8 “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. (Isaiah 64:8)
Isaiah, in the context of praising God for His mercy (Isaiah 63:7-9) and for His faithfulness as in the days of old (Isaiah 63:10-14), offered a prayer of repentance on behalf of God’s people because of their desolate, spiritual condition. The prophet’s prayer also comprises all of chapter 64. The prayer is reminiscent of the Prophet Daniel, which also was on behalf of God’s people, Israel (Daniel 9).
Of all the symbols, metaphors and similes in the Scriptures regarding the character of God, one of the most prominent is the image of God as the potter and His created people as clay which He controls, molds and shapes for His glory.
It is an image found in Isaiah 64:8 which says, “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.” This same thought and doctrine is also found in Psalm 2:9; Isaiah 29:5-16; 30:14; 45:9; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Lamentations 4:1-2).
However, there are those who recoil at this image. Many believers within the church find the image of God as a potter and His people as clay, and its implications, offensive. The metaphor explicitly asserts the sovereignty and providence of God: not only over the physical universe but also with respect to the salvation of sinners.
Romans 9:19-24 says, “19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
The theological significance of the metaphor of God being the potter, and we being the clay, is that God is sovereign and completely in control of the destiny of everything and everyone. He alone rules over the future of all people. We exist to be molded and shaped by Him. It is not up to us to mold and shape God into a benevolent being we can control.
Notice the present active state of being verbs in Isaiah 64:8. The prophet acknowledged that he, and the people, are like clay and God is like the potter. This metaphor affirms not only the personal existence and inherent characteristics of created individuals and the creator God, but also how these characteristics relate to each other.
Created and individual people are not God. Additionally, God is not a created figment of someone’s imagination. We are the work of His hand, so to speak, and not the other way around. The LORD is sovereign, which means that created people are not. Therein lies the problem for many. They want to be the potter of their own clay-like existence. However, God will not relinquish either His position or His power.
How do you react to the doctrine of God being a sovereign potter and you being His clay, which He molds and shapes according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:11)? Do you find peace and comfort, or agitation and anger? Take time today to repent of any self-exalting sin and affirm God’s absolute sovereign rule in your life. Affirm today that He is not only the potter, but your potter and you are His molded clay.
Soli deo Gloria!