Our Father and Potter
Yet, 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
How do we view God? More than that, how do we view God in relation to ourselves? The Bible describes this relation in varying ways, including today’s text that declares God as the potter and his people as the clay. This description is also present in other texts in the Bible. Isaiah 64 is a prayer of appeal to God to exercise mercy in the presence of the sins of the people. Isaiah begins with, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence… so that the nations might tremble at your presence! …From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.”
It is in this context that we have today’s Watchword declaring God as Father and potter, and us as clay and the work of God’s hand. In spite of everything, God is our Father. God might be disappointed with our behaviour; God might have allowed us to engage in self-destructive behaviour; God might have allowed us to do our own thing, but God’s purpose has never been our destruction. God’s hope is the hope of a Father, who always hopes against hope that the child will see the error of his/her ways and return home. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in St. Luke 15 is a prime example of this.
God is also our potter – the one who fashions us. We are clay and the work of his hand. Just as fathers and mothers love their children, artists also feel a deep affection for their art. When an artist fashions a piece of art, something of the artist is bound up in that art. Part of that has to do with the deep involvement of the artist in the creative process. Part of it is pride of workmanship. Part of it is that the work of art reflects the artist’s understanding of how the piece should look or sound or feel. The artist and the art are inextricably bound together. God has invested much time in us; indeed God has invested himself. He is bounded to us as our potter who desires that we be an excellently admirable art piece of his work.
This prayer uses that connection of art and artist in an attempt to persuade God to forgive Israel, to save Israel. Having called God a Father, Isaiah reminds God of the creativity that God has expended in fashioning the nation Israel—God’s people—God’s artwork. Israel might have sinned, and be as disgusting as a soiled filthy rag, but God should not abandon Israel, because artist and art are inextricably bound together. It is always God’s intention to fashion us into the best that we can be; however, we should remember that a potter can mold a vessel only as the clay yields to his hands. We have such great potential, but this can only be optimized when we submit to God, our potter, and remain in his molding hands.
I close with today’s New Testament text from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”