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Reflections on Romans 9:19-21 (Mon)

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Click here for the NET Bible rendering of today’s passage.

The potter and the clay. Today’s passage is extremely easy to grasp–I don’t think there’s a better word picture Paul could have used to discuss what our attitude should be about God’s sovereignty in our lives.

It makes me think about the Acts of Worship sketch yesterday in church with the “Whiney Pray-er”. How irreverant and disrespectful and arrogant it is when we complain to God about what he’s made of us or has given us. Whenever we cry, “It’s not fair!” we forget that we are merely a lump and that the real wonder is that He would have made us into anything at all.

I’m curious to know the Greek words for “special use” and “ordinary use” (My ESV uses “honorable” and “dishonorable”). Luckily, the GRK tab is close at hand! Let’s check it out!

After studying the words, it seems to me that the NET Bible unduly minimizes the contrast between the two words more than the Greek does. The first word, tee-may’, speaks about something of value, something pricy, something of great honor. The second word, at-ee-mee’-ah, has more to do with dishonor, shame, reproach. Even looking at the two words, it seems likely that they are intended to be opposites: the second word adds the letter “a” to the first, negating it (such as in words like amoral or atheistic).

Interestingly, this is the only place the NET Bible softens at-ee-mee’-ah to mean “ordinary,” for which I don’t see justification. It feels like the NET Bible is trying to protect God’s reputation by limiting the range of His negative options–making the bottom end merely “ordinary” instead of “dishonorable.”

I contend that if the potter decides to toss the lump back in the clay bucket, or make something we might consider ugly, or grind the pot into powder, the potter fully has that right. If God decided to bring shame or reproach or dishonor on any one of us for His good purposes, He has that complete prerogative.

When I was a kid, I was taught the phrase, “God don’t make junk.” Maybe, maybe not, but I will contend He could if He wanted to. (The existance of junk might highlight His creative beauty elsewhere. If everything was beautiful, no one would know it.)

The bottom line for me today is this: It would be wrong for us to ever assert that we know better than He does what should be done, even when it comes to childhood phrases and translating Greek words!

Perhaps you disagree! I hope some of you do! Either way, it means a lot to me when people share their comments! Click on the word “comments” below, thanks!

4 Comments

  1. I appreciate your comments, and I agree that “special use” does seem to minimize the contrast. The NIV has “noble purposes” vs. “common use.”

    However, it seems to me that God has at least “ordinary use” or “common use” in mind for the “objects of his wrath.” He says to Pharaoh, “I raised you up for this very purpose.”

    However, “special use” does seem weak. I know next to nothing about the Greek, but I know that the objects of his mercy have been created for a noble purpose.

    I’d never used the Net Bible before this weekend, but yesterday I spent some time with it, and I’d like to know more about it. For several years, I’ve used http://www.biblegateway.com. Prior to that I used QuickVerse.

    I’m glad Bob mentioned your blog again yesterday.

    Blessings to you,

    Jeff

  2. The Master Potter knows what He is up to and it is all this very common pot needs to know!

  3. OK – so I was whiny (a bit) today… 🙂 Thanks for your patience (and grace) with me.

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