[Optional longer reading: Jer. 18:1–20:18]
To form a clay pot, the potter takes a lump of clay, places it on a rotating wheel, and uses a hand to shape the clay into the desired vessel. If the clay is not soft and pliable, and things don’t go as planned, the potter smashes down the clay and starts over.
Today’s reading draws upon this activity, as Jeremiah was sent to observe a potter at work. As Jeremiah watched, the clay “became marred” (v. 4), likely because of some defect in the clay. As a result, the potter then formed the clay into a different kind of pot. Of course, the point was not to learn pottery, but to illustrate something about the way God works with His people.
The Lord is like the potter; we are like the clay. God may have one intention for His people, but depending on how they respond (how yielding or intractable they are), God may rework the clay into something else. God illustrated this with two specific examples. If He had planned disaster for them, but they repented, then God would relent. If, however, He had planned blessing for them, but they persisted in evil, then God “will reconsider the good I had intended” (v. 10). How we respond to God’s work in our life affects our experience of God’s blessing or curse. But either way, God is still the potter in control, and we are simply the clay.
Jeremiah was sent again to rebuke Israel for their remarkable infidelity to the Lord, and to remind them once more of the coming judgment (vv. 13–17). Yet don’t miss the underlying mercy available: even as marred clay, if they would repent, the Potter would relent.
Apply the Word
Find a local craft store and buy some modeling clay. Leave half of the clay out for a day and keep the other half wrapped tight. Then try to form each lump into a small vessel, noticing what it’s like to work with these two lumps of clay. Now ask yourself: which lump are you like, the stiff, dry clay or the soft pliable one?