THE POT PLOT CONTINUES
Lord, we beg You for mercy on our nation, despite its wholesale rejection of You.
Read JEREMIAH 19:1–15
19 This is what the Lord says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you, 3 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.
7 “‘In this place I will ruin 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.’”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
A few years before Jeremiah was born God had promised a tingling of any two ears which heard what he intended to do to this same place and people. See 2 Kings 21:12 with Jeremiah 19:3.
Speakers can assume that every message has to be different, with new content, illustrations or methods. Jeremiah certainly embraces variety in his prophecies! However, it is encouraging to see his willingness to use the same basic illustration more than once! God clearly has used Jeremiah’s visits to the potter’s studio to teach him, and through him teach the people, and with more than one lesson. This time he uses not the wet clay reformulated but rather the finished jar, already formed and hardened. He starts with the same message: that because Judah has rejected God, she will be destroyed. His description both of what they have done and of what is going to happen to them could not be more hard-hitting. The message is then reinforced by his visual aid, the complete smashing of the pot he carries in front of witnesses. This is not a minor break repairable with a bit of glue or additional clay to bind it together—this pot is smashed beyond repair.
One can understand the temptation for preachers to soften the blow, to start with the good news and slip in the difficult stuff through the back door, but not too firmly—we can’t offend the people. Jeremiah, however, knows that unless Judah really gets the message and begins to understand the consequences of her rejection of God’s covenant, there will be no good news for the nation. For Christians, the Good News—the message that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes salvation available to all—must be the focus of our preaching, but the New Testament does not soft-peddle the same consequences visited upon similar rebels in our day and age. Perhaps we sometimes need to be a little more determined to make that clear.
Reflect upon the last time you heard a bare-knuckled sermon about the consequences of living a life of defiance toward God.
Lord, help us to understand and convey the importance of turning away from sin, without coming across as judgmental hypocrites and while focusing on the hope You bring to us.