The Potter and the Clay

Jeremiah 18:1–23 (NKJV)

18:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ”

This well-known reference to the potter’s house speaks of many aspects of the sovereignty of God and the mercy of God.  First, this passage refers to the potter (the Lord) shaping His people and directing them in life.  However, He also points out that when the clay vessel does not follow the will of the potter, and has a bad spot or a hole or is misshapen, the potter will start over and reshape the vessel into something that He sees as its right form or destiny.  He takes the analogy further by saying that He has the power to raise up or destroy nations, and even to replant if necessary.  Therefore, following God leads to joy and blessings.  Allowing Him to shape your future and your path is the way to success!

12 And they said, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart.”

13 Therefore thus says the Lord:

“Ask now among the Gentiles,

Who has heard such things?

The virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing.

14 Will a man leave the snow water of Lebanon,

Which comes from the rock of the field?

Will the cold flowing waters be forsaken for strange waters?

15 “Because My people have forgotten Me,

They have burned incense to worthless idols.

And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways,

From the ancient paths,

To walk in pathways and not on a highway,

16 To make their land desolate and a perpetual hissing;

Everyone who passes by it will be astonished

And shake his head.

17 I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy;

I will show them the back and not the face

In the day of their calamity.”

In response to Jeremiah’s statement of the potter’s house prophecy, the people rebelled and said that they would follow their own way.  The Lord responds by telling them that the alternative leads to stumbling, destruction, and mockery by surrounding nations.  

18 Then they said, “Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.”

19 Give heed to me, O Lord,

And listen to the voice of those who contend with me!

20 Shall evil be repaid for good?

For they have dug a pit for my life.

Remember that I stood before You

To speak good for them,

To turn away Your wrath from them.

21 Therefore deliver up their children to the famine,

And pour out their blood

By the force of the sword;

Let their wives become widows

And bereaved of their children.

Let their men be put to death,

Their young men be slain

By the sword in battle.

22 Let a cry be heard from their houses,

When You bring a troop suddenly upon them;

For they have dug a pit to take me,

And hidden snares for my feet.

23 Yet, Lord, You know all their counsel

Which is against me, to slay me.

Provide no atonement for their iniquity,

Nor blot out their sin from Your sight;

But let them be overthrown before You.

Deal thus with them

In the time of Your anger.

The people decided to “shoot the messenger.”  They devised plans against Jeremiah, for they did not like His words of prophecy.  They wanted to destroy Him, so Jeremiah cried out to God to let His prophecy come upon Jerusalem and Judah, and to even blot them out of His sight.  Jeremiah had stood in the gap, had prophecied the way to be saved, but they did not receive the word of the Lord, but rather rebelled even more against it.  So let them be judged, let them be doomed.  I wonder sometimes, especially in nations and cities where the word of God is preached plenteously, if the judgment of God is not ready to fall on those who rebel against Him and live in sin and idolatry.  Beware, and follow Him rather than others or self.

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