Parable of the Potter and the Clay

It’s that time of year again- fall clean up for my yard.  Part of my work included the cleaning out of my clay flower pots. While I washed them, it reminded me of the Parable of  the “Potter and the Clay.”

close up photo of hands covered with brown clay working on a pot

Biblical Pottery

The picture that forms in my mind of a potter is someone sitting on a stool with a wet blob of clay spinning on a wheel. I researched pottery making in Biblical times to see how different it may have been. I wondered if it would give us any new insights about God our Potter.

Clay was common in the ancient Near East, and many excavations have unearthed locations where pottery making took place. The clay was dug up and brought to the potter. It was prepared by first removing the stones, sticks, etc.

Water was added to soften it for kneading. They used pottery wheels, and as now, placed the lump of clay on the platform and as it turned, the potter guided the clay into the shape of a vessel. They even used pottery kilns to bake the vessels dry.

In The Potter’s Hand

When the clay is placed on the center of the platform, the spinning force and the hands of the potter create the perfectly shaped vessel.  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.  He can shape us perfectly when we give him full control and stay centered on him.

Interestingly, one method used when first centering the clay is to pull it towards you.

Have you ever felt His hands drawing you towards Him? He wants us to be close to Himself, fully centered and being shaped by Him.

Formed By God

The first Bible verse on this topic that came to mind was when God created us: “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.” Genesis 2:7

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 formed us into the vessel he imagined and created. His work as a potter began at creation and continues today!

The second verse was “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” Isaiah 64:8.

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 they were his vessels.

It comforts me to realize God never sees us as an unusable vessel.

He can repair our cracks and chips, or use us as we are.   Our part is to surrender and trust in the process.

close up of man's hands scooping up dry soil with straw and twigs in it
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God Molds Us in His Image

But do we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in our lives? Or do we try to mold and fix ourselves? If we believe that God perfectly formed us; each vessel a masterpiece- we need to let him be the Potter. We need to let Him mold us and shape us into who he has planned us to be.

We need to allow him to pick out the stones and sticks and impurities in our lives. Just as the clay needs to be picked over and has water added for pliability, we need to have our impurities removed, made pliable, and kneaded.

Resisting these actions of the potter would make for an unusable vessel. The process may not be pain-free but it is necessary.

Firing the Clay

If you are especially feeling the heat of the kiln right now, pray for strength and the discernment to stay in line with what He has planned.  He formed us, knows us, and loves us best. He’s already seen our life from beginning to the end.

When He places his vessels in the fire of the kiln to harden us and strengthen us, be content to lean on Him.

God had strong words for anyone who tries to think he knows what is best for himself: “Sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker?” Or dispute with the one who shapes it, saying ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ Isaiah 45:9 NLT

Well, if you put it that way, then no, of course not! I would never tell Him that. But I can think of times I’ve gone my own way, labored in vain, took the wide road, tried to be self-sufficient, and argued with God.  So maybe I do…..

Thank you, God, for lovingly let me make mistakes to learn from and drawing me back to you!!  Help me be patient enough to completely trust and surrender to You.  Jesus, you tell us that apart from you, we can do nothing.  We need to be in your hands to become what you meant us to be.

Shape and mold me Lord!!

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


13 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!

  2. But the pot was marred in the potter’s hands. He lovingly, with skill and intent kneaded and reformed the lump of clay. Then the potter rethrew the clay onto the wheel, centered it and began to reshape it as he thought best. This is our wise and forgiving God in action.

      1. Thank you so very much for all your encourag ing comments. If there is any glory or beauty in these words, it is all God’s work in my heart. Jars of clay.
        May God bless your ministry.


    1. Thank you, I’m so glad His words touched you. I love the visual of being held in His hands; safe, loved and secure.

  3. cynthia janis mccarthy

    So good. I love the part of how the pot needs to be centered so that it doesn’t fall apart, and how you related that to our being centered on Jesus.

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