Potter and the Clay (Part 1) Romans 9

An overview of various Potter texts throughout the Old Testament to see the sources Paul was looking at and either directly alluding to, combining, or using in a completely new way.

{{Isaiah 29:16}}. The people of God have been obstinate by paying God lip service while removing their hearts from him ({{Isa 29:13}}). Judgment is on the horizon and God will prove the wisdom as He acts. Even so they keep doing their evil actions thinking that they can get away with it saying that no one is watching ({{Is 29:15}}). But they’re reversing what’s actually true: they are the created (clay) and God is the creator (the potter). It’s not the clay that has complete understanding of its flaws or whats needed to adjust its nature—it is the potter. Clay can’t turn around and look at a Potter and judge him as having no proper understanding. The thrust of this passage is that God’s wisdom and understanding overrides their wisdom and understanding (a point, by the way, Paul culminates in {{Romans 11}}) but the passage in no way implies that God made the people obstinate unrepentant rebels nor that God has decided to not-show mercy. As far back as {{Isaiah 1}} we see God speaking about judging with aim to show ultimate mercy.

{{Isaiah 41:25}}. Isaiah (quite the poet) uses a picture of a ruler (Cyrius of Persia cf. {{Isa 45:1}}) who will come upon rulers like they were clay—just as a potter would step on clay.

{{Isaiah 45:9}}. This chapter deals specifically with God’s Authority as Creator and Lord. He chose Cyrus for a role and He would ensure that the path Cyrus marches in is an easy one. God calls Israel by name (for the sake of Jacob) and calls the nation His Son. The Lord is involved in the rain of blessings and in the downpour of judgment for He is the creator. In all this, what right does the created being have to say over the maker “do you know what you’re doing?” or “Your work looks like it was done by an arm-less cripple.” Paul’s usage in Romans has some direct parallels with this passage in that God’s righteousness is being put to the question—especially when it comes to God’s dealing with God’s right to show mercy. He is completely free in His mercy and men can’t restrict Him so if Israel finds herself in a position of not all believing and yet still surviving does mean that God is bound to wipe them out according to the rule of men. Rather He can decide if He will show mercy or not.

{{Isaiah 64:8}}. In a prayer to the Lord, the poet acknowledges that God is above all and extremely powerful and petitions to be held in His perfect hands. Don’t be angry beyond measure, God, all of us are your people Lord—don’t continue to afflict us but rather work us Lord: we are clay, you are the potter. Paul in Romans does show God’s awesome and perfect work even to the point of glorification but what’s interesting in this passage is that it shows at what level the people stand before God—a point that Paul continues to reinforce through several movements. All men stand before God as disobedient, sinful, rebels on the ground of God’s mercy and Isaiah states that point clearly.

{{Jeremiah 18}}. has an interesting picture that God wanted Jeremiah to tell the people. He was to look at how the potter worked (which is specifically what Paul is showing throughout Romans, God’s righteousness in His Work the Gospel). The clay becomes marred in the potter hands and then the potter opts to reshape it into a different vessel. The House of Israel is like clay in the potters hands—not that the Potter makes them the marred vessels (or making them to be disobedient rebels) but in the fact how He can remake where the clay can not. {{Jer 18:7-10}} is pivotal here because God shows that if He has a plan to destroy a nation and they repent, He will relent from His planned calamity and if He plans to make a nation great and the nation turns to evil then He will turn from the good He planned to show and destroy. It’s interesting because Paul in Romans 9 is talking about Elect Israel which is Not Saved and Openly Rebellious. The Nation believes that they are the inheritors of God’s righteousness because it is deserved but God is pointing out that its rooted in His grace, offered because He is merciful and appropriated by faith. Backing up the lesson in {{Jeremiah 19}} God tells Jeremiah to buy a vessel that was meant for Good and show how He will destroy it because ({{Jer 19:15}}) “the people have stiffened their necks so as not to heed my words”

Rest of Romans series.

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