But now, 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 ESV
In Christendom, there are many scripture verses that we like to quote that sound so nice and pretty. They make us feel good and encapsulate some idea that seems above us somehow, like Isaiah 64:8. The imagery of being the clay and God being the potter seems right in line with a pretty Kincaidian view of Christianity. However, there’s a way that we become the clay that’s mentioned earlier in the chapter and it’s far less flattering and pretty. We must take the whole picture, though, if we truly want to experience the joy of giving ourselves over to the potter.
The potter verse comes near the end of Isaiah chapter 64. That chapter opens with another beautiful, but slightly more terrifying verse, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence– as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2). Isaiah is seeing that people don’t know God or remember His greatness. Others who haven’t experienced God are unaware of the awesome power He holds and the fear of Him that we should keep in our hearts.
Isaiah goes on to remember the works that God has done and the promise to the righteous, “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” (Isaiah 64:3-5a) Beautiful reminder! However, there’s more to this chapter than just a promise and reminder of God’s goodness.
Isaiah speaks honestly with the Lord in the next section, “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. …for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” (Isaiah 64:5-7 partial) Uh oh, not so good news in this sentence. Isaiah is talking about the sins of the people and the damage and loss that comes from disobeying the Lord.
Now, we finally get to the feel-good verse. After remembering who God is and abject humility because of honest confession of sin, then we talk about being pliable and willing to be formed by God into His design.
We become the clay by always remember who the Lord is and keeping His glory and power in the front of our minds. We become clay through honest assessment of our heart’s condition before the Lord and being willing to admit when we’re sinning. Only then can we become transformed into a useful vessel for God’s service, designed and made by His hands.
Are you willing to become the clay? Or are you still in the mindset of just assuming that you are the clay? God wants to work with us and save us and create us into His image. He is calling to us to become the pliable servants who are humble before Him.
In fact, the next chapter gives us the promise for those who choose to become the clay. In this passage, the Lord is talking to those who refused to listen to Him, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart and shall wail for breaking of spirit.” (Isaiah 65:13-14)
Compare the promises to those who humble themselves to the promises to those who refuse: servants eat, drink, rejoice and sing. The others are hungry, thirsty, ashamed and in pain. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to become clay to be able to trust in God and be filled with Him and His goodness.