“We are the clay, you are the potter.” (Isaiah 64:8)

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This is my 21st sermon on Isaiah, a book from the Old Testament. In my last sermon, I spoke on Isaiah 63:7, “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised.” In the same chapter, verse 6 says, “I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.” These severe words are a prophecy of God’s future judgment upon the whole world. This will happen in the end times. Our Lord Jesus also spoke of this—the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple and the end of the world—in addition to his return and reign (see Matthew 24:1-31). For believers, the return of Jesus is a joyful promise. A day will come for God to judge those who made themselves enemies of his people. The prophet Isaiah goes on to praise God in verse 7, beginning with, “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised.” Those who believe that Jesus’ death on the Cross redeems them shall be saved. A day will come when we will praise God from the bottom of our hearts for his grace.
From Isaiah 63:15 onwards, until the end of chapter 64, Isaiah makes prayers of repentance, supplication, and intercession. He says, in 63:15, “Where are your zeal and your might?” Isaiah prays for God to show his love for Israel again. Next, in verse 16, he prays, “But you are our Father . . . our Redeemer from of old is your name.” And in verse 17, “Return for the sake of your servants.” This prayer continues in chapter 64. Then, in chapter 65, God makes his reply. Today, let us continue to prayerfully read the book of Isaiah, focusing on chapter 64.
Isaiah 64:1-2 says, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!” Here Isaiah prays that God would come down and overthrow his enemies, causing the fear of the Lord to cover the whole earth. Verse 3 says, “For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.” When we read this as a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, we can read it as how God will overthrow not only his human enemies but Satan himself. Verse 4 says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” God himself will appear to defeat evil and save his people. Indeed, a time will come for God to overthrow his enemies and put an end to evil. Next, the first half of verse 5 says, “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.” The judgment of the world is also a time when God will receive his people. He will receive those who trust in him and live rightly.

The rest of verse 5 until verse 7 confesses that Israel’s people have sinned. Verse 5: “But when we continued to sin against [your ways], you were angry. How then can we be saved?” Verse 6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Israel fell short because they tried to be righteous simply by observing the Law of Moses. The people of Israel were supposed to be a people of God, but they failed to truly live as a holy nation. That is why Isaiah described his people as unclean, as having a righteousness that is dirty as rags. We learn from Israel and the Old Testament that the Law is limited in its ability to make a person righteous.
Verse 7 goes on to say, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you.” The people of Israel had stopped putting their confidence in God. The second half of verse 7 says, “for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.” And so God hides his face from those who had forgotten to trust him. Israel was weakened. And Isaiah was confronted with the reality that Israel would be “given over” to be destroyed by the kingdom of Babylon.
However, the prayer takes a turn from verse 8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The reality is that God is our Creator. And he has the power to remake us. Isaiah turned his attention to God’s power to create and remake. He prays in verse 9, “Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.” God can transform us; God can forgive our sins. And God keeps his promises faithfully. We are God’s people, Isaiah prays. So look upon your people.
Beholding Jerusalem, which had become a wasteland and ruin (verses 10, 11), Isaiah prays in verse 12, “After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?” Now, how will God respond to this prayer of Isaiah? We will see this in chapter 65. This will be covered in next week’s sermon. For today, let us turn our attention again to God who is able to make things new, to forgive our sins, and to help us live a new life. We are the clay. You are the potter. We humbly pray that you will renew our lives.

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