Our Heavenly Potter

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Sermon Notes

“Our Heavenly Potter”

Isaiah 64:1-9

December 2, 2018


     I was driving home from Virginia last Saturday after Sue, Sarah, and I had spent a few days with Sue’s family for Thanksgiving and traffic on I-95 was packed.  Cars were crawling on the highway at about 20 mph and I’m sure everyone on the road was tired and anxious to get home.  All of a sudden, though, this car came flying by me on my left.  Normally, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that, but I was in the far left hand lane.  This car was driving on the left shoulder of the road right next to the concrete wall that separates the two directions of the highway.  This was wrong.  This was dangerous. That car was not in a proper lane as it was trying to get way ahead of the rest of us who were following the rules of the road.  And immediately I thought, “Where are the police now?”  Justice.  That’s what I wanted.  I wanted that guy to get caught by the police.

     Now that speeding car did not hurt me or anyone else as far as I know, but what bothered me was what could have happened.  That car could have caused an accident and that could have slowed traffic even more, but if the police were around that car could have been stopped and maybe the driver could have learned a valuable lesson to never drive so carelessly again.  Talking about what could have happened doesn’t really change anything except that it gives voice to our feelings.

     Isaiah, in our Old Testament lesson, is someone who was crying out for justice, and he, too, was concerned about what could have happened.  Now he wasn’t looking for the police to show up, instead Isaiah wanted God to show up in a powerful way in order to make His presence known for everyone to see.  Notice how Isaiah begins his prayer in our text saying, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” (Isaiah 64:1).  Apparently Isaiah knows what could happen when people see God.  Instead of turning against God, they are much more likely to follow Him.

     We all know that when a police car is sitting in the median of a road for everyone to see, immediately people become safe drivers.  You go the speed limit and you obey all traffic laws; but take the police car away and you see people speeding on the shoulder of a highway in bumper to bumper traffic.  If the presence of a police car can change a person’s bad choices or actions, then just imagine the effect the presence of God would have on people if He made Himself known for everyone to see in a real, physical way?

     What could happen if God parted the Atlantic Ocean and appeared before thousands of people on the shore of North Carolina?  Do you think everyone there would take notice and repent of their sins right away?  Or imagine if you were in the midst of a group of atheists and while you were talking to them about believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, Jesus suddenly came down from heaven and stood before all of you to offer physical proof of His existence.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  How many of those atheists would suddenly convert?

     In a way Isaiah is facing that kind of situation.  He is surrounded by people who have rejected God.  He has tried to get their attention and now wonders if there is any chance that they will ever turn back to God and believe in Him.  So he prays that God would come down or do something miraculous for everyone to see in order to fix everything that was wrong in the world.  In verse 2 he explains that the presence of God would be like fire saying, “As fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil” God if you would just come down to this earth your presence would cause an instantaneous change.  Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting God to do one of those big miracles we see in the Bible, like parting the sea or coming down in a pillar of fire.  After all, with today’s technology such miracles would easily be seen by the entire world on social media. 

     Isaiah wants this because he saw how the sin of worldly living was destroying the people from the inside out.  Without God’s presence to remind His people that He really is the only true God, the only One who gives life, who is with them always – through their joys and their difficulties – Isaiah feared that the people would begin to slide back to unrighteous living.  They would lean on their own understanding, their own intellect and wisdom to meet their needs.  And that’s exactly what happened in the days of this text.  Things were so bad that Isaiah said, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags…There is no one who calls upon your name, there is no one who rouses himself to take hold of you” Isaiah 64:6-7.  In other words, the people are lost.  They are not going to live in heaven.

     So why doesn’t God do something big?  Why doesn’t He just come down, say a few words, and part the ocean?  When we look at our society today we may wonder the same thing.  Why doesn’t God prove to this world in a physical way that He does exist, and that Jesus is our Savior?  After all, God has done it before.  So why won’t He do it again?

     I think the fact that God has done it before is the reason why He won’t do it again.  God could come down here and do some impressive things to get the world’s attention, but it would be a redundant effort.  What I mean by that is since God already came to this world once as a human being in the person of Jesus and performed many miracles, including rising from the dead, and many people witnessed these miracles, if those things did not convince the world that Jesus was God in the flesh then doing them again is not going to convince everyone either.  God has given us everything we need to have faith in Him and if people will not believe in God through the hearing of His Word in the Bible, which was written by many of these witnesses, then nothing else will get them to come around.  Not even a pillar of fire or parting the ocean.  Oh sure, God would get our attention and many might even convert or repent if He came down and did something impressive, but eventually most would backslide, just like the Israelites did as soon as God left their sight.

     I guess if God felt that by showing up here in this world, physically, was the only way He could save His people, then we would see God on a daily basis.  But our Lord chose another way to lead His people.  He chose His Word and all of us as the way He would reach and lead His people.

     In our text for today we are reminded that we are the clay and God is the potter, and we are the work of God’s hands.  It’s a great thing to be in the hands of the Heavenly Potter, because we need a lot of shaping.  We don’t start off as something beautiful in God’s eyes.  The Bible tells us that from birth sin permeates us so that to God we are like dry clay and you can’t do a whole lot with dry clay.  If you try to shape it, it just crumbles.  So what does a potter use to make dry clay pliable again?  Water.  And so through the water of our Baptism God made us pliable again.  He breathed new life into us so that He could mold us into His likeness.  Everyday God will shape us so that we will be His beautiful witnesses to others, just like a potter working on that clay to shape it into something beautiful.  In fact, if you have ever heard someone say, “I feel like I’m being worked over by God,” it’s true.  We are; in His love our Heavenly Potter trims bits and pieces of unwanted “clay” from us and He shapes us into something beautiful.  Then God puts us through fiery trials so that, just like a piece of clay baked in an oven comes out strong and useful, we come out of our trials as people who are strong and useful.

     As we begin our preparations for the coming of Christmas, like Isaiah, we could easily look at our world and cry out to God that people are falling away from Him as their Christmas preparations focus only on shopping, presents, and parties, instead of praising God for the greatest gift we could ever receive – the gift of His Son.  But God has given us His Word and we are His vessels that carries His Word to our communities, and we know what can happen when someone hears the words of our Lord.  Their focus and their lives can change.  So in this season of preparation may the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you are shaped by God to be His lights to the world.