“But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
We are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are the work of you hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
The potter and the clay: a familiar picture for theologians, not to mention actual potters.
In declaring that we are “clay,” the Bible does not intend to strip us of our human qualities – e.g., dignity, volition, emotions, and so forth. In fact, a glance at the original context of this passage shows that the writer, the prophet, took comfort in being “clay” – he knew that he and his nation needed God’s hand in their lives.
It is the privilege of the Christian to know that God’s hand is in his (or her) life. But isn’t it true that we often acknowledge only his hand of blessing? When we perceive that he is answering a prayer, giving a gift, showing us the way to go – we are glad his hand is in our life.
But what about times of difficulty? Even then, God’s hand is in our life, shaping us.
However, if we are to be shaped into something beautiful and not misshapen, we need to accept what comes from God’s hand – both smooth and rough. As I said above, the illustration of “potter and clay” is not intended to remove our humanity: we still need to respond to God rightly. The verse I cited above begins “you are our Father.” While God will always have his way with us, this trusting relationship is what confirms that the potter's end product will be appealing.
As I write this, a new version of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” is playing on my iPod. The words to this famous song of worship are, “Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me / when the world’s all as it should be… Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering / Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.”
These are the words spoken by one for whom God is both “potter” and “Father.”