The Potter and the Clay
18 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
“Therefore thus says the LORD:
Ask among the nations,
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel
has done a very horrible thing.
Does the snow of Lebanon leave
the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
the cold flowing streams?
But my people have forgotten me;
they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
not the highway,
making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it is horrified
and shakes his head.
Like the east wind I will scatter them
before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
in the day of their calamity.”
Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”
Hear me, O LORD,
and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
give them over to the power of the sword;
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to take me
and laid snares for my feet.
Yet you, O LORD, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Forgive not their iniquity,
nor blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.
Jeremiah 18 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The wheel turned as the lump of clay was worked by the hands of the potter. It was picked up then slammed down. Pressed in and shaped then destroyed to simply a lump again. The working of the potter was getting the flaws out. With his strength, he put his weight down upon it flattening then rolling into a ball again. But at the right time, when the clay was moldable he began to shape it. As the wheel spun a vessel soon began to appear within his hands. The potter knew exactly what he was doing for he had a vision of what this pottery would be when all was done.
It’s such a beautiful picture of what God was doing. A picture Jeremiah was told to observe then report to the people. The lesson was clear. The Potter was in charge, not them. He was doing what He must in order to get the flaws out of the vessel He fashioned in order for them to be used to His glory. He would allow no defects to remain as he reshaped and created.
I think of this object lesson God instructed Jeremiah to bring and it still speaks today. As clay, we have no say in what God is doing. Sometimes He presses in and flattens. Sometimes His reworking of the clay is painful. But it is for one sole purpose – a vessel worthy of His honor. A vessel He delights in and holds purpose for.
If this was the case today for you? Where are you sensing this happen? Where is He pressing in possibly? Where do you feel His weight upon you? The hope through the pain of this is simply the reality He has a vision for what you as His vessel is to become. He has a purpose for your life. Hold onto that.
Jeremiah 18 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
How insane is it to think that a piece of clay has any say in what the potter is doing? Yet, many pieces of clay today insult the Potter by protesting against His hands. It really is completely crazy. The potter is molding and shaping the clay into something fantastic. No potter intentionally creates a terrible piece. His eyes are on the possibilities and opportunities. The potter knows that just being clay is not the final objective. There is a beautiful piece of pottery that is waiting but that process can be both difficult and sometimes painful work.
As I picture this scene, my mind races toward what I would want as a potter. The best-case scenario would be clay that was soft and moldable. This kind of attitude illustrates that the Potter knows what is best for the clay and in the end will produce that kind of outcome. Speaking of outcome, does the clay really have any control over the potter? Not really. Of course, the clay could make it difficult for the potter to complete his work but then why would the potter want to continue? He would simply throw that piece of clay in the trash and start on a new piece.
But God doesn’t do that. The fact that He disciplines us (as He is doing here with Judah in Chapter 18) shows His love for us. Even though we deserve to be tossed out, He continues to shape us on his master wheel. His patience is unbelievable. Even in His punishment of us we see His grace. This is the reality of the God we serve. Do we realize that? Do we even consider it? How moldable are you right now to the Potter?