The Dough And The Clay
Read Jeremiah 18:1-6; Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8
Yesterday was a bread baking day. So, I mixed up the dough and let it rise in the bowl. Then it was time to shape the rolls and place them on the sheets. While they rose, I busied myself at the computer. After about half the time that it ordinarily takes for the buns to rise, I went into the kitchen to check on their progress. “Oh no!”, I said out loud. Something smelled hot. Surely, I didn't leave them in the warm oven without turning it off after it had reached a good rising temperature? No way? Alas, that's exactly what I did. I grabbed the sheets out of the oven, and there they were. Crust had formed on the bottoms of the rolls, prior to the time when the process should have begun. What to do? I decided to deflate each roll, tear away the hard part on the bottoms and pack it all together again. Then it was time to try to knead the sticky dough, adding enough flour to overcome that problem. Next came reshaping and, for the second time, permitting the buns to rise. This time, I double checked, making certain that the oven was not on. Then hoping for the best, I put the buns in to bake. The outcome? Later-stay tuned.
This little incident made me think of the object lesson the Lord taught Jeremiah, Jeremiah 18:1-6. The medium was not dough. It was clay. I love simple pictures that teach precious truth.
Jeremiah watched as the potter had clay he was working with on the wheel. However, something went wrong, and the vessel became marred. At this point, it was the potter's choice. The thing being shaped belonged to him. Would he toss the spoiled vessel into the trash? No, instead, he took the clay in hand, fashioning it into whatever pleased him. What a beautiful picture God showed both Jeremiah and us. The potter had the prerogative to make anything out of his clay that suited him. Both Isaiah 29:16 and Isaiah 45:9 remind us how silly it would be if something that was made would rise up and rebel against its maker. Surely what is formed is subject to the one who fashioned it.
In Isaiah 64:8, we see another detail concerning the Heavenly Potter. God is not only Potter, He is also our Father, Matthew 6:9; Matthew 7:7-11. What a Father He is! We are not simply vessels He is impersonally molding. We are in relationship with the Potter, and He not only reshapes, He also loves us. Sometimes, we can identify with that clay. We can see some of how the Potter is shaping us on His wheel. We think we can see the outlines of His beautiful work in our lives. We are going along and all of a sudden through our own sin, something out of our control or someone else's foolishness, we feel as if we have been jerked right off the wheel. What is happening? God's work seems marred. Has He tossed us aside in order to shape a more worthy vessel? No, He does not abandon the work of His Hands, and He has a plan because we are His workmanship, Ephesians 2:10.
What is truly so difficult for us is that God's shaping often doesn't square with the pattern we thought He was using. Our life is marred as we view it through our own eyes. What kind of a container is God fashioning to display His Glory? Often, not the same one we believe would be best. No wonder, we find ourselves returning to the desperate father's simple prayer. We cry out to the Potter that "we believe but yet need help with our unbelief", Mark 9:24. We run to Him, rather than challenging His work as the rebellious pottery is pictured as doing.
Now, let's return to the bread. It came out okay. It is neither wonderful or unpalatable. Here's the most important thing about my dough adventure. Throughout the kneading, reshaping and baking, I didn't know how what I was doing would turn out.
May the Potter be praised because His work is not like that. He works with precision, knowing exactly what He is doing. There is no guesswork with Him. Like the potter in Jeremiah 18, and even much more so, God is at work with total certainty. How else could He make a promise like Romans 8:28? Think about all of those who are already in His family, John 1:11-12 and how we interact with one another and with those who don't yet belong to the Savior. It makes my head swim to think about all of the reshaping the Lord does in each life, and yet the outcome is not in doubt. He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. What an amazing Potter. He carried out the plan to give His life for the vessels that He not only made, but also loves.