Jeremiah: Clay in the Potter's Hands
By Allan Bosson
As we at Calvary read through the Bible in a year, this week’s readings are found in the book of Jeremiah, written by a man known as the “weeping prophet.” Though the readings go from chapter 11 to chapter 45, I want to direct our thinking to chapter 18, which covers a parable about the potter and the clay.
Jeremiah was the premier prophet of Judah during the dark days that finally led to the complete destruction of Israel, as well as the eventual departure of the presence of God from His position in the Holy of Holies over the Ark of the Covenant. This departure of the Spirit of God from the nation of Israel led to what is known as the beginning of the “Time of the Gentiles”. This period of history will last until the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. As a nation, Israel has not and will not enjoy again God’s personal presence as their leader until Christ reigns over the entire world during the Millennial period. Although the light of other prophets, such as Habakkuk and Zephaniah, flickered in Judah at that time, Jeremiah was really the blazing torch exposing the darkness of Judah’s sin through the brightness of God’s Word. Now, of course, Ezekiel also wrote of Israel’s sin at this time but Ezekiel was already a captive in Babylon.
Looking at the message in chapter 18, we see God directing Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house to observe the potter at work. He sees the potter molding a lump of raw clay, fashioning it into an amazing, decorative Middle Eastern pot. As Jeremiah watched, the potter suddenly stopped his work. He apparently had discovered a flaw in the pot that he was shaping. Thoughtfully, though disappointingly, the potter pressed that flawed pot into what looked like the original lump. Then, with that same lump of clay, he began to form a new pot.
God went on to announce to Jeremiah that the potter and the clay illustrated His relationship to His people. They were like clay in His hand, and He, as the sovereign God of the universe, has the right to tear down or build up any nation or person just as He chooses. Yes, He had promised to bless the nation of Judah. Judah, however, had continued to ignore Him and practice evil. Therefore, He would reconsider the good He had intended and replace it with judgment. But, if the people of Judah would turn back from their evil and disobedient ways, repent and obey God, He would revoke His plan of judgment and replace it with a blessing.
There is a clear analogy here to how God deals with not only nations but with individual people. The God of the Bible is the Master potter, and He plans to mold His followers into great vessels for spiritual service. When, however, He finds a flaw (unrepentant sin) in a vessel that He is molding, He will not ignore that flaw, but rather He will firmly deal with that sin through the Holy Spirit’s conviction. After a believer’s genuine repentance, He will remold that individual vessel into a more usable and faithful servant, which in turn leads to a more fulfilling and exciting life. Wow, how great it is to be clay in the Master’s hands.