Potters and Clay

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are our potter; All of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Clay is an amazing substance. It looks and feels just like sticky mud, but it can be formed into vessels of beauty and utility.  The more skilled the potter, the more beauty and usefulness the vessel will possess in the end.  But it starts out as a lump of sticky goo that has to be refined by the hand of the potter.  There are many who have never seen the beginning point of a beautiful bowl or mug, only the end. The process to get to the lovely work of art was messy, dirty, and hard.

Most potters today are able to buy their clay in a refined form, already cleaned, pugged and ready to throw. Before modern clay manufacturing, the potter had to know clay from dirt, know where it was, and how to clean it. Beautiful pots come from a starting place of clay that was mixed with dirt, rocks plant debris, and other rubble.  The ancient potter went through many steps to develop a good clay that would produce the kind of pots she wanted.

Ancient people would have read Isaiah 64:8 and immediately realized that being compared to a lump of clay in the potter’s hand involved much cleaning and refining before the vessel could even be formed.  As a potter, God works in our lives granting repentance from sin. That His Spirit grows in us a desire to be cleansed of all the dirt and debris that polluted us before we became vessels of His is beautiful work in our lives. He knows exactly where the sin lies, and works through His Spirit to clean it out. It’s not always, or even usually, pleasant to have the junk pulled out of our lives, but like clay, we will never be the vessel the potter intends until the clay is cleaned and ready to be worked.

There are generally 3 kinds of clay that a potter ends up with.

  • First is a clay body that is too soft. When you try to throw it on the wheel, it won’t hold its shape, but slumps or falls apart. As Christians, we can be like this when the first sign of trouble makes us lose our focus on God and what He is doing in our lives. We can only see the trial, the temptation or the suffering. We lose sight of the magnificent truth that we see in Rom 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. A piece of clay that is too soft will be set aside to dry for a time and then be reworked into the vessel the potter wants.  For a true believer, being set aside as difficult as any trial that comes from the outside.  But be sure, if you are a true child of the Potter, He is not done with you yet! Jeremiah 18:4 says “ But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make”


  • The next kind of clay is hard. It is too dry and has become completely resistant to becoming what the potter wants to make it into. When you throw it on the wheel it is stiff and impossible to shape or mold. Oh Christian, do not become this lump of clay! It is much more difficult to get water back into a dry, leathery piece of clay, than it is to dry out the piece that is too soft. In fact, very often the entire lump has to be allowed to dry completely before it can be put back in water and made usable again. This is the piece of clay that says “You turn [things] around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isa 29:16. This clay represents those who arrogantly refuse God’s design on their lives, believing that they know what they want and how to get it.


  • The perfect piece of clay is one that is strong enough to hold its shape, yet pliable enough to be molded into the vessel the potter wants to shape. This lump of clay is joyful, trusting in the potter’s hand. As you begin to shape it, it follows the guidance of the master, allowing itself to grow into the beautiful vessel the potter intends. Oh, there is pressure, no doubt, but this piece of clay becomes like an extension of the Potter, created into the image of the One who made it. What could be lovelier than that?



We all long for mercy when we are hurting, wrong or wronged. Mercy is an attribute of our loving God and Savior. He gives us mercy, peace and love in Christ Jesus and we can rest in knowing that even when judgment comes, we are kept for Jesus Christ. We now wait anxiously for the mercy of Jesus Christ to eternal life at his appearing. What richness of grace and mercy is ours in Him!

Jude speaks much of the judgement and condemnation that is coming upon the ungodly who creep into our churches and turn the grace of God into licentiousness as they even deny the Lord. How fearsome their judgement will be on that day! There is a part of us that can only rejoice that they will be exposed for what they are and pay the price for their rebellion against our great Lord and Savior. But at the end of the mighty epistle written by Jude, is a reminder that we have been shown much mercy and therefore must be merciful as we are told in Mt 5:7. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

Jude 22 instructs us to have mercy on the doubting. These false teachers who creep in create doubts and confusion about the truth, causing even true believers to be blown about by their winds of falsehood. Those of us who are able to see the lies must help expose the liars so the souls weakened by false teaching can find solid ground for their feet to stand on. It is true mercy to teach and warn those who are wavering. Love and mercy do not leave a doubting brother or sister to fend for themselves against these wolves.

We are told to save others, snatching them out of the fire. It can get hot and we sometimes get burned but those who are deceived must be literally snatched out of the deception they have fallen for. John Macarthur explains this “The implication is that they’re already in the fire of this false belief. They’ve been convinced. They’re not just confused, they’re not convinced. They’ve bought the lie of liberal theology. They’ve bought the lie that Jesus isn’t God. They’ve bought the lie that salvation is part by grace and part by works. They’ve bought the lie that whatever form of apostate Christianity they’re seduced by and they’re now in the fire, they’re already being singed by the fires of hell which will engulf them in the future. And the imagery is very vivid. Snatch them out of the fire, harpazo, to take by force, to carry away, to attack. Now we’re getting into language that is not gentle…not gentle. We’re snatching them out of the fire”

We are to have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. When we get too close to the fire in our efforts to contend for the truth, we can get pulled in to behaviors that are fleshly and we can get pulled into the deception of these ungodly persons. We must be aware of how easily we can fall and hate sin greatly if we are to be faithful. Our mercy must be grounded in the truths of God’s Word, in prayer and in the fellowship of saints who see the truth and understand the battle.

We are not lone rangers out there fighting on our own. We are to be part of a highly trained and well prepared team of saints who will wrestle against the ungodly for the glory of God. Our training comes from those things that Jude taught us about keeping ourselves in the love of God, which are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, pray in the Spirit and keep our hope fixed on the soon return of our Lord. We must be people of the Word if we are to win this battle. But we must also be a people of great mercy always remembering the mercy we have been given.

We must never mistake mercy for weakness, or willingness to ignore sin by looking the other way. The truly merciful person will not sit by and watch someone walk into the fire and be destroyed. We will do all we can to pull them back and see them saved.