A POTTER AND A POT
Father in heaven, as I come to your Word today, open my heart to receive what you would have me see and put into practice. Equip me to serve you.
Read JEREMIAH 18, 19
At the Potter’s House
18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’”
13 Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“Inquire among the nations:
Who has ever heard anything like this?
A most horrible thing has been done
by Virgin Israel.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon
ever vanish from its rocky slopes?
Do its cool waters from distant sources
ever stop flowing?[a]
15 Yet my people have forgotten me;
they burn incense to worthless idols,
which made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient paths.
They made them walk in byways,
on roads not built up.
16 Their land will be an object of horror
and of lasting scorn;
all who pass by will be appalled
and will shake their heads.
17 Like a wind from the east,
I will scatter them before their enemies;
I will show them my back and not my face
in the day of their disaster.”
18 They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.”
19 Listen to me, Lord;
hear what my accusers are saying!
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember that I stood before you
and spoke in their behalf
to turn your wrath away from them.
21 So give their children over to famine;
hand them over to the power of the sword.
Let their wives be made childless and widows;
let their men be put to death,
their young men slain by the sword in battle.
22 Let a cry be heard from their houses
when you suddenly bring invaders against them,
for they have dug a pit to capture me
and have hidden snares for my feet.
23 But you, Lord, know
all their plots to kill me.
Do not forgive their crimes
or blot out their sins from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.
- Jeremiah 18:14 The meaning of the Hebrew for this sentence is uncertain.
7 “‘In this place I will ruin[a] the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. 8 I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. 9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.’
10 “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, 11 and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 12 This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the Lord. I will make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth—all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’”
14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Lord’s temple and said to all the people, 15 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”
- Jeremiah 19:7 The Hebrew for ruin sounds like the Hebrew for jar (see verses 1 and 10).
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Start today with thanksgiving for the way God has guided your steps and made you the person you are today, a clay pot suitable for your work for God.
As the announcements in 18:1 and 21:1 show, Jeremiah 18–20 is a self-contained section. Within this, chapter 18 and chapters 19 and 20 are two parts marked by several parallels, the most obvious being the two reports about pots and potters. Each section contains a word of judgment, against Judah in chapter 18 and against an individual in chapter 20. In each section, Jeremiah laments the way he is treated. In today’s reading there is also a play on the Hebrew word ra’ah (evil, disaster) which appears six times, sometimes referring to the evil people do and sometimes to the disaster that God will bring upon them.
First, God sends Jeremiah to a potter’s workshop. He notices that if a pot doesn’t turn out as expected the potter just starts again. There is still hope for Judah, who resembles a spoiled pot that God is about to judge. If the nation repents, God will relent and continue to reshape it. Jeremiah absorbed this lesson and announced it to the people. When the people rejected the warning (18:18), Jeremiah asked God to judge them. In the second pottery visit, Jeremiah buys a clay pot and takes it and the leaders of the people to a city gate where he announces God’s judgment and smashes the pot, symbolizing the disaster God would bring on the city. Jeremiah returned to the temple precincts and announced that there was no longer any hope for Israel (19:14,15). Tomorrow we will see the nation’s response.
The song ‘Have thine own way, Lord’1 is probably based on these verses, although it emphasizes the clay rather than the potter. In these chapters the Master Potter takes center stage. They emphasize the Potter’s forgiving grace when God’s people repent, more than our willingness to be molded by God.
We can take courage that God is always ready to forgive when we repent. We can confidently confess our wrongs, seeking God’s forgiveness.
Almighty God, I pray for my own nation, that you would pour out grace and mercy, and spare it as you did undeserving ancient Israel. Make us a people that honors you and brings you glory.
1 Adelaide Addison Pollard, 1862–1934
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