Remind yourself today that God is in control of his world – and of your life. What a relief!
19 One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:
‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people;
and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one,’
‘In the very place where it was said to them,
“You are not my people,”
there they will be called “children of the living God.”’
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.’
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:
‘Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.’
Are you ready for the next question? ‘If God has a plan and is in control, how can I be blamed for the decisions I make?’ Well, it all depends on how you ask the question. If belligerently – ‘I’m just a puppet on a string’ – then we are simply left with how we feel. But asked with a genuine concern to understand what God is doing, the question immediately opens new horizons.
What we discover is that God has every right to take control. He is God! He is sovereign – the next piece in the jigsaw. But, like a potter, the control is gentle and purposeful, as in his hands the lump of clay is shaped into an object of beauty and usefulness (v 21). The divine potter is patient and full of compassion. He exercises patience when we rebel (v 22) and he is motivated by a deep longing that we should belong to him. Doesn’t that take your breath away? Ponder verses 25 and 26.
A puppet, a jigsaw, a potter. The multiple images are held together by the golden thread (another image!) of God’s sheer delight in drawing people to himself, even when – especially when – they feel they have no right to belong.
We don’t like the feeling of not being in control. But today, ask God to help you to trust his control, and relax in his care.
Deeper Bible study
‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!’1
On Saturday we saw how Paul answered two important questions arising from the failure of the Jews to accept Christ. First, had God’s word failed (vs 6–13)? Then, is God unjust (v 14–18)? Today he deals with a third (v 19), why does God still blame us? Paul’s answer is in three parts.
First, just as a pot cannot argue with the potter about how it has been made, so we cannot argue with God about his choices (v 20). Paul is not saying that we cannot ask questions of God, rather that we are not to ‘argue’ (NRSV). What we can do is to rely on God to act consistently with his character. ‘With such a God to trust, why should any of his people question his ways?’2 Second, God is consistent in not hiding certain aspects of his character. He reveals both his wrath and his mercy (vs 22,23). Yet even in exercising wrath he shows patience.3 His main object is to ‘make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy’ (v 23). Finally, Paul argues that Scripture had foretold these things. God has called a new people, made up of Gentiles (vs 25,26) and a Jewish remnant (vs 27–29). So the failure of the Jews to embrace Christ at that time was sad but not unexpected.
There is a paradox running right through this section. On the one hand, God is sovereign – ‘who is able to resist his will?’ (v 19). On the other hand, we humans are responsible for our own behaviour. Paul gives no clear resolution of the paradox: he simply asserts both truths. As Moo writes, ‘This is a point at which, with Paul (cf 11:33–36), we should be prepared to recognise a mystery beyond our comprehension.’4
Do you have difficult questions about what God is doing just now? Ask him to help you trust in his kindness and mercy.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 1 Samuel 25,26; Psalm 49
Pray for Scripture Union
Please pray for Gemma Willis in her Head of Development Hub role. Ask God to give her clarity and wisdom as she decides which content opportunities to pursue and which ones to leave behind.