THE POTTER AND THE CLAY

JEREMIAH 18: 1-12

Before using the Wheel, the Potter must knead the clay to get rid of impurities. He “wedges it” – slices the lump in half and then slams the halves back together thus forcing out the air bubbles. When he feels that the clay is ready, he then turns to the Wheel. The Potter next “throws” the lump of clay on the Wheel and sets the Wheel in motion. Surrounding the clay with the palm of his hands, he forces it to the centre of the Wheel. The Potter must now “master” the clay; – make it respond to his Potter_in_Rabka_03touch. He applies pressure to the base of the clay ball causing it to rise up in a sort of rounded cone. He presses on the top of the clay with his thumbs or the palm of his hands. Repeating this a few times increases the flexibility and the strength of the clay. The Potter now “opens up” the clay ball by pressing his thumbs into the centre, gradually hollowing it out. Applying pressure with his fingers, he evens out the thickness of the cylinder walls. Finally, he shapes the clay into a vase, a pitcher, or whatever he chooses.

180px-Potter_in_Rabka_05

Jeremiah is instructed to go down to the Potter’s house to receive God’s message. There he sees: An unattractive and useless lump of clay. The potter begins to form the lump of clay into a pot. Something goes wrong; the pot in the making becomes ruined. The potter crushes his creation back to a lump of clay. He then begins to shape it once more into another pot as it pleases him.

“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.” <Jer.18:6 (NIV)>

If at any time God announces the dispersion or destruction of a nation or people (or an individual person), and that nation or people repent of evil, God will relent His intended judgment. (Repent: to feel sorry for an action etc; to change course. Relent: to soften in feeling or determination; to become less severe and be more compassionate). God is not a man that He should repent. He does not go from hot to cold and then hot again. Yet He will relent of His intended action if His people return to Him. Israel had gone beyond the illustration of the lump of clay – to the point of no return – they had determined their own destiny; Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back………You have rejected me,” declares the LORD. “You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion.” <Jer.4:28; 15:6 (NIV)>

God instructs Jeremiah, say to the people of Judah: “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.” <Jer.18:11 (NIV)>

The people reply: “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart. They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah…….. let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.” <Jer.18:11, 18 (NIV)>

The message to the people (and to any individual) is: God is the potter; He can do with Israel as the Potter did with the clay; if they will allow Him.

THE POTTER’S PURPOSE

The lump of clay is not only unattractive; it is helpless and useless. The potter does not see what it is; but what it can become. That useless and unattractive lump can be transformed into an object of beauty. God can take the life that may be useless, mediocre, and of little value to anyone else, and transform that person into a treasure to adorn His celestial palace; “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.” <Psa.113:7-8 (NIV)>

THE POTTER’S PROBLEM

The pot being “created” became spoiled or ruined. Something went wrong causing the displeasure of the potter. Upon examination by the potter he may find: a foreign substance that resisted the pressure of his fingers was mixed with the clay; small lumps were spoiling the appearance of his creation; the clay was unresponsive, the lump needed to be worked some more. The potter was not accomplishing his goal, so he crushes the creation back to a lump of clay. Cannot God do with Israel as the Potter had done with his creation? Jeremiah wondered; would God crush Israel? Had Jehovah’s patience been exhausted? Jeremiah, like the apostle Paul, was no doubt afraid that God would totally reject Israel; “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” <Rom.9:2-4 (NIV)>

THE POTTER’S PATIENCE

There was still hope for a doomed nation: “so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” <Jer.18:4 (NIV)>. The potter removed the hindering substance and begins again with a new creation, for the worthless lump was worth a second chance. The apostle Peter was thankful for a second chance after his denial of his Lord. John Mark appreciated his second chance <cf Acts 15:37-38; 2 Tim.4:11>; he had failed in his duty, ruined a team of Christian workers, and disappointed his church and family. All of us as believers are aware of failures that have temporarily ruined our efforts to serve Christ. Had not God “made us again” we would be overwhelmed by despair. Clay is not an easy substance to work with, and as we viewed the work of the Potter we saw three terms applied to his work: he sliced and slammed the lump of clay to “force” out the air bubbles that weakens the clay; he “throws” the lump of clay on the Wheel, and surrounds it with his hands – forming it; he “masters” the lump of clay – making it responsive to his touch!220px-CreamBrownCeramicsHidalgo - Wikipedia

God does the same in each of our lives. He forces out the sin that weakens us; He forms us into the image of His Son; He makes us responsive to the touch of His hand.

THE POTTER’S PLEASURE

The first phase of his work now completed, the article he formed from the clay must now be placed in the kiln where the intense heat of the kiln will harden the clay making it durable and useful and ready for service. It may be a humble pot to carry water, or an expensive piece of artwork to decorate the home of a rich person or the palace of a king. Whatever the final purpose, it will be of no useful service without the heat of the kiln. In the fulfillment of its purpose, carrying water or decorating a home, it will become dirty or soiled and loving hands will restore its usefulness and attractiveness. In all cases age will increase its value. With great care the “Master Potter” has made us for His glory, and His greatest joy in eternity will be the satisfaction that He did not waste His time! Our Saviour will rejoice that He “made us again” when we were sinners unworthy of attention.

WHAT HAVE WE SEEN IN THE MIRROR?

What Israel should have seen is the same that we should see. “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing?” <Isa.29:15-16 (NIV)>

Many individuals give only lip service to God; their hearts are far from Him, and their worship is meaningless. They have got things turned around, and the citizens think they are wiser than God: “They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not be lost, 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.”<Jer.18:18 (NIV)>. The words of the false prophets were more important than the Word of God! Is there anything more important to us than God’s Word?

“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?” <Isa.45:9 (NIV)>. (Potsherd: broken pieces of pottery). Mankind in general – like the potsherd – questions the sovereignty and authority of God. Do you?

 “It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts…..Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.” <Isa.45:12, 22-23 (NIV)>

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome comments: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” <Rom.9:20-21 (NIV)>

As I look into the mirror what do I see?

Do I question God’s sovereignty and authority over my life? Do I question the position in life that He has afforded me? Am I dissatisfied with the job He has given me?

Do I live in the attitude that I “pay no attention to anything He says”? Has God’s mirror revealed a flaw in His finished product, and am I willing for Him to remake me? Am I willing for Him to cleanse, refresh, and re-instate His vessel? Am I willing to be placed in the kiln, to be fully prepared, hardened and durable for His service?

Is the “Master Potter” satisfied with His creation? Sad to say we have spoiled/marred His workmanship. Have we wasted many years when He would have used us fully for His Glory – but we would not yield to Him?

Fortunately, God can do with us as the Potter did with the marred pot – He can make us again- as He did with Jacob, Peter, and John Mark and many other individuals. Let us give Him the opportunity and privilege to make us again, by waiting before Him in prayer and in obedience to His Word.

Persian-Potteries-17th-Century-Isfahan - Wikipedia    Let the Master Potter master the clay!

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!

[George C. Stebbins]
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
           Thou art the Potter, I am the clay: Mould me and make me After Thy will,
While I am waiting, Yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master to day! Whiter than snow, Lord Wash me just now,
As in Thy presence, Humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being Absolute sway! Fill with Thy Spirit Till all shall see
Christ only, always, Living in me!

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