The Potter And The Clay?: A Look at Isaiah 64

In Isaiah 64, the author of that chapter reflects on some of Israel’s history. He repeatedly acknowledges that Israel has not been humble before God, that they have forgotten God’s mighty deeds among them and that they have continually fallen short. After speaking about these issues, the writer says:

“Yet, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are The Potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord and do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people” (Isa. 64.8-9).

It is interesting to me that the author acknowledges God here as The Potter, while at the same time reminding his audience that they are the clay. Probably, there is more going on in this statement than the simple implication that God has created humanity. The context seems to suggest that the author here is referring to Israel and how God brought her—despite her many failings—to the place she now is. Yet, from a theological standpoint, there still seems to be more going on here. Verse ten, perhaps, offers some proof to this, it reads: “Your sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned with fire and all that we treasured lies in ruins.”

Notice all of the locations mentioned here: the cities, the desert, Zion, Jerusalem and the temple. The “clay,” mentioned in verse 7 should probably be taken in conjunction with the numerous places listed there in verse 10. Thus, the connection between the sentences has to do with “land” or “earth”--locations or places! I find this link incredibly fascinating. These statements, when taken with the plea for God to remain among His people and when read Christologically, bloom with meaning.

Thus, this Potter and the clay passage is not about God molding us individually or personally; it is about God dwelling among His people and being an abiding presence to them where they are; in their world; in their land; in whatever their locale may be. How better to do this than through being the Incarnate Christ and the Indwelling Spirit? How better to answer this prayer and plea than to, as The Potter, become The Clay and be one with those made from the clay?

How wonderful that the God who made humanity from the clay and breathed His own life into it, actually became clay Himself? As we see, the intimate “land” imagery here, has to do with The Creator of the land and of the “land people” (humanity), becoming and being one of them. What more could we ask for than a God who was creative and loving enough to make that happen? So, remember, in one sense, God is both The Potter and The Clay.

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