But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. – Isaiah 64:8-9 ESV
Isaiah has used this imagery before. He obviously had an affinity for the idea of God being the potter and mankind being soft clay in His sovereign hands. Earlier, in chapter 45, Isaiah referred to the potter/clay relationship. "What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!' Does the pot exclaim, 'How clumsy can you be?'” (Isaiah 45:9 NLT). For Isaiah, imagining God as a potter helped him better understand His sovereignty and control over all things. Seeing man as the clay in the Potter's hand was a way for him to visual man's ultimate submission to God's divine will. Sovereignty and submission were two key themes for Isaiah. And the apostle Paul picked up on this same imagery in the book of Romans. “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” (Romans 9:20-21 NLT). Paul, like Isaiah, believed that God was ultimately in control of all things. He believed and trusted in God's complete authority and dominion over all creation, including mankind.
Yet, while Isaiah recognized and respected God's sovereign authority, it motivated him to appeal to that authority and plead with God to use it in order to forgive and restore the very people He had made. God had fashioned the people of Israel out of nothing. He had raised up an obscure, no-name individual from Ur of the Chaldees and transformed his lineage into a mighty nation. He had rescued them from captivity in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness for 40 years, eventually providing them with a rich and fertile land in which to live. They were God's creation. He had formed them. Now, Isaiah was calling on the Potter to rescue them. He was appealing to the mercy of God. Paul knew that God was fully capable of showing mercy on whoever He chose. He wrote: “In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 NLT). Paul's point was that God, as the Potter, was free to extend mercy to Jews and Gentiles alike. He had made them both. He could show mercy to both. And He has.
All of us were destined for destruction, but God, in His mercy, sent His Son to die on our behalf. He redeemed and restored us. He is in the process of refashioning us. He has the power and authority to do so. Isaiah knew that. That is why he called on God as the Potter and asked Him to extend mercy to a people who did not deserve it. He knew that God had made them and that only God could save them. He was well aware that God had the right to destroy them, but he also knew that God was a loving, gracious, patient and forgiving God. He appealed to God's mercy. He simply asked Him to look on their condition. The rest he was willing to leave in God's hands. He didn't presume to tell God what to do. He didn't question why God had allowed the circumstances in which they found themselves to take place. He didn't shake his fist in anger at God. He didn't demand. He didn't complain. He simply placed the fate of he and the people of God in the hands of the Potter.
There is a great old hymn that speaks of this Potter/clay relationship in a very personal, intimate way. It simply says: “Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.” There is a sense in which we must submit ourselves to the sovereign will of God. We must trust Him and rely on Him to do what is best for us. He knows what He is doing. We may not see the benefits of His will for our lives, but we must learn to recognize that He alone knows what we need, what we deserve and what is required to transform us into vessels of honor, fit for His use and capable of bringing Him glory and honor. It is one thing to recognize God's sovereignty and stubbornly submit to it. You can resignedly accept His control, simply because you can't do anything about it. But what if we could learn to see that control as something to rest in and rely on. When you can accept God's sovereignty and balance it with His incomparable love, mercy and grace, you discover that being in the Potter's hands is the very best place you can be. Then you can say, “Mold me and make me after Thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still.”