In my daily Bible reading I came across this rather difficult verse – difficult because it seems harsh. It is preceded by the hypothetical question posed by Paul in Romans 9:19-20 [as a possible rebuttal to his line of reasoning regarding God choosing some to be His and others who won’t listen in the previous verses],
Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not listening? Haven’t they simply done what he made them to do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” (NLT)
Paul is making the argument in this verse (and as one of the themes of this letter) that although the Jews are God’s chosen people and that has not changed – that doesn’t mean that they will be the only recipients of His promise and His mercy. In verse 16, Paul had said,
So receiving God’s promise is not up to us. We can’t get it by choosing it or working hard for it. God will sho mercy to anyone he chooses. (NLT)
But then in verse 21, Paul comes out with this whopper of an analogy,
When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? (NLT)
With a first read this seems to be a description of a rather callous God and relegates people who already feel sensitive about their disabilities, weaknesses, and shortcomings to the “rejects” of His creative power – or even worse – they were deliberately created as “garbage bins”. Certainly if one was to stop reading there that could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
However, Paul doesn’t stop there and reading further gives further understanding to why He would use such a strong analogy. In verses 22-23, Paul emphasises that although God has every right to excercise His judgment and power as the potter does with clay, God also has every right to be patient with those who are the objects of His judgment and are fit only for destruction. Paul goes one step further in His explanation and states that God also has the right to pour out the riches of His glory on those he prepared (read chose) to be the objects of his mercy.
Then Paul continues on with His argument with how God has opened the door for Gentiles (non-Jewish people) to become His children because of their faith. Faith is God’s way of chosing who receive His mercy.
How wonderful it is that although God is sovereign and all-powerful and could be like the potter Paul describes. He’s not. In fact – even though the Jewish people are a called out and special people – and will always be – any who have faith in Him (through Christ) may partake of the same blessings as His chosen people!
Of course, there’s much more that can be said but I’m going to leave this post the way it is for now.