“O Jehovah, . . . you are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.”—ISA. 64:8.
1. Why is Jehovah the greatest Potter?
IN November 2010, a bid of nearly 70 million dollars was made in London, England, for an 18th-century Chinese ceramic vase. Clearly, a potter can turn something as abundant and inexpensive as clay into a beautiful and costly masterpiece. Yet, no human potter can begin to compare with Jehovah. Late in the sixth creative day, God fashioned “out of dust [clay] from the ground” a perfect man and gave him the capacity to reflect his Maker’s qualities. (Gen. 2:7) That perfect man, Adam, who was made from the earth was rightly called a “son of God.”—Luke 3:38.
2, 3. How can we imitate the attitude of repentant Israelites?
2 Adam, however, lost his sonship when he rebelled against his Maker. Nonetheless, throughout the generations “a great cloud” of Adam’s descendants have chosen to uphold God’s sovereignty. (Heb. 12:1) By humbly submitting to their Creator, they have demonstrated that they wanted him, not Satan, to be their Father and Potter. (John 8:44) Their loyalty to God calls to mind Isaiah’s words concerning repentant Israelites: “O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.”—Isa. 64:8.
3 Today, all who worship Jehovah in spirit and truth endeavor to reflect the same humble, submissive attitude. They consider it an honor to address Jehovah as Father and to submit to him as their Potter. Do you see yourself as soft clay in God’s hands, willing to be molded into a vessel that is desirable in his eyes? Do you similarly see each of your spiritual brothers and sisters as a work in progress, being molded by God? To help us in that regard, let us consider three aspects of Jehovah’s work as our Potter: How he chooses those whom he molds, why he molds them, and how he does so.
JEHOVAH CHOOSES THOSE WHOM HE MOLDS
4. How does Jehovah choose those whom he draws to himself? Give examples.
4 When Jehovah observes humans, he does not pay attention to outward appearances. Rather, he examines the heart, the inner person. (Read 1 Samuel 16:7b.) This fact was amply demonstrated when God formed the Christian congregation. He drew to himself and his Son many individuals who from a human standpoint might have seemed to be undesirable. (John 6:44) One such person was a Pharisee named Saul—“a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” (1 Tim. 1:13) “The examiner of hearts,” however, did not see Saul as useless clay. (Prov. 17:3) Instead, God saw that he could be molded into a desirable vessel—in fact, “a chosen vessel” to bear witness “to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) Others whom God saw as potential vessels “for an honorable use” included former drunkards, immoral people, and thieves. (Rom. 9:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) As they gained accurate knowledge of God’s Word and expressed faith, they allowed Jehovah to mold them.
5, 6. How should our trust in Jehovah as our Potter affect our attitude toward (a) the people in our territory? (b) our brothers and sisters?
5 How can the foregoing help us? Our faith in Jehovah’s ability to read hearts and to draw to himself those whom he chooses should prevent us from judging others, both in our territory and in our congregation. Consider the example of a man named Michael. “When Jehovah’s Witnesses called on me,” he recalls, “I would just turn away and ignore them as if they did not exist. I was really rude! Later, in a different setting, I met a family whom I admired because of their good conduct. Then one day I received a shock—they were Jehovah’s Witnesses! Their behavior moved me to examine the basis for my prejudice. I soon came to the realization that my attitude was based on ignorance and hearsay, not on facts.” To get the facts, Michael accepted a Bible study. Later, he came into the truth and entered the full-time service.
6 Our accepting Jehovah as our Potter can affect our attitude toward fellow believers too. Do you see your brothers and sisters as God does—not as a finished product, but as a work in progress? He can see the inner person as well as the kind of person one can become in his capable hands. Hence, Jehovah takes a positive view of people and does not focus on temporary imperfections. (Ps. 130:3) We can imitate him by seeing his servants in a positive light. In fact, we can work along with our Potter by supporting our brothers and sisters as they strive to make spiritual advancement. (1 Thess. 5:14, 15) As “gifts in men,” the elders ought to take the lead in this regard.—Eph. 4:8, 11-13.
WHY DOES JEHOVAH MOLD US?
7. Why do you appreciate Jehovah’s discipline?
7 You may have heard someone say something like this: ‘I never fully appreciated the discipline that I received from my parents until I had children of my own.’ When we gain more experience in life, we may see discipline in a new light and start to view it as Jehovah does, as a manifestation of love. (Read Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11.) Yes, out of love for his children, Jehovah patiently molds us. He wants us to be wise and happy and to love him in return. (Prov. 23:15) He takes no pleasure in our suffering; nor does he want us to die as “children of wrath,” which is the prospect inherited from Adam.—Eph. 2:2, 3.
8, 9. How is Jehovah teaching us today, and how will this education continue in the future?
8 As “children of wrath,” we once displayed many qualities that displease God, perhaps even some beastlike traits! Yet, thanks to Jehovah’s molding, we changed; we became more like lambs. (Isa. 11:6-8; Col. 3:9, 10) Therefore, the environment in which Jehovah is now molding us is viewed as a spiritual paradise that is presently taking shape. We feel safe and secure despite the wicked world around us. Moreover, in this setting, those of us who grew up in loveless, dysfunctional families finally experience real love. (John 13:35) And we have learned to show love to others. Above all, we have come to know Jehovah and now experience his fatherly love.—Jas. 4:8.
9 In the new world, we will experience to the full the blessings of the spiritual paradise. Then, our spiritual paradise will have its perfect counterpart—a literal paradise under the rulership of God’s Kingdom. During that time of global restoration, Jehovah will continue to mold earth’s inhabitants, educating them to a degree that we might now find hard to imagine. (Isa. 11:9) Furthermore, God will make our minds and bodies perfect, so that we will be able to absorb his teaching and do his will flawlessly. So let us be determined to continue submitting to Jehovah, showing him that we view his molding as an expression of his love for us.—Prov. 3:11, 12.
HOW JEHOVAH MOLDS US
10. How did Jesus reflect the Great Potter’s patience and skill?
10 Like a highly skilled potter, Jehovah knows the type and quality of “the clay” that is before him, and he molds it accordingly. (Read Psalm 103:10-14.) Indeed, he deals with us as individuals, taking into account our particular weaknesses, limitations, and level of spiritual growth. His attitude toward imperfect servants was demonstrated by his Son. Consider how Jesus dealt with his apostles’ shortcomings, especially their inclination to argue among themselves over position. If you had witnessed the apostles’ heated disputes, would you have viewed these men as meek and malleable? Yet, Jesus did not adopt a negative view. He knew that his faithful apostles could be molded by kind, patient counsel and by their observing his example of humility. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:37, 41-45; Luke 22:24-27) After Jesus was resurrected and the holy spirit was poured out, the apostles focused, not on position or prominence, but on the work he had given them to do.—Acts 5:42.
11. In what ways did David prove to be like soft clay, and how can we imitate him?
11 Jehovah molds his servants today primarily by means of his Word, his holy spirit, and the Christian congregation. God’s Word can mold us as we read it purposefully, meditate on it, and ask Jehovah to help us apply it. “I remember you while upon my bed,” wrote David. “I meditate on you during the watches of the night.” (Ps. 63:6) He also wrote: “I will praise Jehovah, who has given me advice. Even during the night, my innermost thoughts correct me.” (Ps. 16:7) Yes, David allowed divine counsel to settle into the deepest parts of his being, to mold his innermost thoughts and feelings, even when the counsel was strong. (2 Sam. 12:1-13) What a fine example of humility and submissiveness David set for us! Do you too meditate on God’s Word, allowing it to settle into your innermost parts? Should you do so even more?—Ps. 1:2, 3.
12, 13. How does Jehovah mold us by means of holy spirit and the Christian congregation?
12 Holy spirit is able to mold us in a number of ways. For instance, it can help us to develop a Christlike personality, which is characterized by the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) An aspect of that fruitage is love. We love God and want to obey him and be molded by him, recognizing that his commandments are not burdensome. Holy spirit can also give us the strength to resist the molding influence of the world and its bad spirit. (Eph. 2:2) The apostle Paul, who as a young man was deeply influenced by the proud spirit of Jewish religious leaders, could later write: “For all things I have the strength through the one who gives me power.” (Phil. 4:13) So let us, like Paul, keep on asking for holy spirit. Jehovah will not ignore the sincere petitions of the meek.—Ps. 10:17.
13 Jehovah uses the Christian congregation and its overseers to mold us on a personal level. For example, if the elders discern that we are having spiritual problems, they try to help us—but not on the basis of human wisdom. (Gal. 6:1) Rather, they humbly look to God, asking for insight and wisdom. With our situation in mind, they act on their prayers by doing research in God’s Word and in our Christian publications. This can equip them to render help tailored to our needs. If they come to you to offer kind, loving help, such as about your style of dress, will you accept their counsel as an expression of God’s love for you? In doing so, you prove to be like soft clay in Jehovah’s hands, ready to be molded to your benefit.
14. Though having authority over the clay, how does Jehovah show respect for our free will?
14 Understanding how God may be molding us can help us in our relationships with fellow believers and in our attitude toward people in our territory, including our Bible students. In Bible times, a potter did not dig up some clay and immediately begin to shape it. He first prepared the clay, in part by removing stones and other undesirable matter. In a spiritual sense, God helps to prepare willing individuals so that he can mold them. He does not force them to make changes, but he reveals his righteous standards so that they can clean up their lives or make adjustments voluntarily.
15, 16. How do Bible students show that they want Jehovah to mold them? Illustrate.
15 Consider the example of Tessie, a sister in Australia. “Tessie took in knowledge of Bible truth with relative ease,” said the sister who studied with her. “However, she made no significant spiritual progress—not even attending Christian meetings! So after giving the matter much prayerful thought, I decided to stop the study. Then an amazing thing happened. At what I thought would be our last Bible study, Tessie opened her heart to me. She said that she felt like a hypocrite because she enjoyed gambling. But now she had decided to give up this habit.”
16 Shortly thereafter, Tessie started attending Christian meetings and displaying a Christian personality—even in the face of ridicule from her associates. The sister added: “In time, Tessie was baptized and later served as a regular pioneer, even while she still had young children.” Yes, when Bible students begin to clean up their lives to please God, he will draw close to them and mold them into truly desirable vessels.
17. (a) What appeals to you about having Jehovah as your Potter? (b) What aspects of molding will we next consider?
17 To this day, some pottery is still made by hand, the potter working very closely with his material. Likewise, our Potter works closely and patiently with us, molding us with his advice and observing our response. (Read Psalm 32:8.) Do you sense Jehovah’s personal interest in you? Do you see yourself being molded in his caring hands? If so, what additional qualities will help you to remain like soft and malleable clay before Jehovah? What traits should you avoid so that you are not hard or inflexible? And how can parents cooperate with Jehovah in molding their children? The following article will address these matters.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION