Wednesday, November 20, 2019

In the Potter's Hands

O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6).

God told Jeremiah to visit a potter (Jeremiah 18). The potter was working with a wheel which was turned by a pedal operated by his foot. He threw his clay into the center of the wheel, but perhaps he did not get the clay precisely centered, because as he tried to work with the clay, it became lopsided. The potter had to smash it down and start over. Then, he shaped the clay into a pot pleasing to him.

God told Jeremiah that He was the potter and Israel was the clay. If God announced destruction to a nation and it repented, God would spare it. On the other hand, if God announced blessings to a nation and it forsook Him, God would destroy it. The message was clear: Though God had not yet chosen any Gentile nation, He might well turn to the Gentiles if they repented. By the same token, though He had originally chosen Israel, He would surely destroy her if she continued on her wicked paths. 

Moreover, through Jeremiah God had been announcing destruction for Israel; but if Israel repented, God would relent. The clay was His, and He could shape it any way He chose.

The people responded to Jeremiah’s message by mounting a campaign of defamation against him (18:18). They started spreading lies about his character and behavior in order to discredit him. It was clear that they were rejecting God’s offer of peace.

In response, God told Jeremiah to return to the potter and buy a nice pot (Jeremiah 19). Jeremiah was to take it out to the place where broken pots were thrown and hurl it into the heap, shattering it. Under God’s direction, Jeremiah informed the people that this was God’s intention for them.

How did the people react? Pashhur, who was “chief officer” among the priests of the temple, had friendless Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks, not only brutally wounding him but also exposing him to public ridicule (Jeremiah 20). When Pashhur had Jeremiah released the next day, Jeremiah told him that God had given Pashhur a new name: “Terror on Every Side.” In the future, disaster would surround this man, and he would find out what it was like to have no friends, being hated by everybody.

The book of Jeremiah shows the prophet giving Israel one opportunity after another to repent, just as Moses gave Pharaoh many chances to change his mind. God still deals with us that way today. While He is longsuffering, God’s patience is limited. Is there something you need to change—before it’s too late?