Pottery Used For Noble Purposes and Common Use—Romans 9:19-21
"One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:19-21)
Human nature wants to ask why of God? Why do you have the right to blame us? Why do you have the right to judge us? Why do you still find fault with us if you will is carried out whether or not we choose to participate in it? Why is our question? Paul knew we would immediately start asking these questions so addresses these objection before they could even be made. His answer cuts to the heart of mankind's self centered focus, "who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" How can you even consider yourselves above God to question him in this manner? How can you pretend to know something in relation to what God knows? Paul gives a startling reminder of our place in relation to who God is. When asking questions of the Lord, we have no right to criticize, contradict and put ourselves above God. Asking questions and seeking answers is perfectly acceptable and God will answer and reveal these things to us. However, quarreling and accusing God of not being just and treating us unfairly is not acceptable. We have to remember who we are in relation to who God is. We cannot impute God's character for the sake of our own.
Paul uses an illustration of a potter to prove his point. A potter molds the clay into various bowls, plates and vessels. The potter knows what he is making and what purpose it will serve. If the clay is good and pliable he is able to make beautiful pottery from it. Some clay isn't as good and so it is useful for other common things, but quality determines the outcome of many pieces. The potter chooses the right clay to bring about special pieces. He identifies the superiority of clay and that determines what the finished product will be. The same is true for us, our heart determines the outcome of what God shapes us to be. If our heart is right and pliable before him and willing to be shaped he will use it build us into the perfect piece of beauty, distinction and it will be used honorably. However, if our hearts resist him, his will, and further more want nothing to do with him, the outcome does not even compare to what it could be. He can still use it for his overall purpose but our free will determines the type of vessel we become. And many become vessels of common use, so God cannot be blamed for that, nor is He unjust in his dealing with them in this way.
As humans we have our logic backwards. We blame God for a lot of things that fall solely upon our shoulders. Isaiah said, "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me?" Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"? ( Isaiah 29:16 ). Paul knew that this too would be our argument and so he reminds us that God is not unjust in His dealings with us and that he knows and understands more than we do. Isaiah went on to say, "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'?" ( Isaiah 49:9 ). Potsherd was fragments of broken pottery, and Isaiah is reminding us that without God that is what we are. When we call God's character into question it is like broken pottery on the ground second guessing the Almighty God. Paul reminds us we have no right to do that.
With God, it is always a matter of the heart. When we seek and ask questions of the Lord based on a pure heart, we can be sure that he will answer us and bring understanding to us. It is important to remember that our value is based in Him. I am confident that even if you look around right not and see broken pottery, a life in ruin because of certain choices in life, God is able to make all grace abound in you. He is able to take those pieces and work them into a beautiful vessel of noble use. The key is to be soft and pliable before him. Remind yourself that he is a master potter and knows how to work beautiful pieces. Remind yourself that He knows how to bring healing and restoration to you and let him begin his work. Today, I am so thankful for His amazing work in my life. I am thankful that he knows incredibly more than I do. Today, may you get a glimpse of the majesty of God in a personal way and submit to it. Become clay in his hand and you will love the beautiful vessel you become, amen.
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Original article published January 15, 2010.