You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,
‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”, and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’ ‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”, there they shall be called children of the living God.’
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ And as Isaiah predicted,
‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.’
What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone, as it is written,
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
“…who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?” (v.20)
Now there’s a sentence to ponder!
The original sin in the Garden of Eden was Adam and Eve thinking they knew better than God. They wanted God’s position, God’s authority to decide what was right and what was wrong. In this regard, very little has changed. Still, we have ideas well above our station. Still, we think we know best. Still, we argue with God and God’s word. Still, we make pronouncements as to what God does and doesn’t allow or approve of.
The hard truth is that God is the potter and we are the clay. Not the other way round. We need to let God be God, rather than creating a god in our own image. We need to hear God’s word and let it challenge our twenty-first century Western notions of what’s right and wrong. We need to let God shape and mould us into the people God longs for us to be… however uncomfortable that may be.
There is an apocryphal tale told about the brilliant Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Michelangelo was asked about the difficulties that he must have encountered in sculpting his huge masterpiece David. But he replied with an unassuming description of his creative process: “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
Are we prepared to let God chip away at us: at our sin, our self-righteousness, and our desire to be in charge? Are we prepared to be shaped into humble lovers of God?
When we do, it’s liberating. I don’t have to be in control. I don’t have to ‘save’ myself or anyone else through my good works. I don’t have to be God, for that position is already taken
Great and glorious God, You are the Potter – we are the clay: we often forget that. We confess our sin, self-righteousness, and hard-heartedness, bowing before you seeking forgiveness, trusting in your love and mercy, looking to all that you have done in Jesus. Shape us into your people, fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit, help us to love you with all that we are, faithfully walking the way of Jesus today and every day. Amen
The Rev’d Matt Stone, Minister, Herringthorpe United Reformed Church, Rotherham.
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