the first-goer of our salvation.
      What God could not do in us by means of the Old Testament covenant, He accomplished by breaching the barrier to make it possible to implant in us the seed of His life, that there might be this testimony as stated in 2 Corinthians 4: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” that the glory may be of God. As we are pressed out of shaped and bent hither and yon, day after day, inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, ounce by ounce, spiritually speaking, there comes forth in us the glory of God. Paul said to the Corinthians who forever lived in the flesh, “Though this outward man perish, there is a new man coming forth in us.” That is what God is about, and that is what the potter’s house teaches: God has a purpose.
      What is the process? The wheel. What is the wheel? Remember, God is the Potter and we are the clay. His purpose is to bring forth the image of Christ in us. How does He go about it? He takes that clay and slams it down with a splat! onto the wheel. Maybe you have been praying, “Oh, God, deliver me from this problem!” In His time, He will do it. Maybe God gave you a burden and positioned you to bring the light of the gospel into some city. Why doesn’t God make it easier? Why doesn’t He make a fish swim up, open its mouth and produce a coin, like He did for Peter? Because He is the Boss and He knows what we need, and He knows when it is time to go splat! God probably figured out that if He makes things too easy for me, it would set me back a year in Jesus-ness. Some miraculous deliverance might do me some good, but it would not do much for bringing forth the image of Jesus in me.
      God knows what we need. The Potter determines the speed of the wheel. The Potter determines when it stops. The Potter determines the placement of the clay, and because we are pieces of clay that talk back, He throws that clay down with a splat! and puts us right where He wants us to be.
      God knows what it takes to shape each of us. I don’t like the wheel. “Slow it down,” I say sometimes. And then other times I say, “Speed it up!” or “Get me out of here!” God is the Boss. He is shaping what He wants in you and me, and He puts us on the wheel as the process to bring it forth.
      Finally, there is the Person. The Potter is a Person. In the Old Testament, if the pot did not come out right, the potter rejected it. God is trying to teach us: “Cannot I do with you as this potter?” When we look at the Potter of the Old Testament, we see God’s love breaking through over and over again. But we do not really come to see the nature of the Potter until we get to the New Testament, where, as John said, “No man has seen God, but Christ has declared Him.”
     If we had only the Old Testament, the truths would be unchanging. God is the Boss, He has a right to do what He wants to do, and I cannot change that. God has a purpose, and He is going to achieve that purpose as He puts us on the wheel and controls the shaping of the clay. I do not understand the mystery of this, but I have watched potters when they are working on a pot: it is the focus of their absolute attention. They utilize every little movement to shape that pot. God, in His omniscient ability, has that same attentive care for each one of us. To every vessel into whom His nature has come, and on whom He is working, God gives that absolute attention.
      But what about our flaws? In the Old Testament, the rejected pots were cast into the potter’s field. I am indebted again to G. Campbell Morgan for pointing out that the last reference to the potter’s work in the Gospel record is found in the tragic story of Judas, who could never tune in on God’s purposes. Judas sold his Savior for 30 pieces of silver. After the fact, when remorse gripped him, he cast the silver down. And God takes the trouble in His book to record that those pieces of silver were picked up, and Matthew 27 specifies what was done with them. The price of Jesus’ life, 30 pieces of silver, was used to buy a potter’s field. It is no accident that God would include that incident to teach us that the price of our Potter’s life was used to buy the field where all the rejected pots had been thrown.
      That is why I say, “Bring me all the sinners.” Don’t divide them out on the sidewalk and say, “These deserve to come in, but those do not.” Nobody knows better than I the joyous knowledge that He paid the price to buy the whole field where every broken, marred and rejected vessel had been thrown. He won’t change as He takes them out of that field. He will still be the Boss and He will still shape us.
      Hebrews 2 says that God did not do for angels what He did for us. He “took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” The word translated “took” is epilambano in the Greek. It means that He stooped and reached down and took hold of us, with the intent to pick up, to help and to restore. Matthew 13 says it in direct prose: He paid the price to buy the whole field, to get the treasure out of the field. What is the treasure? A pot that God can keep working on until He gets His product; a pot that will be shaped in His image. But, glory to God, the Potter that we deal with paid with the price of His life to have the chance to start over on you and me. That is the marvelous thing.
      Sure, we have made mistakes and there are cracks in these pots. But my Lord died to obtain the privilege of digging out of that field all the rejected pots and starting over again. How does He start over? Smack! Splat! Spin! Whack! But there is no mar and no rupture in the vessel that He cannot repair. He paid the price to redeem us all. So on this day when I would like to say, as Nehemiah said, “The joy of the LORD is our strength,” instead I am going to say, “Take a little rest overnight, but tomorrow, get ready for the splat! as He continues to do His work in us.”
     I have learned things about the Lord this past month, and I pray that God will let me rejoice in that knowledge, so I can reach down and grab hold of myself and say, “Okay, Potter, I’m not even going to ask what You’re making, just get on with it. This is a new day to be shaped by Thee.” So right now, let’s sing praise to Him as we accept God’s right, God’s purpose and God’s method. Thank God He is a Potter who loved us enough to die for us, but He is still going to work His work in us, as long as we are in His hands.
      Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott

In Memory of Kenneth Eugene Hogan
Born: May 22, 1961
Promoted: January 23, 2014
Our brother Ken Hogan was executed by the state of Oklahoma on January 23, 2014. He entered into Eternity at 6:13 PM that day. Ken had been with us a long time. He first met Billie & Margaret in 1988 (when he came to death row), two years after Billie started the prison ministry. Ken admitted to what he had done and asked for everyone’s forgiveness. And he himself was able to forgive certain people who had done him wrong. So we are sure that he made it. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14 – Jesus speaking)

Prayer Requests for February, 2014
For Paul Jones (Menard, IL) who wants to see his mother
For Joe Oakley (Amarillo, Tx) who has pneumonia.
For Margaret Swenson (our Margaret’s sister-in-law in Rockford, IL). She has kidney failure and is taking dialysis treatments. She suffered a stroke in 2011.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he gets his good time back.
For Willie Harper (Joliet, Illinois) & family, & Ella Watson.
For Isaiah Robinson (Menard, Illinois).
For William Holland (Joliet, Illinois), for health. He has Sciatica nerve pain and needs cataract eye surgery, also.
For Frank Williams, Jr. (Death Row, Grady, Arkansas). Frank is preparing for a new trial.
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that his health gets better, and that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Robinson, Illinois), to stay “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), that DNA evidence in his case will be tested.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread.

In Memory of Willie Clark December 30, 1964 – December, 2013
Willie lost his fight with cancer last December. We do not know the day, only that he passed in December. Willie was from Houston and leaves behind parents, several siblings and children. We are glad that he got to know God really well the past several years.

“Dinning in the Word” (Regarding this month’s message)

To “din:” To install knowledge into a person by forceful repetition (From Chambers Dictionary). As opposed to brainwashing, dinning the Word into your brain is something you can do yourself by repeatedly reading and studying certain Scriptures. Dr. Scott (and now Pastor Melissa Scott) din the Word into us with these faith messages. Though you’ve heard or read “The Potter’s House” before, or various versions thereof (Dr. Scott called these messages “Nitro pills), you have not read this particular one. And even if you had, you would only be dinning in the Word if you read it again. After all, don’t you read your Bible more than once? And each time that you do, doesn’t God reveal something new to you?

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