Parable of the Potter and the Clay

The picture that forms in my mind of a potter is someone sitting on a stool with a lump of wet clay spinning on a wheel. The Bible has quite a few verses using the symbolism of a potter and clay to teach us about our relationship with God. I wondered what insights the potter and the clay story would hold.

the potter and the clay- dark red brown clay on hands creating a vessel on potters wheel

Clay in the Bible

Many excavations have unearthed locations where pottery making took place. 

Clay was common in the ancient Near East; it was dug up and brought to the potter. They prepared it by first removing the stones, sticks, and other debris.

Water was added to soften it for kneading. They used a potter’s wheel, and as now, placed the lump of clay on the platform. 

As it turned, the potter guided the clay into the shape of a vessel. They even used pottery kilns to harden the vessels.

Potter and Clay Scripture

I discovered the topic of potter and clay is found frequently in Scripture with the symbolism of God as the potter and we, the clay.

The first Bible verse on this topic is found in the Old Testament story of how God created man:

Genesis 2:7:

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”

The Hebrew word “formed” in this verse is the same word used for a potter, “the one who forms.” God shaped the form of a man from the dust of the earth. 

He forms us into the beautiful vessel He imagined and planned with great love.

Isaiah 64:8

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand.” 

Isaiah was proclaiming the sovereignty of God to the Israelites in the middle of their mess of sin and judgment. He declared that God was still in control, and the Israelites were His vessels.

Isaiah 45:9

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker- Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’

God had strong words for anyone who tries to think he knows what is best for himself.

Knowing that God created all things should give us confidence in Him. Arguing with the One who made us and knows what’s best for us is foolish.

Jeremiah 18:3-6

God sent the prophet Jeremiah to the potter’s house to watch him work. He used the parable of the potter and the clay to describe His relationship with the people of Judah.

“So I went down to the potters house, and I saw him working with clay at the wheel. But the clay pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does, declares the Lord. You are like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

As the potter shaped a vessel of clay, defects appeared, so he started over. He turned an unfit vessel into a useful one.

Likewise, God had the power to reshape the nation of Israel (and each individual) as He saw fit. His skill and divine plan are flawless.

Romans 9:20

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

The apostle Paul was speaking of God’s sovereign and different purposes for each of us. He is not saying some are worth more than others, but simply the Creator has the final say about what He has created.

What it comes down to is we cannot question God’s choices. We can ask Him sincere questions; He will patiently answer us. 

But we cannot question His sovereignty.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

“In a large house there are not only gold and silver implements, but also implements of wood and clay. Some are for honor [noble, good uses] while others are for dishonor [common use]. If anyone cleanses himself from dishonorable things, they will be vessels for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” NASB

Paul is urging Timothy to be the kind of person Jesus could use for the noblest of purposes. Likewise, we should allow the hand of the potter to shape us into whatever brings Him glory.

Potter and clay- hands forming a vessel out of wet, light brown clay
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Lessons from the Potter and the Clay

●When the clay is placed on the center of the platform, the spinning force and the hands of the potter create the perfectly shaped clay jar. If the ball of clay is off-center, however, it will eventually form unevenly and collapse.

Like the clay, we too need to be centered- on Jesus. God’s hands can shape us perfectly when we fully surrender and stay centered in Him.

What throws you off-center? Think of outside influences, poor decisions, and our tendency to stray.

●Interestingly, one method used when first centering the clay is to pull it towards you. Jesus wants us to draw us close; to be centered and shaped perfectly by Him.

Have you ever felt His hands drawing you towards Him?

●He has great plans for you. You may feel like a simple lump of clay, but the Master Potter shapes us into the most beautiful piece of pottery.

He knows your potential, your gifts, and forms you in His image for a specific purpose!

●Take comfort in the fact God never sees us an unusable vessel. He can repair our cracks and chips or use us just as we are. We only need to surrender and trust in the process.

Do you acknowledge God’s sovereignty in your life? Or do you try to mold and shape yourself?

God is the Potter 

●If we believe that God perfectly formed us; each vessel a masterpiece- we need to give Him the distinction of God, our Potter.

We need to give Him total control to pick out the stones and sticks and impurities of our lives. This may be a slow process and a hard lesson, but it makes us more pliable and easily kneaded into shape.

This process may not be pain free, but it is necessary.

●The next step is firing the vessel in a kiln. The extreme heat makes the vessel hard and durable.

If you are feeling the heat of the kiln right now, pray for strength and discernment to stay in line with what He has planned. He formed us, knows us, and loves us best.

When He places His vessels in the fire of difficult times, it hardens and strengthens us, making us useful for His service.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13.

God continues to mold and shape us throughout our lives, sculpting us into who He wants us to become. God is never “finished” with us. He’s always at work in our lives!

Potter and Clay Prayer 

Heavenly Father,

I acknowledge that You are the potter, and I am the clay. Shape and form me, Lord, according to your purposes. Mold me and make me into a vessel that reflects your glory and is useful for your kingdom. Thank you for always drawing me back into your gentle hands. Apart from you, I can do nothing! I want to be in your will to become what you have planned for me. Help me to be responsive to the refinement that comes, knowing it brings strength and resilience. I praise you for your unending love and patience as You make me into the person You planned me to be.

In Jesus’ precious name, 


May you feel the hands of our loving Potter on you today!


All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

2 thoughts on “Parable of the Potter and the Clay”

  1. Liz Hudson-Cooper

    Dear AnnMarie, thank you so much for sharing your devotions on the Potter and the Clay. At our Church coffee morning today, we were sharing some pottery items, history and stories of pottery we each brought, and your devotion was perfect to share with our group. We feel blessed to have found you, and wish you much peace, hope, joy and love, as you continue God’s Ministry. Thank you!

    1. How wonderful! It sounds like an amazing group and I’m so glad I could be a part of it! Thank you so much for reading, and for the kind words of encouragement. They mean more than you know. 🙂 God bless each and every one of you!

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