This verse is a very vivid reminder of God’s sovereignty over man. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to him who quarrels (or complains) with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among potsherds on the ground. (Isaiah 45:9) Well, that kinda puts us in our place doesn’t it?! God is the potter and we are the clay…it’s as simple as that, but we humans don’t take kindly to being told what to do by anyone in authority, let alone God. Our rebellious spirit bristles at God’s perceived supreme power over us. But in Romans 9:20, Paul asks in amazement, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, Why did You make me like this?” We are like clay in the hand of the Master potter…and He will fashion us as He sees fit…His Will and Way always prevailing.
Many times throughout the Old Testament the Lord would ask this question of the prophets. Besides Jeremiah, the Lord asked Amos and Zechariah the same question…”What do you see?” Now in front of them were easily recognizable objects such as a almond branch, a boiling pot, a plumb line, or a basket of ripe fruit. But it wasn’t until the Lord explained the meaning and symbolism and pulled back the veil to reveal the true interpretation of the object, that the men were enlightened to the astonishing disclosure. Even today the Lord may show you something and ask, “What do you see?” That’s when you start with the simple answer and ask Him to show you the deeper meaning… or His perspective and vision.
2020 has started out to be a year of tremendous difficulties, afflictions, and grief. And in many ways we all have been affected. But the next time you’re tempted to go on Social Media and whine…ask yourself this question. Am I attention-seeking, and eliciting participants in my personal pity-party…or am I like Paul who made his friends aware of the hardships he was enduring in order to show them where his trust rested? For in the next verse, Paul points out that this happened that, “we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” Enduring pain, bearing up under persecution, and experiencing grief are all part of the human experience…no one is immune. But it’s how we react to it that makes the real difference. It’s called suffering well. Of placing our reliance on God rather than man…and of pointing to Him as the one we depend on…so that all the glory goes to Him, not us.
If you have the chance today to read Psalm 104 you’ll see the same type of attempt to put into words the height, breadth, and magnitude of God’s power. The writer of Psalm 104 uses the imagery of God wrapping Himself in light as with a garment and stretching out the heavens like a tent…also making the clouds His chariot and riding on the wings of the wind. Both Scriptures try to put into words what can’t be explained by words…for we don’t have the means to illustrate exactly who God is and His infinite power, wisdom, and might. So all we can do is praise Him! Or as Psalm 104 says, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to My God as long as I live.”
Here Jesus was instructing His disciples on the signs of the End of the Age…telling them to look up! But why? When we’re preoccupied with our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions…we’re looking down or inward. But it’s not until we lift up our head from that fetal position that we can clearly see God. For it tells us in Psalm 121:1, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.” Also in Psalm 123:1 this idea is repeated, “I lift up my eyes to You, to You whose throne is in heaven.” That’s because sadly, when we’re fixated on ourselves, we totally miss out on what God is doing around us.
God message was declared over and over again in the Old Testament, “Come back to Me.” But turning away from God was something mankind has always been really good at. Time and time again God patiently and with pity continued to call His people back, but there would come a time when His wrath would be aroused against His people without remedy…and His active wrath would be poured out on His people. We see God’s active wrath in the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the many invading enemy armies. But what about today? God’s anger concerning sin hasn’t changed…His message hasn’t changed either…He still wants us to come back to Him. But instead of active wrath we see God’s passive wrath…His allowing and permitting of things to happen to mankind…all in the hopes of us returning to Him.
This verse in a very straightforward manner shows the frailty of man. For at any point in time, we are but one breath away from dying…so how can we be trusted? Our lives are like fleeting shadows, (Psalm 144:4) or like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14) Bottom line is, we can’t put our trust in man…for our life here on earth is but a momentary passing. No, our trust must be in the eternal God, Who created man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into him. (Genesis 2:7)
Two Scriptures that go along with this one are Romans 15:5, “May the God Who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” and Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” We are to actively endeavor to live at peace with one another…living in harmony as one collective body called the Church, of which Jesus Christ is the head. But unity and peace can be difficult to obtain, so what can we do? First, understand that the only person you can change is you. That’s why Hebrews 12:14 tells us that we should make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Or as the old song goes, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”
It tells us that the face of Moses was so brilliant that the people couldn’t gaze intently at him…for after speaking to God, glory covered his face. (II Corinthians 3:7-13) This happened to Jesus also on the Mount of Transfiguration when His face shone like the sun. (Matthew 17:2) There’s something about being in the presence of God that changes us, for it says in Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to Him are radiant.” Isaiah also spoke of this when he wrote, “Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) Spending time with God in His word will change your countenance from the inside out. Harsh rigid lines will soften, and smiles will replace scowls as God’s glory radiates from within.
In this time of the COVID 19 pandemic, I don’t know about you, but it’s been very difficult to “fix my thoughts on Jesus.” With all the over the top media coverage, and expert opinions changing everyday…it’s hard not to fixate on the fear and uncertainty of the situation. Couple that with the limits that’s been placed on meeting as a body of Believers, and I wonder if this dry spell spiritually is God’s wake up call? We are told here to fulfill our calling…a calling of holiness and sanctification according to His purpose in our lives. We are to fight the good fight of faith, (I Timothy 6:12) striving always for God’s perspective, not ours. When we fix our thoughts on Jesus rather than the world…our soul is brought into balance, priories become clear, and God’s lofty plan and purpose is revealed. But if we continue to sit in the corner looking at our belly-buttons…totally self-absorbed in our fears…we won’t be able to see or participate in God’s work. This is called being a nominal or lukewarm Christian…and God has no use for those type of people. This is the time to fix our thoughts on Jesus, not veering to the left or right, but looking fully into His face with trust and hope. For in the next months, the Church as we know it will have to adapt and change, and we’ll have to change with it. But God will be raising up people to accept this challenge…people with a eternal vision. To quote A.W. Tozer, “They serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary.” The time of lukewarm Christianity is coming to an end.