Jeremiah receives one of his object lessons. He goes to the potter and watches him work. He sees how the potter handles clay that doesn’t do as he desires. God is Judah’s potter.
This is one of my favorite object lessons, that I remember, from Jeremiah’s writings. I LOVE crafting things and can easily envision this scene. I have never used a pottery wheel so my hands don’t know the touch such an act would bring. I can imagine though. The feel of the wet clay as it slides through your hands. The pressure adjustments and hand position changes required to form different shapes with the clay. The upward motion with your hands to encourage the clay to rise into a taller configuration. The rhythm of your foot as it keeps the wheel spinning at an even speed. And the flow from your imagination through your hands into the clay to bring out exactly the design you wanted.
This would be an example of a good day with the wheel. Not ALL days are good. And not all clay is compliant to the potter’s hands. When Jeremiah went to the house of the potter, he got to witness a non-compliant piece of clay. He also got to witness how the potter handled that situation. Not being a potter himself, Jeremiah had to use his imagination and observational skill too.
While Jeremiah is watching the potter at work, one of his pieces encounters a problem. It is not taking on the form the potter originally envisioned. I’m curious to know how Jeremiah knew that the piece had been altered. Did the potter speak to Jeremiah about the process as he worked? Did the piece collapse on the wheel? Did the potter have a few choice words for the clay? Did he have a line up of the things he was making that this one didn’t end up fitting in? Or did God nudge Jeremiah to look a little closer?
Jeremiah tells us that the item the potter was working on wasn’t thrown in the trash. He doesn’t tell us if it was smashed and reworked from the beginning. All we really know is that the piece was different that the potter’s original design.
After the item shifted in its design, the potter kept on working with it until he was satisfied. The potter found a new form for his old desires. There is no guarantee that the piece even resembled what the potter had in mind, but the potter didn’t give up until ALL the work was done. And the piece made was usable in the end.
Not all pieces are salvageable. Some are so ruined that they have to be discarded, but NOT before trying to save the piece. The pieces that refuse to be remolded into something else wind up on the scrap pile. And they are eventually discarded.
Israel and Judah were the ‘clay’ in God’s hands; the Master Potter. God had a ‘design’ in mind when He started this journey with them. He had a purpose planned out for them. But this ‘clay’ refused to take the shape the Master required of them. He tried ‘adjusting His hand position’ on them to encourage them to expand in the directions He had planned out. He applied needed pressure in some areas to impress in them a desire to grow in the pattern He had in mind.
Try as He might, they just would not yield to His authority over them or His will. He had to take drastic measures with this ‘clay’. He had to smash ALL that He had created in them and start over again. God was NOT ready to throw Judah on the scrap heap. Neither was he willing to toss them on the scrap pile.
Serious work lay ahead if God was going to save Judah and Israel. They had to be taken ALL THE WAY back to being just a blob of clay. He had to identify and remove the impurities in this lump of clay before He could use it. In pottery terms, this would include ‘burping’ the clay by slamming it against other hard surfaces until all the air bubbles had been worked out of it. Then the potter can start again with the unfinished lump.
Judah was about to enter the stage of ‘burping’. They were going to be taken back down to their original starting place. Back into captivity they would go. This is where they would learn some lessons that they failed to learn in the beginning.
God WILL get His desired look out of His people. And that statement includes ME.
Jeremiah is ready for the HARD work to begin. The people are NOT listening to God’s correction and are after Jeremiah’s own life. “Sick-em God!”
Father God, thank You for not throwing me on the scrap pile. Thank You for patiently reworking me, even when it meant time to take me back down to the basics again. I’m sorry that I will never be the exact representation of what You had in mind before You created me. I pray that I am a pleasing vessel and a useful one for You in the end.
Keep me from refusing Your direction. I do NOT want to try and tell You how to do Your work in my life. I also do NOT want to refuse Your work in me. Keep my heart humble to Your hand Father; stubborn as I am.