First published as an editorial in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1960, Vol. 38-1.
"He made it again" (Jeremiah 18:4).
It was a crisis in the history of the clay. The Potter had been
forced to the necessity of reducing it to a shapeless mass. After
long and patient effort, working and painstaking He had been
compelled to take a sad and painful decision. The clay must be
broken and go into a period in which it will seem - only seem - that
the Potter has discarded it. During that time the clay - because it
is not mere inanimate and insentient matter, but self and
God-conscious humanity - will have the occasion for considering its
condition in the light of the past, and coming to see why this
tragedy has overtaken it.
Into this crisis of the Potter's House we have to read both the
history of Israel and the history of many a piece of work which God
undertook, either in the Church or in individual lives. There are
two or three aspects of this crisis.
Firstly, the clay - the material of the vessel - was selected,
chosen. Not because it was better clay than any other. It was
all-of-a-piece with the mass of humanity. There was everything on
the positive side to justify it being left in its abandoned state,
and no merit to command its consideration. It was all that it should
not be and nothing of what it should be to satisfy God's
requirement. Its selection was all of grace.
"Love to the loveless (unlovely) shown".
But in the mystery of grace and the potency of grace it was taken,
separated, and brought onto the wheel of Divine purpose. It was
spoken to, with promise and covenant; with comfort and exhortation;
with instruction and warning; with entreaty and love. Not only in
words, but in works; strange and mystifying, deep and painful,
gracious and kindly. The combining of word and deed constituted the
Potter's aim to produce "a vessel unto honour, meet for the Master's
use, prepared unto every good work".
From time to time a warning shadow crept into the Potter's face, and
it implied that all was not well with the clay. There was something
inconsistent with His object. His sensitive fingers met some foreign
and unyielding substance. He added a little more pressure of pain,
of warning, of instruction, of exhortation; but that propensity,
that adhesion persisted.
At last, after long and thorough endeavour, the Potter had to say 'I
cannot go on, the only hope lies along a course of confusion,
suspense, and breaking down'.
In that state the clay was driven to much heart-searching, in which,
like David after his great mistake in the Philistine cart, the
reasons were sought.
As these reasons were sought in heartbrokenness, the Potter, at
length, began to speak again to the clay.
Some of the things that He said were these.
1. 'The fact that I chose you in sovereign grace, and therein took
the initiative in bringing you into relation with My great purpose,
was never intended to exonerate you from being responsible and
co-operative substance. Rather did it involve you in the obligation
of responsive love and self-abandoning gratitude. My very mercy and
kindness, to say nothing of the immense glory that was to be the
end, was meant to inculcate in you My own nature of grace and
selflessness. But you have viewed it all objectively and acted as
though you had little or nothing to do to "make your calling and
2. 'Then, you have failed to give sufficient heed to another very
vital factor. I have given you much light and truth. My servants
have risen up early and prayed late to obtain for you that truth
that could minister to the "conformity to the image" that I have in
view. Over a long period you have been receiving and receiving until
you can hardly bear to have more. But you have not given heed to the
fact that it is not sufficient to have light and truth without
walking in it, and having it "in the inward parts". You have failed
to remember that the greatest tragedies are those which have had
most light and have not turned it into life and character. You have
the truth in abundance but it is not yourself. There is a gap
between what you know in theory and what you are in being'.
3. 'Further, again, the greatness of My selecting grace, the
patience of My longsuffering mercy, and the lavishness of My giving
of light have only added up to make you spiritually proud,
conceited, and superior. You have become self-centred and
straitened. In all My thought and work regarding you I have had a
vessel in mind, and a vessel not as a mere ornament on a pedestal,
but for use. A great world-vocation has dominated all with Me, but
you have fed your own souls and not enough cherished and valued the
great honour and responsibility of having a ministry to all
the world. These are some things that I cannot go on with, hence the
crisis of frustration, confusion, and suspense'. (It will be
recognised that these were some of the things which constituted
God's controversy with Israel and which led to the crisis of the
exile, when the clay was set aside awhile. They are tendencies at
all times amongst the people of God.)
The Potter waits. Is there recognition, repentance, remorse, and
yielding? If so - "He made it again".
God does not finally abandon an undertaking or purpose. Even His
most drastic dealings in this life
are in hope. He is "the
God of hope".
We open the Bible with the earth in a sad state of chaos, but "He
made it again". We see the human race in terrible desolation through
Adam's sin, but "In Christ there is a new creation". "He made it
Israel in Egypt is in a sad and devastated plight, but "He made it
again". Israel in Babylon is the clay cast off and - for the time -
rejected; but "He made it again". Peter was pealed, scattered and
desolated by his denial of his Master; but "He made it again".
John Mark no doubt had many heart-burning and self-reproaching hours
after deserting from the work; but "He made it again". This is the
history, story, and - thank God - the testimony of much "Broken
Earthenware". "He made it again... as seemed good to the potter".
As we move into this new year 1960, and maybe are all aware of how
we have failed and disappointed earlier hopes and expectations, let
us focus upon - not "it was marred in the hand of the potter", but -
"He made it again, another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to
make it". The end of all God's work is, "It is very good."