Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Clay Gets a Say

Here's a nifty little passage I read the other day:

12 You will eat it as [you would] a barley cake and bake it over dried human excrement in their sight." 13 The Lord said, "This is how the Israelites will eat their bread-ceremonially unclean-among the nations where I will banish them." 14 But I said, "Ah, Lord God , I have never been defiled. From my youth until now I have not eaten anything that died naturally or was mauled by wild beasts. And impure meat has never entered my mouth." 15 He replied to me, "Look, I will let you [use] cow dung instead of human excrement, and you can make your bread over that."

Ezekiel is in a real rough patch here.  God is having him do a very elaborate dramatization of the destruction of Jerusalem.  And it's rough, read it, Ezekiel 4.

There has been this idea for a while now, well a dozen centuries or something, among a faction of theology which says everything goes on for a reason and God is in control of everything.  

Romans 9:21 says "Or has the potter no right over His clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?"  What is Paul saying here?  Is he saying God makes some people to be saved and the rest to be damned?  And then his anger burns against the damned people for being damned even though that's how he made them?

You might think so if you didn't do some deeper research.  Let's do some deeper research.

Paul was well versed in the Old Testament.  As a Pharisee, he probably had the entire Torah memorized and knew major portions of the prophets and Psalms as well.  He would have known what we now call the Old Testament deeply.

So when he brings up a potter and clay analogy, we have to ask, where might he have gotten that?

If we're reading our Bibles once a year (a very good practice) we probably came across that just recently.

1 [This is] the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 "Go down at once to the potter's house; there I will reveal My words to you." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. 4 But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter's hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do. 5 The word of the Lord came to me: 6 "House of Israel, can I not treat you as this potter [treats his clay]?"-[this is] the Lord's declaration. "Just like clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel. 7 At one moment I might announce concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will uproot, tear down, and destroy [it]. 8 However, if that nation I have made an announcement about, turns from its evil, I will not bring the disaster on it I had planned. 9 At [another] time I announce that I will build and plant a nation or a kingdom. 10 However, if it does what is evil in My sight by not listening to My voice, I will not bring the good I had said I would do to it. 11 So now, say to the men of Judah and to the residents of Jerusalem: This is what the Lord says: I am about to bring harm to you and make plans against you. Turn now, each from your evil way, and correct your ways and your deeds. 12 But they will say: It's hopeless. We will continue to follow our plans, and each of us will continue to act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart." 

There you have it.  It's a different sort of a picture isn't it?  It's not God making some people to be saved and some to be damned, the damned ones are that way because they choose to be.  God even warns Israel to pay attention because he might preach damnation against some nation but then the nation decides to repent and God will repent of his pronouncements as well.  A prime example of this was the city of Nineveh in the book of Jonah.  Jonah was sent to preach the destruction of Nineveh and Jonah was truly a prophet of God, and yet his pronouncement did not come to pass because the people repented

Back to the clay.  We can see here that the clay has a say in how it's made, and we can see it with Ezekiel as well.  The clay didn't want to be a jar so the potter made something else with it.  God gave Ezekiel a command, something to do that was very nasty, would make him unclean, and may have even been sinful and he didn't want to do it.  So God relents of his pronouncement and let's him do something a little less nasty.  Did it make as big a point as it could have?  Probably not.  But so it seems, the clay gets a say.  

No comments: