The Potter and the Clay: God’s Relationship with Man Through His Justice
The Justice of God
The justice of God through His shaping, forming and molding of us can best be explained in the analogy of a father and his child.
A father tells his child, “I expect you to have cleaned your room by the time I come back. I understand that this is difficult for you and so I have provided you a list of instructions. I have also talked with your mother and she has agreed to help you, but she will not do it for you.” The child replies with either, “Yes dad, I will get it done.” or, “Whatever!”
These two scenarios play out.
The first scenario develops with the child cleaning his/her room obediently and with the help of the instructions and his/her mother who has been guiding the child and praising or convicting the child’s obedience and mistakes, and keeping in communication with the father who is genuinely delighted with the progress. The relationship between the mother and child is solidifying among the conflict of the room getting cleaned and the Father who knows the progress and is delighted in the child makes decisions to reward/bless the child.
The second scenario develops with the child non-compliant, neglecting his/her responsibilities, avoiding the father’s instructions and hostile to his/her mother who is convicting him/her about the room and the Father’s desire to see the child succeed. At this point the displeased father makes decisions with the mother to motivate the child to clean the room as well as punishment by taking away the things the child is more occupied with than his/her responsibilities.
When the father returns it will be no surprise to him the actions taken by his child as the mother has been praising (scenario 1) or scolding the child (scenario 2) and in constant communication with the father. At this point the father makes the final call as he comes home. For the child in scenario 1, the final judgment is an outing to ice cream, a rest from all the hard work. For the child in scenario 2, the final judgment is being sent to military school where there will be no rest and tons of discipline.
The Responsibility of Man
In this analogy it is the just relationship between the father and child that is the shaping, forming and molding of the child into a vessel of honorable or dishonorable use. The child in scenario 1 was drawn by the love of a father who had shown tremendous love through providing legal (instructions) and relational (motherly) grace. The child in scenario 2 was hardened after rejecting the instructions and holding in contempt the mother, who had been unsuccessfully drawing the child to conviction and repentance. To this child it was pride blinding him/her from the love of the father and compassion of the mother, both of who genuinely desired the child’s success and demonstrated this through punishment.
In this analogy who is responsible for cleaning the room?
Well, the room represents the challenge that makes possible genuine and steadfast faithfulness (fighting and overcoming the flesh, trials and tribulations). Without the instructions and the help of the mother the child could not clean the room according to the standards of the father’s expectation. The child would’ve been inable to have completed such a task without the Father’s unmerited grace. It was the child afterall that had made such a daunting mess of his/her room and the Father was not required to provide assistance. However, the Father was loving and provided enablement to complete the task rendering the child responsible and without excuse. It was the Spirit (i.e. mother) who carried out the pronouncements of blessing (further drawing) and judgment (further hardening) which did in fact shape the child for honorable use (a cleaned room and following ice cream outing) or dishonorable use (an uncleaned room and following punishment of military school). So in actuality it is both the child’s response and the Father’s justice that brought the end result, however the responsibility to clean the room was left to the child (who had no excuse whether responding obediently or left to his/her own devices). The molding and shaping is therefore a relationship of legal and spiritual justice and judgment. The Father did not create the child to disobey, just deciding in eternity passed that this particular child be without hope of cleaning his/her room. No, the Father’s genuine desire was success for both scenarios and He was not taken by surprise at the results of either scenarios.
The instructions (i.e. Word of God) brought knowledge of God’s ordinances (Rom. 1:28, 32), the purpose for why the Father wanted the room clean (John 3:16-17) and also equipped the child for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Even if the child did not remember where the instructions were put, he still had a connection to the Spirit, who, convicts the world of sin, righteousness and a coming judgment (John 16:8).
All that is left of the discussed analogy is the difference between scenarios 1 & 2. In scenario 1 the child responds in accepting and putting into action the cleaning of the room, utilizing the Word and Spirit who are always in connection to the Father. In scenario 2 the child responds by rejecting the Spirit (cf. Acts 7:51) and ignoring the Word (Rom. 1:32), hardening his/her own heart through the deceitfulness of loving darkness (his/her selfish pride/sin) more than the Light (the love, compassion and grace of the Father). In both scenarios it was the decision and response of the child that made the difference, just as it was Pharaoh’s response of rejecting Israel’s freedom, or king Saul’s rejection of God’s commands. God was only responsible for His relationship to them, one of perfect justice that molded the clay in response to their obedience or faithlessness (cf. Jer. 18:1-10). God is of course perfect and righteous, blameless and just; having given man clear forewarning of His expectations, providing the means (grace) and ends (judgment) and all of this in impartiality, not showing favoritism to any and accepting of only those who respond faithfully to His righteous expectations.