The prophet Jeremiah was a bold spokesman for the Lord. For 40 years he preached the truth, confronted kings and false prophets with their sins, and called his nation to repentance. But when Jeremiah preached, nobody was listening; they did not want to hear the truth. He was largely ignored. He was rejected by his neighbors, his friends, and even his family. He was persecuted, too: thrown into prison, abandoned in a muddy cistern, and deported to Egypt.
Through it all, this faithful prophet kept proclaiming the truth, calling for change, and weeping over his nation. He is often called “the weeping prophet” because of the way he agonized over the impending doom of Jerusalem. A creative communicator, Jeremiah was often inspired by God to use object lessons as he preached. Such is the case here in this chapter.
One day the Lord told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house, the workshop of the local artisan who used clay to make pottery to be baked and hardened in a kiln. Jeremiah saw the potter “working at his wheel”, spinning a lump of clay. By applying pressure with his hands, the potter shaped the clay into a vessel, perhaps a bowl or a jar. As the prophet watched, something about the vessel on the wheel did not please the potter — the shape, the proportions, or the thickness of the piece did not fit the image in his mind. Instead of discarding it, the potter crushed it into a lump, kneaded it, and with skilled hands, reworked it into a useful vessel.
It was then that God spoke to Jeremiah about his nation (v.6). Like the misshapen vessel on the potter’s wheel, Israel did not fit the image God intended for it. Because of their persistent sin and rebellion, they had become unusable and ugly. God had the power to crush them in judgment, but He promised to rework and restore them if they would only turn from their sin (v.7-8). Their repentance would mean a second chance and a new start as they yielded to God’s control. But if they “acted according to the stubbornness of their evil hearts”, the resulting judgment would be disastrous (v.11-12).
Picture yourself in the hands of the Master Potter, a lump of clay that God is forming into something beautiful and useful. Are you resisting His hands, hardening yourself against the way He is shaping your life? Do you fight the pressure He uses to mold you into what He wants you to be? Through Jeremiah, hear the Potter calling you to yield to His will and to be receptive to His hands. If you have sinned and messed up your life, God is not finished with you — there is no life beyond repair in His hands. Surrender to Him, get back on the wheel of His will, and let Him reshape you.
Please enjoy this video of my friend and First Baptist Church of Sevierville member Robert Alewine, a master potter. It will help you envision the skill and care with which God shapes you.