Today’s Scripture reading brings us to a pivotal time in the ministry of Jeremiah. In both Jeremiah 18, and again in the following chapter, the LORD commanded the prophet to visit “the potter’s house” (18:1-2; 19:1). His first visit to the house of the potter was as a spectator (18:3-4). On his second visit, Jeremiah was a customer, for the LORD had told him to “get a potter’s earthen bottle” (19:1). Our devotional is taken from Jeremiah 18.
The Potter’s House (Jeremiah 18:1-10)
One of the great proofs of the LORD’s longsuffering was evidenced in His dealings with Israel and Judah. Sadly, though the people witnessed God’s judgment on their sister nation, (the northern ten tribes of Israel), Judah continued in wickedness. In fact, that nation’s wickedness was magnified because it was the land of the Lord’s holy Temple.
The Purpose for Visiting the Potter’s House (18:2-4)
God commanded Jeremiah to observe the potter as he fashioned lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel. (A potter’s wheel consisted of two horizontal disks joined by a rod. The potter moved the lower disk with his feet, and on the upper disk he “wrought [fashioned] a work [vessel of clay] on the wheels” (18:3).
The prophet observed the potter fashioning two vessels with his hands. The first was described as “marred” (18:4), perhaps because a pebble or some other flaw was found present in the clay. Removing the impurity from the clay, the potter then compressed the clay, and began again fashioning the lump into a new vessel that “seemed good” (18:4).
Lesson from the Potter’s House (18:5-6)
For Jeremiah, the work of the potter was a portrait of the LORD who described Himself as having chosen the nation of Israel as a potter chooses clay (18:5-6). God asked Israel, “cannot I do with you as this potter?” (18:6), thus leaving no doubt the implication of the potter’s work with the clay.
The destiny of a nation is determined by its response to the will and Word of God. (18:6-10)
Like clay in the hands of the potter, nations are the work of God. As surely as a potter foresees the vessel he will fashion from clay, the LORD established Israel (18:6c). Not only Israel and Judah, but all nations are founded by the LORD. He is Sovereign and the nations of the earth are clay in His hands. He has authority to determine the rise and fall of nations, and to “pluck up…pull down…[and] destroy” (18:7).
Though the LORD determined to judge Judah for its sins, He assured Jeremiah how He longed for Judah to repent, and “turn from their evil” (18:8). Reflecting His longsuffering, the LORD declared, “I will repent [forgive] of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (18:8b). Yet, should a nation “do evil…[and] obey not,” the LORD warned, “I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit [bless] them” (18:10).
Judah’s Irrational Decision to Reject the LORD (18:11-12)
The LORD commanded Jeremiah to warn the people, if they continued in their sins, He had determined to judge them (18:10). Rather than fearing the LORD and repenting, the people rejected His invitation saying, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (18:12). Judah refused to repent, and instead set their hearts to do evil.
The Folly of Rebellious Hearts (18:13-17)
Rejecting the mercy of the LORD was so astounding, even the heathen nations were confounded by Judah’s blatant rejection (18:13a). He had chosen and cherished Israel as a virgin, but the people scorned Him (18:13b). His promises were as perpetual as the snows on the mountain peaks of Lebanon (18:14a), and He sent waters gushing from the rocks in the wilderness (for He was the Rock, 1 Corinthians 10:4), yet, Judah rejected the LORD.
Judah was on a ruinous path, for the people did “stumble in their ways from the ancient paths (the Laws and Commandments of God), and followed “in a way not cast up” (18:15; Jeremiah 6:16; Proverbs 22:8).
The judgment of God left the “land desolate,” and the ruins of Judah’s lands and villages a lasting testimony of His judgment (18:16). Other nations would look with wonder upon the calamity that befell Jerusalem (18:16). Foretelling the imminent judgment of God, Jeremiah declared the people would be scattered like the desert winds from the east, and the LORD would turn His face and blessings from them (18:17).
Judah Rejected the Message and Messenger of God, and the Prophet Prayed for Vindication (18:18-23)
Judah refused to heed the warnings of God’s prophet, and planned to silence and slay Jeremiah (18:18). The people, emboldened in their sins, were content with their own priest, wise men, and false prophets (18:18a). Angered by Jeremiah’s boldness, they plotted against him saying, “Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (18:18b).
When Jeremiah received news of the plot to do him evil, he pleaded with the LORD, praying: “Shall evil be recompensed [fulfilled; repaid] for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them” (18:20).
Closing thoughts – Jeremiah accepted the harsh reality how His people had hardened their hearts and resolved to continue in their sin. He prayed the LORD would vindicate Him, and God’s judgment would proceed (18:21-23). Famine, violence, war, sorrows, and deaths would be determined against the prophet’s enemies (18:21), and their households would cry out for God’s judgment (18:22).
Take courage believer, for the LORD is faithful to His promises. His justice will not fail, and He hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.
Matthew 5:18 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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