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Author: Ron Graham

Isaiah Lessons

The Mind of the Lord
—The Potter and the Clay

There are many people who want to tell God how he should think. As the mind of society changes on some issue or other, people think that the word of God should be edited to reflect this shift in human thought. How often do we hear the church being called upon to move with the times and reflect current community thinking? This assumes that God thinks as human beings think, or even that God exists by human thought.

God has been dealing with arrogance in human beings from antiquity. In this lesson we look at two passages in Isaiah and three references to these passages by Paul when he compares the mind of the Lord to the mind of man.

Before we look at these passages, let us note God’s comparison of his mind with ours, when he was assuring us of his compassion toward any unrighteous person who forsakes sin and returns to God. He says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

1 The wisdom of the wise

1Corinthians 1:19, Isaiah 29:14

Paul speaks of how the word or logos of the cross is treated as foolishness by some who are wise in their own estimation. He contrasts the "wisdom of God" with "the world through its wisdom" failing to know God, because it looked upon his message as foolish, and its own foolishness as wise. (1Corinthians 1:18-31).

In this discussion Paul asserts that "the foolishness of God" (as the wisdom of the world regards it) "is wiser than men" (1Corinthians 1:25).He quotes from Isaiah where God says, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and set aside the cleverness of the clever" (1Corinthians 1:19, Isaiah 29:14). He did this, of course, through the preaching of the gospel which is "the power of God" (1Corinthians 1:18).

Man, by his own wisdom, cannot save himself from destruction. Therefore God needs to destroy man’s wisdom in order to save him. The wisest thing we can do is to stop being a know-it-all and to listen carefully to God’s revelation of the truth.

2 The potter and the clay

Romans 9:19-21, Isaiah 29:16

Paul quotes from the same passage in Isaiah when he discusses the basis on which God shows mercy and compassion. Paul uses the analogy in Isaiah of the potter and the clay (Isaiah 29:16, Romans 9:20-21). The potter (God) is greater than the clay (mankind). The potter can do what he wishes with the clay, and the clay must yield to the will of the potter. Imagine a pot saying to the potter who made it, "You did not make me!" or even, "Why did you make me like this?" The wisdom of God compared to the wisdom of man is like the wisdom of a potter compared to the wisdom of a lump of clay.

It is God who has determined who shall be saved and who shall not. He did not do this in consultation with man, and he has given man no opportunity to debate or negotiate. God has determined that man shall be saved by faith in his Son. The mind of man has but one part to play, and that is to hear, believe, repent, and obey in response to the revealed will of God. God’s will is the same for the rich man and the poor, the strong man and the weak, the president and the postman, the Jew and the Gentile, the freeman and the slave. All men must yield to God’s covenant and will. The king and queen must yield as must the manservant and maid. The wise man and scholar must yield as must the ignorant and unlearned. God will show mercy on those who yield, and harden those who follow their own wisdom.

Later in the discussion, Paul issues this warning... "Not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3).

3 The Mind of the Lord

Romans 11:34, Isaiah 40:13

Further on in Romans Paul states that God’s will is to treat all sinners on the same basis. "God has shut up all in disobedience that he might show mercy to all" (Romans 11:32). Then, considering this fact that any and every person can say, "I am included, God wishes to show mercy to me!" Paul exclaims, "O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways!" (Romans 11:33). He then quotes Isaiah’s rhetorical question, "For who has known (measured) the mind of the Lord or who has become his counselor?" (Romans 11:34, Isaiah 40:13)

It is not man’s place to tell God what to think. Rather, it is man’s place to listen intently to what God tells him. Therefore let us humbly hear the word of God, believe what he tells us, and hasten to obey.

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