The Potters House

Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house and learned a lesson about the way God works.  I think the lesson Jeremiah learned is the opposite lesson most theologians take from the analogy of God as the potter and humans as the clay.

But what do you think?  How do you read Jeremiah 18?

What does the passage tell us about God and his ways?

What does it tell us about the nature of prophecy?

What does it tell us about history, destiny, human free will and responsibility and the sovereignty of God?


3 Responses

  1. I read Jeremiah 18:1-17 as a lesson for the prophet (and us) in humility. Jeremiah sees the flawed pot spinning on the wheel. The potter has a choice. He can leave the pot as it is or he can reshape it into whatever new design that he desires—but it is the desire that seemed the best to him (the potter). The potter didn’t ask any other opinion. He didn’t need another opinion! He was the potter and he is dealing with something that can be made better.

    I think that the question the Lord asks Jeremiah in verse 6 is somewhat rhetorical. Perhaps Jeremiah needs a reminder, but I believe Jeremiah knows that God has the right and position to make anything of us that He desires. He is the Almighty God and we are His creation. He loves us and cares for us and will shape us into what is best in His mind for us to be. However…He has also given us the power to choose.

    The Lord’s desire is for Israel to turn toward Him because He knows that is what’s best FOR US! The Old Testament writings are filled, time and time again with warnings given to His children, which were preceded by opportunities to serve and worship Him. But Israel usually thought their way was the right way. The people of the world with their (our) selfishness think that they know best. The prophets relay God’s message over and over but His children disobey. They (we) need to come to the realization that God sees great value in us—but God is Who He is and we are who we are, and obedience and humility should be the watchwords for our lives.

    This passage indicates that God’s ways are the right ways, if for no other reason that disobedience brings death. Surely the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden drives this point home. Maybe Israel thought that since the message was being delivered by Jeremiah (a mere man), that it didn’t have the “punch” that a “real” message from God would have. At least that’s one possible rationalization…

    As I alluded to above, prophecy never involves force. God tells His children what they need to be doing, following, whatever. He loves us and wants to cares for us—but He leaves the choice to follow Him up to us. Prophecy contains the desire of a loving, but just God to provide the best for His children, but back for a moment to this idea of humility. We have to take ourselves off of our own pedestal and allow Him to be in His proper position of being first in our lives.

  2. I read Jeremiah 18 as saying that God is always in control. We can choose to yield to His control, and He will make us into what He intended from the beginning (this is our best option). But if we rebel against His control, He still controls us and will make us into something else (usually this is not preferable). However, whether we initially obey or not, God can still make something out of us.

    Prophecy is meant to tell us “This is what God is doing, and this is where He is going with it.” But if we hear this prophecy and change our ways, God will respond to us. Jonah demonstrates this when the Ninevites respond to Jonah’s message and God relents and does not destroy them. Conversely, if God blesses us and we get haughty, He may choose to withdraw His blessing.

    It teaches us that human freewill and divine sovereignty are not mutually exclusive. God sets His path before us and we can choose to walk it or not. But even if we choose not to walk it, God is still in control.

  3. I also read this as God being in control. He is the potter and we are the clay and we are the work of his hand (Isaiah 64.8). If he wants to tear something down and start over then that is what he is going to do. God will shape us and it is our job to respond to that shaping. Sometimes it will lead us to a place of starting over and when it does we have to get on board and start over.

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