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Dr. Rodney Plunket

"The Potter's Hand" 

   a topical sermon


If you have your Bible, please turn to Isaiah (Isa) 29:15-16 and follow along as I read:

          Ha!  You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us?  Who knows us?”

          You turn things upside down!

                Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?

          Shall the thing made say of its maker,

                “He did not make me”;

          or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,

                “He has no understanding”? (NRSV).

In these two verses, the prophet is indicting and even ridiculing the leaders of Jerusalem because they believe they can hide their plans from Yahweh.  Through his use of the potter metaphor, the prophet indicates that those leaders believe that their plans can even override or circumvent the plans of the Lord.  The prophet makes clear that such a view is nonsense.  In fact, it is as absurd as clay arguing with a potter.  Imagine clay speaking up from the wheel and saying, “I don’t like what you’re doing; so I’m going to make different plans, I’m going to keep those plans secret, and my plans will come to pass instead of yours.”  The plans of Jerusalem’s leader were as “upside down” as that.

Now, please turn in your Bible to Isa 45:9-13 and follow along as I read:

          “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker,

                to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.

          Does the clay say to the potter,

                ‘What are you making?’

          Does your work say,

                ‘He has no hands’?

          Woe to him who says to his father,

                ‘What have you begotten?’

          or to his mother,

                ‘What have you brought to birth?’

          “This is what the Lord says—

                the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:

          Concerning things to come,

                do you question me about my children,

                or give me orders about the work of my hands?

          It is I who made the earth

                and created mankind upon it.

          My own hands stretched out the heavens;

                I marshaled their starry hosts.

          I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness:

                I will make all his ways straight.

          He will rebuild my city

                and set my exiles free,

          but not for a price or reward,

                says the Lord Almighty” (NIV).

We need a bit of context here.  God has chosen Cyrus, the ruler of the Persian Empire, as the instrument God will use to free the people from exile and to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.  Some of the people, apparently, are not happy with God’s choice of Cyrus.  Was their discontent due to the fact that Cyrus was a pagan king or was there some other reason?  We don’t know.  The prophet’s purpose here is to say to the people who are criticizing God’s choice that they have no right to do that.  The prophet again uses a pottery metaphor, as well as others, to make that clear.  God is the one who has shaped and is continuing to shape the Jewish people.  It is, therefore, God’s right to decide what instruments will be used in that shaping and forming process.  For the Jews to complain about how it is done is comparable to the clay complaining because it wanted to be a jar with handles, but the potter made it without any.

And now we come to the passage that served as our Scripture reading; it was from Jeremiah (Jer) 18:1-11.[1]  You can turn in your Bible and look at that passage, or you can turn to it in your worship handout.  The passage begins with the Lord telling the prophet to go watch a potter working clay on his wheel.  As the prophet watched, the vessel “was spoiled.”  So the potter shaped it into a type of vessel different from the one he was initially planning to make.  The point:  God has the same kind of power that the potter has.  God can change what he is shaping with regard to a nation.  God can have the purpose of shaping a punishing disaster for a nation because of that nation’s evil; but if that people turn, repent, and change their ways, then God will instead shape a blessing for them.  Conversely, God can be planning to shape a blessing for a nation; but if that nation turns to evil, God has every right to shape a punishing disaster instead.  Why does God have that right?  Because God is the supreme, the divine potter.  The prophet also makes clear that the people need to repent because God is already shaping a punishing disaster for them because of their evil ways.

Notice that in all three of these prophetic passages the point is submission to the will of God.  In Isa 29:15-16 the people are charged to submit to God’s plans and are indicted for seeking plans of their own that they think will overturn or counter the plans of God.  In Isa 45:9-13 the people are charged to submit and accept God’s plans to use Cyrus as the divinely employed tool to shape the people of God.  And in Jer 18:1-11 the people are charged to submit in obedience to God’s word by turning from their evil ways before the disaster God is shaping comes to pass.

The Broadway church is on God’s wheel.  That wheel is turning, and God is shaping.  Broadway is just like clay in the sense that God will have the final say concerning the experiences that shape us and the form we are given.  But we, like the Jews, are different from the clay in the sense that God’s shaping is in response to our obedient submission or in response to our refusal to do that.  The clay on the wheel has no real will of its own; it is unconscious and inanimate.  But Broadway is alive.  We are a corporate body of people called together by God.  We are not lumps of clay.  These three passages of Scripture call upon us to submit to God’s will, to obey God’s Word, to say, “yes” to God’s calling.

For the Broadway church as a body to do that, the members of this church must do that.  Our elders, staff, ministry leaders, Bible class leaders, Growth Group leaders––all of us must do that.  We must willingly submit to God’s will.  We must obediently step onto God’s wheel, bow down there, allow God to place the potter’s hands around us, shape, and mold us into all that God dreams of us being in the Kingdom of Christ Jesus our Lord.

I want Adam and our praise team to sing the song “The Potter’s Hand” one more time.  As they sing that song you can kneel and pray, you can watch Mitch work and reflect on the wonder and joy of God working on you in that same way, or you can join in the singing of that song and allow the power of it to make you clay in God’s hands.  Let’s submit to the potter’s hand.

[After singing “The Potter’s Hand]  Please look with me at the first two verses of “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” 

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


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.

If you are here this morning and have a spiritual need or needs, the potter is ready to place shaping, forming hands around you.  Come and bow down on the divine potter’s wheel.  If you need prayers, we will pray with you.  If you need counsel, we will seek God’s counsel and seek to be God’s mouthpiece.  If you need to allow the potter to wash all of your sins away through baptism, we will baptize you.  Whatever your need, please come now as we stand and sing.

[1] That passage reads as follows:

Jer. 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:  2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”  3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.  4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Jer. 18:5 Then the word of the Lord came to me:  6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done?  says the Lord.  Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,  8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.  9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,  10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.  11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you.  Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings (NRSV).




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