O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. — Jeremiah 18:6
God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house in order to learn a lesson. We can picture what he saw there: a potter, and a lump of clay . . . formless, gritty, ugly. We can also picture the steps the potter took to make a vessel.
The first thing a potter does is to remove impurities from the clay, washing it until every foreign particle is gone. Until the clay is clean, it is useless. Next, the potter kneads, cuts, and slams the clay on his table, working it until the texture is even and the air pockets are gone. If bubbles remain in the clay, the pot will explode when it is fired. Any unyielding bits of clay must also be worked out. These are not stones or bits of grit, but part of the clay itself that has to be softened, for if these are left, they will show up in the final stage and ruin the pot’s appearance.
After the clay has been prepared for shaping, the potter places a mound of it in the middle of his wheel. As the wheel turns, the potter applies constant pressure, dipping his hands in water frequently so that the clay is always kept moist and pliable.
Once the pot is formed, it must then be fired in order to be usable. Under the extreme heat necessary to make the clay hard and durable, some pieces may crack or explode. But others come out of the kiln as useful items of beauty.
God was showing Jeremiah that He had the right to mold His people and other nations. While the potter in Jeremiah’s day was human, God is not. He has the authority and the power to take something that is useless, full of the “grit” of sin and rebellion, and work with it until it becomes a thing of beauty. However, unlike the clay, the people of Judah had a choice in the matter. They could continue in their resistance toward God, or they could turn from their evil and yield to Him in repentance.
That concept is still true today. Every individual has the choice to receive God’s Word or reject it. God is willing to mold the life offered to Him. He starts by removing sin from the heart. Then He begins to work out the imperfections of character. He applies pressure where needed, molding and shaping and refining, with His perfect purpose in mind. If a person resists the influences that God allows to come his way, he will hinder what God is trying to make of his life. Any failure in the forming of a spiritual vessel lies solely with the clay, for God’s ways are perfect.
Every Christian will face times in his life that are filled with difficulties, hard places, even tragic circumstances. The “fire” of these circumstances is meant to stabilize him, refine his nature, and help him achieve permanence in his Christian character.
Today, have you yielded yourself to the Potter? The end result will be eternally beautiful if you do!
This chapter, the first part of the prophet’s eighth sermon, speaks of God’s sovereign means of using nations as He desires. This communication was probably given during the first few years that Jehoiakim reigned.
To portray God’s message, Jeremiah often presented his prophecies by means of common objects or symbolic concepts. In today’s text, God commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house, where the prophet received a message. The crafting of pottery was common in Jeremiah’s time and was accomplished using two stone wheels operated by the potter’s foot, while the potter shaped the vessel with his hands. As Jeremiah watched the potter form what was intended to be an attractive vessel, the object was suddenly flawed, so the potter began again. This illustrated the fact that through rebellion and disobedience, the Israelites had become marred as the clay. God had the sovereign power to remake them, but they had to submit to Him.
God wanted the Jewish people to be pliable and teachable in His Hands, ready to conform to His standards. He has the power and sovereign right to pluck up, pull down, or destroy entirely in order to accomplish His perfect will. He warned the people to listen to His message and change their ways. If they had done so, they would have avoided judgment. But the warning was that if they continued to do evil, they would be punished.
In verse 12, the people rejected Jeremiah’s words. The term “virgin of Israel” emphasized their guilt as the chosen nation of God who had carelessly refused and forgotten His ways. Jeremiah pointed out the absurdity of their actions and attitudes by comparing them to leaving the cold, pure snowmelt of Lebanon (symbolic of God’s pure truth) to settle for something far inferior (worshiping false gods). Even the heathen nations did not do this, and Judah knew God’s instructions. Consequently, their land would become desolate and an object of disdain (hissing), and the Jewish people would be scattered.
Because of their violent rejection of Jeremiah’s words, the people of Judah plotted to portray him as a false prophet, thereby removing any credibility he had with those who heard him. They even conspired to kill him. As a result, in the final verses of the chapter, Jeremiah was at a very low ebb, and asked God to hasten judgment against them.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
8. The eighth sermon: The potter and the broken bottle
a. The significance of the clay and the potter (18:1-23)
(1) The work of the potter (18:1-4)
(2) The significance for Judah (18:5-17)
(3) The reaction of the people to the prophet (18:18)
(4) The prayer of the prophet (18:19-23)
Let us keep in mind that God is the Potter, and we are the clay. If we allow Him to have His way in our lives, the resulting vessel He molds will be used in a beautiful way to honor His name.