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The Potter And The Clay

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Jeremiah was probably born during the reign of Josiah the King of Judah from 640 B.C. to 609 B.C. He was born in about 650 B.C. and raised in Anathoth, a small village just a few miles northeast of Jerusalem.  

The Lord called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. In Jeremiah 18:11-12 the Lord sent Jeremiah to proclaim “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.” But they will reply,

‘It’s no use. We will continue with our plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’”  The Judeans rebelled against the words of the Lord. The people in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s hometown, plotted against him. As a result of Jeremiah’s devotion to the Lord’s calling, he endured a lot of persecution. He became a discouraged prophet.

1. 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 (damaged) 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.” Jeremiah 18: 1-6 (NIV)

The Story Of The Potter And The Clay Is A Parable, A Moral Story

What did Jeremiah learn from the potter? 1. He was thorough. If the vessel was marred (damaged) the potter squashed it on the wheel and made it again. The potter was careful to add just the correct amount of water, and as the wheel turned, the hands of the potter shaped the vessel. 2. He was patient.

The potter was working at his wheel. Two circular stones were connected by a vertical rod. As the potter sat at the wheel he turned the lower stone with his feet. Somehow the vessel distorted. Therefore, the potter had to knead the clay again, put it on the wheel, and make a new vessel. What lesson can we learn from the potter? The Lord is the potter. He is the supreme ruler. God has the authority and power to do whatever He wants with His people. God has the authority to do whatever He wants to do with nations. How do you feel about that? The Lord has the authority to be your ruler and mine. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:20-21 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? Warren W. Wiersby says “Who are we to argue with God? This is a logical argument. God is the Potter, and we are the clay. God is wiser than we are, and we are foolish to question His will or to resist it.”

We didn’t create ourselves, God did! We couldn’t choose who our parents would be, God did! We had no control over the place we would be born, but God knew! I cannot predict with certainty what will happen tomorrow, but God knows!

At times, I have been guilty of arguing with God or questioning His wisdom! One such time happened after my girlfriend, Mary Lou, and I sat down on a bench on the front lawn of the Hannibal-LaGrange Junior College campus in Hannibal, Missouri.  When I lifted my head toward heaven, I had a vision. I saw a man standing before a large crowd. I also saw an open grave located beside the throng of people. At that moment, God revealed to me something I didn’t want to see. I had already decided what I wanted to do with my life, but God had another plan for me. God was calling me to the Gospel ministry. I argued with God about what he wanted me to do. I said, “You must have made a mistake, I am a musician, not a preacher.” Suddenly, my world was turned upside down.

Have you had a similar experience? You knew God was calling you to a specific task and you also told Him “Lord, you must have made a mistake! I do not have the necessary skills to do what you want me to do. If the truth was known, did you not have any desire to fulfill His will? If so, you are not the only one who has been guilty.

My parents knew when I was a little child that the Lord had given me some musical talent. Mom told me when the radio was on, my body would sway to the rhythm of the music. When I was six years old, I started taking piano lessons. Mom said she never had to tell me to practice. By the time I was a young teenager, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. My dream was to be a concert pianist. Almost every day I spent a lot of time practicing the piano. I hoped someday I would be able to fulfill my dream.  

The Lord has the right to make his people again. He has the right to judge a nation. He can uproot (Jeremiah 18:7). He can pull down (Jeremiah 18:7).  God had promised blessing to the people of Judah, but they continued to do evil. Judah had become an idolatry-ridded nation. God would reconsider bringing down disaster on Judah if they turned back from their wicked ways. God does not exercise His power arbitrarily. The possibility of God’s forgiveness is conditional. It is based upon a change of heart.   

What are the characteristics of clay? It is made from the dust of the earth.  There are a lot of possibilities in the clay. In agriculture, clay in the soil has a

vital role in plant growth, clay absorbs ammonia. Without some clay, the earth would not be able to retain its fertility from year to year. Bricks and other products can be made.

What lessons can we learn from clay? In the book of Jeremiah, the clay represented the people of Israel. The Jewish people were too confident about the privileges they had as God’s chosen people. Regardless of what they did, they believed God would not reject them.  

In Acts 13:46-47 Paul and Barnabas boldly said to the Jewish people: we had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’

Today, the clay represents every born-again Christian. Without God, we are only a lump of clay. Because Judah refused to obey God, they were only a lump of clay. When we sin and confess it to Him with a repentant heart, He will forgive us our sins. No longer are we just a lump of clay. God “can make us into another vessel” that can be identified with Him.   

The story has been told that many years ago, farmers used to plow the soil with a hand plow pulled by a mule. Many times, the farmer’s work was hindered by old tree trunks on the ground. The wise farmer would go around the old trunks of the trees so that they could continue their work plowing the soil. He would endure the presence of the old tree trunks until he could get some dynamite and remove them from the soil. It would be foolish for a farmer to attack the old trunks of trees with his plow.

If we find “spiritual trunks” in our lives, if we are not careful, the Lord’s work can be halted. Have you ever heard the chorus “This little light of Mine?” As I recall the words were: This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine, let it shine.” God wants you to be the light of the world. God doesn’t want you to hide your lights under a bush. The Lord wants the world to see Him alive in you.  

 He wants us to be filled with His Spirit. Then we can experience an abundant and meaningful life. It can only happen when Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of our lives.

What about your spiritual life, are you where God wants you to be? When the Lord returns, you will stand before God. He will know what things you have done here on earth.    

Through his prayer life, Jeremiah realized what the world’s chief problem is. In Jeremiah 17:9 he says the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Somebody said it is easier to win a sin-stained individual to faith in Christ than to open the blinded eyes of an unconverted church member to their spiritual poverty.”

Thomas Fuller said, “They that worship God merely from fear would worship the devil too if he appeared.” The true nature of God can only be understood when a person understands what the relationship is between spiritual worship and living a moral life.

God deals with us on a moral basis. The way God treats us is dependent on what our moral conduct permits Him to do. God deals with men on a moral basis. He treats them as their moral conduct permits him to do. For the first time, Jeremiah saw a truth that had been unrecognized before his eyes. Judah was a marred or damaged vessel, but the potter could reshape it into a fit instrument for divine use (Jeremiah 1:18-19).

In the potter’s house, for the first time, Jeremiah saw a truth that had been unrecognized before his eyes. Judah was a marred or damaged vessel, but the potter could reshape it into a fit instrument for divine use. (Jeremiah 1:18-19)

The Parable of the Potter makes us aware of God’s sovereign dealings with Judah. The only hope of a decadent nation is its spiritual regeneration which is manifested in genuine ethical righteousness.  

The true nature of God can only be understood when a person understands what the relationship is between spiritual worship and living a moral life. The only kind of Christianity that is worthy of the name of our Lord is that religion and worship (are) related to personal behavior. It results in the raising of moral standards.  

In Conclusion

Jeremiah said destruction was coming but he knew if they repented of their sins and trusted Him, destruction could be prevented (Jeremiah 18:7-8).

Spiritually speaking, what “old tree trunks” still are living within you? Are you determined to do all things your way, not God’s way?  

Romans 3:23 says, for all have sinned (rebelled against God) and fall short of the glory of God. (W. E. Vine says the word “glory” in Romans 3:23 is “the visible perfection of His (God’s character).” Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is (spiritual) death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Not only a life that never comes to an end but a quality of life that only God can give.  

Contributor | By C Paul Wooderson | Minister & Author

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