Parable of the Potter
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 18:1-23, Jeremiah 19:1-15, 2 Kings 21:10-12, Romans 9:20-21
After retiring in Kentucky, my uncle took up pottery lessons. Over the year, our family began to acquire a collection of iridescent and cobalt blue bowls and flower pots as he experimented like a mad scientist. He loved working with clay for the same reasons most people do. It’s wet. It’s messy. There’s a form of childlike play to it. You can mold and shape it to make something beautiful in the end. The outcome of the clay is at the mercy of your hands. The same is true of us and our Maker.
In the beginning of Jeremiah 18, God says to the prophet: “Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal my words to you” (v.2). He sends Jeremiah to this house because by observing the potter’s wheel and clay, Jeremiah is given a powerful visual aid. Just like clay in a potter’s hand, the house of Israel is held in its Maker’s hands (v.6). The Israelite people aren’t as independent as they think. They are stubborn and make poor decisions. They abandon their commitment to God and defile the land with idolatry, making it a “horror” (v.16). They don’t realize how fragile they are and what they are risking in order to live according to what they think is right.
In Jeremiah 19, God tells Jeremiah to give a sign act to the people of Judah, which is exactly what it sounds like: a physical act that serves as a sign. He instructs Jeremiah to buy a potter’s clay jar, proclaim God’s judgment against Judah, and says, “Then you are to shatter the jar in the presence of the people going with you” (Jeremiah 19:10). The sign was meant to represent His intentions toward unrepentant Judah.
God takes great care to speak in ways we can understand. He’ll use everything from visual aids to metaphors to get our attention; even the world around us reveals His character. As we read through Jeremiah’s prophecies, may we trust that God knows what is best for us, and look for where He may be trying to reveal His truth to us.