• Elpidio Pezzella

The Hands of the Father

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter;And all we are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NKJV) Isaiah pauses to demarcate some aspects concerning the people of Israel, who have returned from two exiles, and who were in a condition of profound desolation and in need of divine intervention. The prophet is sadly aware that no one calls on His name, and for this reason he himself is praying. When you are at the mercy of iniquity you can no longer perceive the voice of God, but from the bottom of our rubble a feeble voice rises to God: "Come down, do not remember our iniquities!" (v. 9). After begging, the prophet says: "But now, Lord, you are our father ..." presenting God as a Father and all of us as children. In this Isaiah becomes the precursor of Christ, making God's help spring not from works done but from the love he has as a father towards his children, like the loving father of the parable of Luke. That simple adverb "nevertheless" (in the italian Bible version) encompasses the revelation already given to the prophets that it is God, as Father, who comes closer and not vice versa. We are the clay and He is the potter, despite the fragility of our being, we are earth in His hands. He is the one who can shape our life by perfecting it, improving it with new possibilities. The prophet Jeremiah (18:1-6) tells of having witnessed the work of modeling the potter, observing how the clay breaks in his hands and how they do not throw it away, but put it back on the wheel and start a new vase again. That vision opens Jeremiah's heart to the vision of the Eternal who, just as the potter does with that work, does with his children. While the cry of Isaiah was a call for an intervention by God, who seemed distant and who had abandoned His people; in Jeremiah the same message comes from the other side. It is God who claims to be a potter and we clay in His hands, aware that the work we do to do does not always come to fruition quickly and without breaks and cracks. Even if there were cracks, the Lord does not throw away the clay, also because often the cracks are other and not He who caused them. However, he patiently and lovingly wets the dough with the Spirit, softening it, then putting it back on the wheel to create a new work, a new vase. Then, in this vessel, He places His Spirit and His word. In His action the Lord applies some "variables": if there is repentance he could leave that broken vase and in others make a new work, a new vase. Other times, then, despite having decided to plant and build, it could stop the work. Before His action it is spontaneous to ask questions, but as God has the last word, while we remain clay in His hands. We are called to have the same awareness of Isaiah, when he affirmed that the One who has His hands on us is our Father and is great in kindness and mercy. We are asked to mature in the faith that relates us to God, so that in situations of desolation we may be able to take on the responsibilities deriving from our actions, which are such because they are the result of our sin. If we can no longer see or hear Him, it is not because he has moved away from us, he could and never would, He is the Father! Whether God decides to demolish, tear down or destroy or plant and build, all actions have His hand in common. If the Father's hands are on clay even in the activity of destruction or killing, we can be sure that no one will get lost! Our only task will be to say: "Lord, I am like clay in your hands, model me because you know what is good for my life".

An audio message in italian on the subject is found here

Devotional 8/2020 Weekly Bible reading plan February 17, Leviticus 21-22; Matthew 28 February 18, Leviticus 23-24; Mark 1:1-22 February 19, Leviticus 25; Mark 1:23-45 February 20, Leviticus 26-27; Mark 2 February 21, Numbers 1-2; Mark 3:1-19 February 22, Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:20-35 February 23, Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

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