The clay here is plastic, meaning it can be molded. (See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plastic) Many things are plastic or at least partially plastic; metals, layers of rock/dirt, and flesh are examples, and they can bend and return to their original shape. Clay, like concrete, is very plastic when it is wet but when they harden it is another story; they can bend (some) just not very much.
I see four different “forms” in the text that may apply to us as the House of Israel.
- Form – Everyone starts on the workbench, we have shape but we are nowhere near a finished project.
- Conform – It is a great when you are taking shape and it is clear what you will become. You are pushed and turned, thinned or thickened as needed and you are allowed to dry.
- Deform – Sometimes things happen and what you thought would be the final shape does not happen. The clay is pushed too thin, gravel or sand was not taken out, or material fatigue occurs and you just collapse.
- Transform – Notice that nothing is wasted or thrown away; the potter just keeps working until the clay is something useful. Whether you were a “conform” or a “deform” you certainly are not the original lump of clay any more but something brand new and different.
To be fair to the analogy clay vessels are put on shelves and air-dried before they are put into an oven and baked. (Go anywhere you want with that addition to the story.)
∞Jesus thanks for shaping me into something useful. Amen.