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When I was a boy, growing up in India, I often went to a potter¬ís house near my high school. I was fascinated watching him make clay vessels. During those visits, I never saw the potter take a hardened lump of clay and put it on his wheel to make something out of it. He, like every other potter in the world, used only soft and tender clay to work with. So does God!
The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God is like a potter and His people are the clay that He wants to form into a beautiful vessel. In order to accomplish this, God looks for soft and pliable hearts.
Man measures the quality and usefulness of a person by his education, ability and expertise. Yet God determines a person¬ís true value by the condition of his or her heart:
¬ďMan looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart¬Ē (1 Samuel 16:7, niv).
I used to watch that same potter soften the clay. Day after day he would pour water on it and pound it thoroughly until it became soft. It took God 20 long years of ¬ďpouring and pounding¬Ē until Jacob¬ís heart became soft enough. Moses needed 40 years of desert life to become the meekest man on earth (see Numbers 12:3, kjv), who could then lead Israel out of Egypt.