Summary: We may share in his creative work through faith, or we may forget the power of his shaping hands and look to our own ingenuity, our own capacity to market and manage our Christian fellowship. The security of God's people lies only in the Potter's Hand.
Opening illustration: I read a story of a woman on vacation that was shopping in the finest stores. One day she saw the most beautiful cup she had ever seen. She went in bought the cup and every day she would take the cup out and admire it. She would even talk to the cup and say, ’’I’m glad that I found you. You’re one of the most beautiful possessions I have." On her way back home she tried to keep the cup wrapped up, but it was so beautiful to her that she took the cup out and admired its beauty.
And the story goes soon she drifted to sleep, with the cup held fast in her hand. And while she slept, she dreamed, and in her dream the cup talked back to her. The cup said, "You know, I’m tired of you telling me how beautiful I am. I’m not what I used to be. I once was nothing but clay and dirt until one day a master craftsman came along and took me out of the mire.
I didn’t understand it when he beat me and shaped me. I didn’t understand it when he put me in an oven hotter than you can imagine. I couldn’t imagine why he would paint me and then put me back in the oven.
But you know, I learned to thank that master craftsman because if he had not molded me, I’d be shapeless and without form. If he had not put me in the oven of oppression, I’d have no structure. If he had not put that paint on me, I’d have no color. If he had not put me back in the oven to bake me again, I would fall apart." And so I thank him.
My brothers and sisters you ought to think the master craftsman. Thank God when life to seems to beat you down. Thank him when the heat seems more than you can bear. Thank him when you’re painted in pain. Thank him in the oven of oppression. Thank Him.
Let us turn to Jeremiah 18 in God’s Word and catch up with the Prophet as he goes to the potter’s house.
Introduction: One of the other personalities in Scripture who comes to mind when I think of a difficult road to travel is the prophet Jeremiah. There is a reason that he is known as the weeping prophet. God called Jeremiah to preach to the Israelites, about 600 years before Christ was born. The message that God gave to Jeremiah was not one of comfort and joy. God gave Jeremiah a life of sermons about the devastation that was about to come upon the children of God. The kings of Judah had led the people down a path to idolatry and violation of God’s commandments.
This familiar passage about “The Potter and the Clay” turns the idea of a loving God on its head. It is a vivid reminder that depending on human response, God is capable not only of intending good and evil toward humanity, but also of changing the divine mind about pending doom and blessings. One might read this passage and ask, “Where is the love?”
There are times when tough love is necessary to bring healing and reverse the effects of poor decisions, to reverse the effects of sin and evil in the world. Jeremiah’s prophecies of difficult times ahead and their fulfillment are a form of tough love. His foresight regarding arduous times ahead is a reflection of “the tension between temple theology (a theology in which bad things could not, would not happen to Israel because of the protection of God and the temple) and covenant theology (a theology of rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience; similar to retribution theology).
How does God mold us?
1. Placed on the Wheel (vs. 1-3)
Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house and watches him work. The pottery wheel spins, the hands of the potter surround the clay; yet the pot in his hand is spoiled. We consider it good news to feel God’s hands upon us. Though we may not always feel God’s presence, hear God’s voice, or see God at work in our lives, we rest assured that God’s hand stays upon us. The Master Potter remains at the wheel, transforming our situations, shaping us for service, and envisioning good plans, a renewed hope, and a bright future. God reworks us into another vessel, as it “seems good.”
Though strongholds may bind and sin mar, God will never wipe His hands off us. Mercifully, the Master Potter desires our repentance and longs to rework us into vessels of honor, useful to God and prepared for good work. (2 Timothy 2:21.)
Jeremiah would have noticed that the potter was very careful to center the clay on the wheel. After kneading the clay for quite some time (in Jeremiah’s day most likely this was done with one’s feet), working out the air bubbles and making it ready for molding, the clay was ready for the wheel. The potter had to make sure that the clay was placed right in the center of his wheel. The consequences seem fairly obvious. The centrifugal force of the wheel will throw the clay off if it is not centered. The lesson was right there for Jeremiah, and for us, from the beginning. It doesn’t matter what the potter is trying to do with the clay; if the clay is not centered on the wheel, it will not be workable.