The Purpose Of The Potter

Romans 9:20-21: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?
Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour,
and another unto dishonour
?"

"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
."

God molds us and makes us and holds us in His hands.
We must know who God is and what God does and why God does it.
God molds us and makes us and holds us in His hands.

God's hands remind us of His compassion and His power.
God's hands remind us of His involvement in our lives.
God's hands remind us of His possessiveness and His strength.
God's hands remind us of His presence and His protection of His own.
God's hands remind us of His action and His authority and His autonomy.

God upholds us with His hands.
God protects us and we are safe in His hands.
God holds the universe in a balance of His providence,
and He keeps nature in harmony with the holy,
and the whole universe is controlled by His justice and His judgment.
All of this and more is in His hands.

David said that if you could take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts
of the sea, even there His right hand will hold you.
Ezekiel knew that the hand of the Lord was upon him as he preached with power
so that even dry bones could hear the word of the Lord.
As He was dying on the cross Jesus said: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

Whether we know it or not, God molds us and makes us and holds us in His hands.

In this eight chapter of Romans, Paul began with his insistence on the power of the proclaimed Word,
and then he moved on to new heights in his message on justification by faith,
and then, at last, he came to those amazing words of assurance that
"Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
."

Paul says, "Hath not the potter power over the clay,
of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor
?"

Paul is responding to those who are saying that that God isn't fair.
They were asking what kind of God is this that is so biased
that He prefers some and ignores others?
What kind of God is He that will exalt some and brings others low?
What kind of God is He when He will let some have and others have not?
The argument was saying that God isn't fair.

The argument was that God is not fair because He has not kept His promise.
God chose Israel through the process of divine adoption.
God showed Israel His glory in the cleft of a rock.
God protected Israel with a cloud by day, fire by night, and manna on the ground.
God gave Israel His covenant and His law.
God was in their temple worship and with the patriarchs of Israel.
God promised that of all nations Israel would be blessed.
But now it looks like God is not keeping His promise.

Remember, Paul is preaching to Gentiles who are not Jews by birth.
They are now claiming the promise and they are not the natural offspring of Abraham,
but they are talking about the children of the promise,
and they also say if somebody is getting something that we are not getting,
if somebody is getting something that only we are supposed to get -- that means
that God has not kept His promise, and that means that God isn't fair.

But that's not all that God is not fair about.
God is not fair because He discriminates against His children.
God violates the basic tenets of human rights when He fails to give to the one
that should have and gives abundantly to the one who should not have.

We see this with Jacob and Esau.
They were twins.
Esau was born first and, as a consequence, he should have received the blessing
and the inheritance of his father.
And even before they were born, God said, "The older shall serve the younger."
And God also said: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

Doesn't that indicate that God is unfair.
All you have to do is to read the Scripture and you will see how unfair God is.
The children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt.
They were oppressed by cruel task masters.
A new Pharaoh was in power in Egypt who did not know Joseph.

As a result, they work from sun up to sun down making brick without straw
and mortar without clay.
The Bible says that God raised up Pharaoh, and then hardened his heart.
It looked as if Pharaoh had already had a hard heart, and God hardened it even more.
And if somebody would ask, "God, why did you do that?"
Or, would ask, "God, what is your plan or your purpose or your priority?"

God will simply reply, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion
."
That's why those who were hearing Paul's message is saying, "Paul, God is not fair!"

The unfairness of God is also a relevant message for our age.
For it seems that there are some who would join in the accusation that God is not fair.

When life turns us upside down and and inside out, it seems as though
God has not kept His promise.
When burdens press us to the ground, and when they become too heavy to bear,
somebody will probably ask: "God, what have you done for me lately?"
When your bedroom becomes a sickroom and you remember that God promised healing,
and you are asking, "Where are you, God, when I need you?"
When it looks like that life is about over, and we still have a lot of life to live,
it sometimes looks like God has not kept His promise.

This word does apply to those who love the Lord.
We might need to be reminded that just because we love the Lord does not mean
that we won't have difficult times and trials.
Just because we have joined the church does not mean
that we are going to live our lives on "flowery beds of ease."

Just because we have been born again and we have given our lives to the Lord
doesn't mean that we will never have enemies.
And when we go to church and give our tithes and offerings and when we serve
and give our time and talents to the Lord, we don't seem to be any better in the church
than we were in the world, that's when it looks like that God is not fair.

It really seems as though God is unfair when the bad people of the world have everything
and we have very little.
Look at Jacob.
Jacob's name means "supplanter."
Jacob was selfish, crafty, deceitful, deceptive, a liar, a thief, a cheat, and a fraud.
Jacob was all these and more, yet Jacob got the blessing over Esau.

There are many people who never do any good for anyone or anything,
and yet, they get the blessing.
That's not fair.
There are a lot of people who force their way in front of you when you are in line
for the blessing; and they get it, and you don't.
That's not fair.

While you are trying to be a Christian and trying to love everybody
and trying to make sure you say the right things and bring your tithes and offerings
to the storehouse, that somebody else who is stepping over people
and stepping on people, are the ones who drive the expensive cars,
and dressed in designer clothes; live in the most elegant homes,
and always have a lot of money, and you can't pay your bills or meet next month's rent.
That's not fair.

Look again, and you will discover that the thing which really makes it appear
that God is not fair is when all the evidence seems to indicate
that God is letting those things happen.

So, when the unfairness of God surfaces in some soul,
it will not be long before some preacher comes to remind you that God knows all,
God sees all, and God hears all.

It will not be long before some preacher of the gospel will declare that there is nothing
that has happened or is happening or that will happen which is not already
in the will and the mind and in the heart of God.
It will not be long before some preacher will come insisting that there is nothing
beyond the grace of God, and that all of the circumstances of life
are but a part of the perfect plan for His people.

Now if that is the case, then God is part of the problem.
If we are sinners and God knows our circumstance, how can God find fault?
If the events of our lives are a part of God's will, then how can God judge those
who have not resisted His will?
If God plans all things according to His will and if His will is being done,
then religion is a hoax because there is then nothing that we can do
to change our condition or to change our circumstances.
And if that is the case, then it is abundantly true that God is not fair.

So here is Paul, in the presence of this elaborate and persuasive and convincing argument
for the unfairness of God, who calmly replies:
"Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?
Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it,
'Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay
?'"

So let us see what Paul was really saying here.

First, I believe there is more than an implication in Paul's thinking that it is dangerous for us
to want God to be fair!

Think about that!
If God is fair, how soon must we face our transgressions?
If God is fair, how soon shall we see our secret sins brought out in the light of day?
If God is fair, how soon shall we hear what goes on in the dark shouted from the rooftops?
If God is fair, how soon shall He remind us of promises we have made and have not kept?
If God is fair, how soon shall He remind us of those times He preferred us over others
and we have not been grateful enough to say, "Thank you"?

It is not very wise of us to want God to be fair.
It may not be wise to look for the fairness of God, after all.
We will be much better off looking for the mercy of God.

The second implication here is that not only is it not very wise of us to want God to be fair,
but it is also not very wise to argue with God.
Paul asks, "Who are you that you want to argue with God?"
Who are you? Made out of dust and spit.
Who are you? Made lower than angels.
Who are you? Your ways are not His ways and your thoughts are not His thoughts.
Who are you? You live in a land for which you did not labor, you live in cities
which you did not build; you drink from vineyards that you did not plant.

Who are you?
It is really futile to argue with God.

Remember that Job tried to argue with God.
As Job looked at his all his losses and added up all his liabilities, Job wanted to argue with God.
When Job discovered that because of God, he had lost his children and his servants,
his wife and his home, Job wanted to argue with God.

When it finally dawned on Job that his castle had become a pile of ashes,
and his regal garments had become sackcloth, and when he looked with horror into his mirror
and saw the grotesque and deformed body that was now his for his body was covered with boils
from the top of his head to the sole of his feet, then Job wanted to argue with God.
When Job heard the love of his life, the mother of his children advise him
to curse God and die, Job wanted to argue with God.

Job said: "Oh that I knew where I might find him!
That I might come even to his seat!
I would order my cause before him, and feel my mouth with arguments
."

God's response was, "Job, I'll argue with you, but first there is a question I want to ask you:
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Where were you when I and laid the cornerstone?
You think I'm so unfair.
Where were you when I shut up the sea with doors, made a garment out of the clouds?
You are so inquisitive about what I'm doing.
Where were you when the morning stars sang together and when the sons of God shouted for joy
?"

The third implication is that God is able to use these events we do not understand
and to use those persons who do not know him.

Think about that!
There are some events in my life that I would rather not have happened.
There are some events in my life that have been uncomfortable,
and which have been unprofitable and, if I had my way, I would have avoided those events
and circumstances altogether.
But God is able to take those events that I do not understand,
and put a lesson in my life that otherwise would not be there.

Pharaoh and his horses taught Moses how to use what was already in his hand.
War and the jealousy of Saul taught David how to walk
through the valley of the shadow of death.
Starvation and the imminence of death taught Elijah that God had others beside him.
Sickness and a fifteen-year diagnosis to live taught Hezekiah the value of a day.
Darius and his lion's den taught Daniel how to pray.
Nebuchadnezzar and his fiery furnace taught three Hebrew boys
that no matter how mean the opposition may be, God is still able.

But God does not just teach His lessons with events.
God teaches lessons by persons.
For you see:
it is our enemies who drives us how to pray.
It is our adversaries that cause us to trust.
It is our foes that teach us faith.

Now, look at this.
Paul said that the potter has power over the clay.
Now that isn't new to you for you know that every potter does the molding
and making and holding.

Any potter can make an object that just sits on a shelf.
Any potter can make an artifact that is a thing of beauty.
Any potter can make an item to sell and that others can purchase or not purchase it.
Here God is not talking about objects.
God is talking about people.
God is looking for instruments.
Too many in our churches are objects -- not instruments.

An instrument says, "I'm good for something."
An instrument says, "I have a purpose."
An instrument says, "I have value."
An instrument says, "I can be used."

The goal of every Christian should be for God to use us.
I pray daily that God will use me.
I may not always understand how or why, but God, please use me.
Others may have what I ought to have, but dear God, use me.
I may have trials and tribulations, but please dear God, use me.
Friends may not understand why I serve Him, but please use me.

"Use me, Lord, use me for thy service.
Use me, Lord, help me tell thy story.
Oh, use me, Lord.
Use me, Oh Lord, I pray!"


We should always remember that the potter does have power over the clay.
The potter has creative power.
He brings into being that which was not.
He can take nothing and make something out of it.
The potter has creative power.
He fashions the form in his mind, and then brings it to pass simply by the moving of his hands.

The divine Potter has creative power.
He can stoop down in the dust of the earth and pick up lumps of clay,
and breathe the breath of life into it until it walks and talks like a natural man.
The divine Potter has creative power.

But even better than that, the Potter has re-creative power.
Jeremiah says that sometimes the vessel is spoiled in the potter's hand.
Sometimes, the vessel does not do what it was designed to do.

So, the potter takes it and breaks it and molds it and makes it into what he would have it to be.
I'm so happy to know that when I'm spoiled and broken, the Lord is not through with me.
I want Him to re-create me.

I know the potter has power, and I want Him to have power over me.
I want Him to have power over my life.
I want Him to have power over my feet.
I want Him to have power over my eyes.
I want Him to have power over my heart.
I want Him to have power over my head.
I want Him to have power over my home.
I want him to have power over my family.
I want Him to have power over my job.
I want Him to have power over my church.
I need His power -- His wonder-working power.

God molds us and makes us and holds us in His hand.
No matter what happens in this life, I am kept in His all-mighty hand.
What a mighty God we serve!

Right or wrong, when I'm up or down, when I have poverty or wealth, or have sickness or health,
come what may, I am in His strong and loving hand.
Praise His holy name, I am in His hand.

"It's all in his hands. It's all in his hands,
Whatever the problem may be.
It's all in his hands. It's all in his hands.
If you let him, he'll fix it for you
."

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

"Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o'er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit 'till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me."
-- Lyrics by Adelaide A. Pollard and music by George C. Stebbins, 1907,

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White