Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Clay Nations (Part Two)

This is a continuation from God's Hands On (Part One), in Which God warned Cyrus he was being used of God, but because the Lord God chose to, not due to the righteousness of Cyrus. (Isaiah 45:1-8)

Part 2: In Which God instructs Israel that it is God who raises up Cyrus to rule them, so that he may rebuild God’s Temple, and in Which God warns of the folly of Man’s Hubris (Isaiah 45:9-16)
9 “ Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?
10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’
Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’”
11 Thus says the LORD,
The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:

“ Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;
And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.
12 I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I—My hands—stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.
13 I have raised him up in righteousness,
And I will direct all his ways;
He shall build My city
And let My exiles go free,
Not for price nor reward,”
Says the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 45:9-13)
An ancient in the time of Isaiah would have understood the image of the clay somewhat differently than we do today. An ancient Hebrew in Isaiah’s day would have understood the clay to be the source from which God created Man. Clay was made from the dust of the earth, and scripture frequently uses clay and dust in similar descriptions. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible states:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
In Job, the text describes the houses of Israel, made of clay, “whose foundations are in the dust,” referring to the very fleeting time they exist, their temporal impermanence compared to the Eternal God and His creations. “They perish forever, with no one regarding.” (Job 4:19, 20) Such are the works of man, his works are like himself, destined to pass into obscurity without the intervention of God. Men of clay, in creations of clay, all to return to dust. Job laments to God, later in the account:
Remember, I pray, that you have made me like clay. And will you turn me into dust again? (Job 10:9)
To speak of clay in scriptures, we speak of the works of God as He fashions His will upon the physical world. Isaiah, in fervent prayer to God His creator:
But now, Oh Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.
Today, we think of the modern image of an artist with a hunk of modeler’s clay, molding shapes, or of a potter with a potter’s wheel, spinning and spinning with water and constant caress shaping the object gradually. There are times that God creates this way, too.

But here, in this passage of Isaiah, man is described as potter’s clay to remind man of his very temporary existence on earth. He has fashioned all principalities, the hosts (armies) they command. He guides the movements, commands, and utterances of the kings of this ancient world, and in Cyrus’s day, causes Cyrus to rebuild the city of the Temple, Jerusalem, and free the hostages of the Children of Israel.

The Lord God also spoke through His prophet Jeremiah, in speaking of Israel as the clay in the potter’s hands:
6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. (Jeremiah 18:6-10)
In the days of the Prophets, God influenced the rise and fall of nations on the earth, their leaders and forms of government. He directed their steps, he rewarded the faithful and obedient and punished the evil. He led the Children of Israel as a powerful witness, not only to their generations to come, but the generations of the Gentiles to come.
The LORD, the Only Savior

14 Thus says the LORD:

“ The labor of Egypt and merchandise of Cush
And of the Sabeans, men of stature,
Shall come over to you, and they shall be yours;
They shall walk behind you,
They shall come over in chains;
And they shall bow down to you.
They will make supplication to you, saying, ‘Surely God is in you,
And there is no other;
There is no other God.’”
15 Truly You are God, who hide Yourself,
O God of Israel, the Savior!
16 They shall be ashamed
And also disgraced, all of them;
They shall go in confusion together,
Who are makers of idols. (Isaiah 45:14-16)
God reveals Himself to the Prophet, and the Prophet explains to the people, and the people stand as witness to the wonderful Mercy and Grace of God, to spare and restore this stiff necked people.

Coming in God's Promises (Part Three): In Which God brings a warning and a promise to His people, that In the Lord Alone Are Righteousness and Strength.

God's Hands On (Part One)


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