Jeremiah 18:1:12 1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.'”
The prophet, Jeremiah was sent on a field trip. Sometimes we have to get out of the normal places and spaces of life and be exposed to something new, something visual, something experiential, in order to gain what God desires for us to understand. So, God sent Jeremiah on a field trip to the Potter’s House to Israel’s “Clay Center” if you will.
In the passage we just read, God was speaking to Jeremiah about the house of Israel. They were the clay that was dug out of Egypt and brought into Canaan where God wanted to work in His people. God is also speaking to us in this passage because just like the Israelites, we’re clay taken out of the pit of darkness and slavery, and we have been brought into the Kingdom of His dear Son that we might be fashioned after His own image. We are marred like the vessel that was in the Potter’s hands. Israel was marred because they had disobeyed God. Because of unbelief they had lost some beauty and developed some cracks. But God wanted Jeremiah to communicate to the House of Israel that they could still come to the Potter’s house to be remade and remolded for His purposes.
It’s implied in this passage that God the Potter is thinking of you.
Jeremiah 1 says “Before you came forth from the womb He knew you! Jer. 1:5 says, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Who you were to be and are to be has been on God’s mind since the beginning of time. Just like an artist that sits and thinks about what his next creation might be, God’s been thinking some good things about you. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a hope and a future” better than you could concoct yourself. There is a Master plan for you His masterpiece.
When God works on you, He has something specific in mind. He’s not a random artist. One of our kids might be drawing a picture and I’ll ask them, “What are you making?” to which they reply, “I don’t know. I’ll make it up as I go.” God doesn’t do that. He has a specific plan in mind for you and your life.
Do you ever wonder how some of these artists are worth millions just for flinging paint onto a canvas in what appears to be a very sloppy, erratic and unspecified way? In my opinion, those people might as well paint blindfolded because that’s what their artwork looks like.
Not so with our God. He knows the end from the beginning. He has thought it all through and planned it all out in amazing detail. I Cor. 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
He doesn’t stop with a thought about what you could be.
God the Potter is also watching you. When God looks at you, He sees what you are, but that’s not what He’s focused on. He sees what you can become! Psalm 17:8 shows the Psalmist’s recognition that God is watching him. He says, “Keep me as the apple of your eye, and hide me under the shadow of your wings.” He wants to know that God is watching his every move.
Psalm 33:18 says, “18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” This morning God is saying, “I’ve got my eye on you.” I’m so glad that His eye is always on me because I’m clay and clay can’t mold itself. I may not always appreciate that He’s always watching. I might wish He’d deal with someone else once in a while and miss what I might say, do or choose, but in the end, you’d better believe I’m glad He’s watching me. Because as a clay pot, I don’t have the perspective to see where I need to be smoothed or altered.
Even though sometimes I think I might know best. From my little self absorbed clay pot perspective, I might try to tell God how things ought to change or be different in my life. Have you ever done that? It’s like a lump of clay trying to tell the Master Potter what He should do to the pot and how it ought to look. “Don’t poke me there. Don’t sand me there. Don’t squeeze me there.” You know what that is? That is the clay back talking the potter. Romans 9:20-24 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” God definitely has some mouthy clay to work on.
But I’m glad He never takes His eye off of me. As the potter molds or shapes a clay pot on the potter’s wheel, defects often appeared. The potter has to power over the clay to perfect it or choose to permit the defects to remain. Our God, the One who sees everything is the One in control of our pots, and He isn’t going to allow defects to remain untouched. He will continue His transforming work in our lives and it will happen only as quickly as we allow Him to overpower us. The longer we resist, the longer it takes. We have to willingly submit to the One doing the shaping. Is. 64:8 says, “8Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The quickest way to perfection is to let God be in charge. Why should we do that? Because He sees perfectly what needs to be done. I’m the kind of person that can look at something and tell you what I don’t like about it, but often I can’t tell you how to make it better. God not only sees the defect, He sees the direction that should be taken in order to perfect it.
Not only does God think about you and watch you, but He touches you as you are in His hands.
Clay has to be taken out of the ground, out of the muck and mire of nothingness and filth. That’s what happens to us when while we are yet sinners, Christ picks us up with His loving hands. He digs us out, dries us up and washes us clean. If you are here this morning and have been saved from your sins, you know what I am talking about. You’ve been scooped up and embraced by the hands of God, and it’s a great place to be.
Now consider what it is like to be pottery in the hands of a Master. What possibilities exist for the clay that is in His hands? When we’re at Bob Evans, our kids like to color on the back of the placemats. Inevitably, their masterpiece will be marred by a mess up, but they have learned the art of turning a bad stroke into the stem of a flower or something else that makes the picture actually better than if the mess up had never occurred. Many of us would throw away such a mistake, but Hannah and Josh use it to give the picture something extra, a greater character and it becomes a mark of perseverance for them as artists and as people. God is much the same. God doesn’t throw away the clay because it is marred or messed up. He works with it until it is perfected. You can’t be marred beyond God’s recognition. When He looks at you, even if you are sitting in the cesspool of sin, He says, “I know her. She’s one of mine. I wish she’d let me touch her. I know she’s hurting. I can heal her. I can remake her.”
God wanted the house of Israel to know that He could take them back into His hands and remake them even though they had disobeyed and had acted other than God fashioned them to be. Verse six says “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” Just because the vessel has been dishonored doesn’t mean it has been disowned.
A group of botanists went on an expedition into a hard-to-reach location in the Alps, searching for new varieties of flowers. One day as a scientist looked through his binoculars, he saw a beautiful, rare species growing at the bottom of a deep ravine. To reach it, someone would have to be lowered into that gorge. Noticing a local youngster standing nearby, the man asked him if he would help them get the flower. The boy was told that a rope would be tied around his waist and the men would then lower him to the floor of the canyon. Excited yet apprehensive about the adventure, the youngster peered thoughtfully into the chasm. “Wait, he said, I’ll be back,” and off he dashed. When he returned, he was accompanied by an older man. Approaching the head botanist, the boy said, “I’ll go over the cliff now and get the flower for you, but this man must hold onto the rope. He’s my dad!” We are always safe in the Father’s hands.
No matter how deep we find ourselves in life’s troubles, it never gets too deep for God. Maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly where we need to be . . . the place of placing our total trust in Him as He holds us in His hands.
The hands of God are gentle and loving and patient. Do you remember I Timothy 1:16 where Saul turned Paul talked about how he had been fashioned as a preaching pot for the glory of God? He said God worked with him. His hands were patient with Saul. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
You who craft or quilt, you know that good work isn’t done in a hurry. Your hands may get tired, it may be tedious, but you carefully touch that craft making sure every stitch is right and perfectly placed and pulled through.
When God touches you, people can see it. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “The Fingerprints of God.” The lyrics say:
I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprint of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece that all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God
Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God’s hand and perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what He’s been creating, since the first beat of your heart
Is a living, breathing, priceless work of art
He touches us because clay must be softened before it can be fashioned. At the potter’s house, clay was mixed with water and sifted to remove any stones or foreign objects that did not need to be there. There were several settling basins where the sifting took place, each basin with smaller holes than the one before.
How many of you know there are times when we need to be sifted? There are times when some impurities need to be eradicated from our lives? Some times when there are some foreign objects which don’t belong in the life of a believer that God puts His finger on and asks us to remove them. That refining process is necessary if we are going to be our very best for Him.
Once refined, then the potter would place the clay on a clean floor and begin walking on it, back and forth, over and over until all the air pockets were removed. Have you ever felt walked on, trampled on by the circumstances of life? Don’t worry. God will pick you up off the floor once there is the right consistency of moldability and conformity to His will in your life.
Where does He touch us? He touches us at the wheel. The wheel is the place where it’s all good and made good. Even though we are spinning and being pinched and roughed up, it is here that God is working His character into our lives as God puts the ugly lump of clay on that wheel.
The clay has already been kneaded out like dough so the potter has something to work with. He’s got some water just in case the clay gets a little dry or too hot. The potter begins to apply a little friction which makes the clay stand upright. Then he applies some pressure to get out some of the small stones and burrs that cause imperfections.
The wheel is spun around swiftly by the potter himself, and He alone controls its speed. Our lives as Christians are not controlled by chance or luck; they are controlled by God. He arranges the circumstances of life that mold us. It was God who arranged for young Joseph to go to Egypt where he was molded into a ruler. We may wonder about the circumstances of our lives and think that God has been unkind to us, but one day we will realize the truth of Romans 8:28 and agree that all things did work together for good because the Potter never was out of control. The speed was always right on that wheel. The friction was just enough.
Then with his hands, the potter trims the clay. He cuts all of the excess away. He removes anything that would detract from the pot’s beauty and won’t be for its benefit. God does the same for us. Once we elect to be on His wheel, He does some spiritual surgery. He removes things from our thinking and character that are excessive and ugly.
Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s workmanship. Have you been touched by the hand of God? Are his fingerprints seen in your life?
Giving up control and accepting our role as clay can be tough. I remember in college, my voice teacher, Greta Dominic, was trying to get me to give up all tension and stress in my body so that I could sing freely without trying to affect or manipulate the sound. She stood behind me and took my head in her hands and asked me to let her move my head any way in any direction she wanted without anticipating any of her movements and without doing anything in myself to restrict her in any way. It was so hard. She’d gently push my head forward and I’d feel myself wanting to help her. I wanted to go with her, so I’d try to move with her and when I did, I was causing tension because I couldn’t possibly read her mind and know which way she’d tip my head next. When I did let go, it was amazing and relaxing to allow my head to be manipulated by her hands. I just melted and then was able to sing with greater freedom and without tension.
We’re at our best when we’re in God’s hands. The only place perfection can be produced is in the hands of God. The reality is, however God’s ability to shape us means nothing if we aren’t on His wheel and in His hands.
I’ve only known Chet Marshall for about a year. He’s a Rotarian, an author, a motivational speaker, and a member of the South Charleston Church of the Nazarene. He’s a good guy. He freely shares his faith and is a real encourager to everyone he meets. Recently, however, he has been diagnosed with multiple myloma, a condition for which there is no cure. He was told that if he began treatment at MD Anderson in Texas, where our own Tami Evans has flown for treatment, that his life can possibly be extended ten years. After that, there would be one other kind of treatment available to him that would give him five more.
Rather than live in fear, panic and dread because of multiple myloma, Chet has decided that multiple myloma is just a cover for a mini mission that God has him on. It’s a new opportunity to experience a different kind of life, one that he wouldn’t have chosen, but one that God is allowing which Chet is convinced will ultimately be for his benefit. He tells people about the mini mission. He passes M and M’s out every Tuesday at our Rotary meeting whether he is there or not, to remind us to pray for him as he is on his mini mission. That, my friend, is a person who remains securely in the hands of the Potter.
This vision Jeremiah had was about more than pottery. It was about judgment. It was about the nation of Israel being put on alert that they would be torn down and destroyed because of their sin and rebellion. Verse 11 says, 11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.'”
Jeremiah’s message is a warning to the people of Israel to repent. The Potter is planning judgment, but He gives this warning. He says in verse 7, “7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
God is issuing the same warning for all of us this morning. He wants you to know that if you are not a pot in His hands right now, you are headed for disaster. But the good news is that repentance, turning from your evil ways, prevents disaster.
To repent means to turn. In the N.T. repentance means to turn from sin. We were called by God to turn from sin. In fact, all men everywhere are commanded by God to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30).
There is true and false repentance, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret; but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10). God longs for us to have a genuine sorrow over our sin and a wholehearted turning away from all that is evil. It’s got to be that we are more than just “sorry we got caught.” It means we recognize that we have willfully taken ourselves off of the Potter’s wheel and instead of allowing God to be our exclusive Designer we have tried to shape ourselves and have in the process been shaped by the things of the world and the plan of our enemy, Satan. God is calling us to repentance.
You can’t remain in sin and in the Potter’s hands at the same time. In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that “The church’s integrity problem is in the misconception that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior. It is revival without reformation, without repentance.”
I say to our kids when they say they are sorry about something that “Sorry means we intend never to do it again.” That’s repentance.
If your life doesn’t reflect the fingerprints of God, if you wonder why you don’t see God using you, if you haven’t been conscious of God’s working in your life, perhaps you need to ask, “Have I taken myself off of the Potter’s wheel?” For as the wheel spins and sometimes life gets difficult, it’s easy to jump off the wheel and live in ways we weren’t designed for. That’s sin. Not doing what God created us to do is sin. He created us for unbroken fellowship with Him. If we aren’t on the wheel, we’re not in proper fellowship with Him.
II Chronicles 7:14 says, “14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(Start the Video-Repentance Right Here even though I will still say the next three sentences)
There is a turning before there is a healing. There has to be a turning on our part before God can turn us on His wheel. Don’t you think it’s time to repent?
Adelaide Pollard (1862-1934) wrote a hymn for willing clay, the kind of clay that stays on the wheel to be shaped in the Potter’s hands:
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!
There are fingerprints on the walls in our home that are green because for some reason, we bought a flat finish in that color instead of semi gloss paint which would have been easier to clean. The finger prints aren’t there, however because we bought the wrong paint, but because little artists run through our home leaving their mark wherever they go. I know they have been there because the evidence of their fingerprints remains behind.
How about the walls of your life? Are God’s fingerprints anywhere to be seen? When others look at you do they know that God has been there and had his hands on you? Every good artist puts his name on his work. Has Jesus signed His name on your life?