‘Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there. So I did as he told me and found the potter working at His wheel. But the jar did not turn out as he hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message..”O Israel, can’ I not do to you as the potter has done to this clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in my hand. If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down or destroyed, and then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. ‘ Jer 18: 1-8
Have you ever watched a potter at work at their wheel? It’s fascinating. First they select the clay that they want to use; different strengths, colours, textures. They then get the wheel going, just the right speed, and slap the clay in the middle. Off they go, working it, crafting it. To begin with, it’s impossible to see what the pot will look like, what it will be used for; but the potter knows. You see, the moment He decided to select the clay, He had a purpose in mind. It wasn’t that He selected any old clay and began His work, in the hope that at the end it would be somehow useful for something. No, He took care, deliberately selecting the perfect material for the perfect task; His task. As the pot takes shape, so the speed of the wheel increases. To begin with, the wheel goes slowly and the rough shape develops. If the wheel speeds up too quickly, the clay will fly off..and the potter knows that. He increases the speed of the wheel in response to the development of the pot until till in the final moments, when the wheel is flying round at what seems a terrific speed, the pot is resting perfectly balanced in the centre. And yes, of course, there are times when the lump of clay goes a little wobbly, a little out of shape; for a moment you may even think that it’s better just to stop and start again! But no, have you seen the size of a potter’s forearms? They are huge, more than capable of holding the clay firmly, yet gently ,and bringing it back into the perfect shape, skilfully crafting it according to His purpose. And when the pot is finally the correct shape, gleaming and glistening as the Potter steps back to admire it; do you think He is remembering the wobbles, the times when the clay nearly spun off the wheel all together! No, He is admiring the beauty of His creation.
But of course, there are two ingredients that are vital to this process, and yet you don’t see them in the finished product..water and fire. Water to allow the clay to be shaped and moulded, to allow it to slip gently but efficiently through the potters hands; and fire to harden it, to prove it, to test it, making it capable of being the vessel that it was purposed to be.
And what part does the clay take..can it answer the potter? Can it decide what shape it takes? No, it rests at the centre of the wheel, allowing the potter to take through all the stages of development, until finally it’s true purpose is revealed in splendour and beauty; each pot individually crafted, with its own story to tell.