What kind of clay are you?
A: You are soft and capable of being molded.
B: You are clay marred with imperfections.
C: You are hard, incapable of being molded.
D. You are or have been all of the above.
I’ll go first. “D” for me. All of the above.
Let’s listen to the Prophet Jeremiah
“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message. So, I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 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.
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does? declares the Lord. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 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.
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.”
God Was Giving Jeremiah a Warning in a Vision
In the passage, God was giving Jeremiah, the last prophet of Judah, a vision of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah would look at the City of Jerusalem and see its future, which included the destruction of the city and its people being forced into exile. He was giving him a warning when he was sent to watch a potter working at his potter's wheel with clay.
Imagine what Jeremiah first saw when he went to watch the potter at his work. Survey the outside. It’s a square, stone structure covered with a whitewashed sort of stucco. As Jeremiah entered, he walked onto a pounded dirt floor, tip toeing around pieces of broken pottery. The room’s stone walls hold shelves of pottery. There are two small oil lamps casting minimal light onto the center of the room where a bearded old man sits at a pottery wheel.
That artist takes a lump of brownish clay in his hands. He places it on a wheel. He turns the wheel with his skillful hands and begins molding a vessel from the clay into shape. Watching the potter turn the wheel and work the clay enables Jeremiah, and us, to grasp several important truths, truths we also need to hear and heed, as we substitute our names, our nation, and the church at large for Israel in this passage.
1. God created us and molds us for his purposes. Just like the potter who has an idea of what he wants to create even before beginning to turn the wheel and apply his fingers to the turning clay, God determines and designs who we are for his purposes, our God-given life purposes
Isaiah 14:24: “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.’”
We are never too old to be molded and renewed. God molds each of us from when we are born until when we die. He keeps molding and remolding us for his purposes. The renewing is never finished.
2. Like finished pottery, we are also molded and shaped into different shapes, and for different uses. If you go into a potter’s shop, you’ll find many different samples of his or her work on the shelf or around the wheel on the floor.
In the same way, each of us is a unique creation of the Master Potter, created and molded just the way God wants us. A vase can pour, but a pitcher can pour better. That’s why it was shaped with a spout. When we discover our shape, who we are and what we’re made of, we can best serve God.
3. We are marred creations. Watching the potter work, Jeremiah must have been pleased at what he saw. But the potter frowned and said, ''No, there is a flaw in it. It is marred.'' So he crushed the vessel in his hands, put the clay back on the wheel and made a vessel that satisfied him. 4. Some of us have hard hearts. When our hearts are hard, we are like clay that’s hardened. We resist the renewing, the ongoing molding, just like hard clay.
Hebrews 3:8: “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”
What happens when we harden our heart? Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”
5. God requires complete surrender by us. A potter can only mold the clay when it lies completely in his hand.
Israel wanted to be in charge. We like to be in charge of our lives, but this story tells us something different. It tells us we are servants of God, and we are to submit our lives to God's will, rather than our own. How can we be masters of our own fate and yet surrender our lives as servants of God Most High? 6. The best of us sometimes become discouraged. In the passage we look in on one of the prophets of old -- Jeremiah. He has been called the ''weeping prophet'' simply because his heart broke as he looked upon the sins of Israel to repentance. Have you ever given up on yourself, thinking, “I’m done? I’m too broken? I’m not worthy of God’s love?” You thought you were ready for the scrap heap, cast aside with all the other broken souls, all the broken and marred vessels. I have.
Psalm 31:12: “I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.”
The Gospel's Good News
But here’s the good news of the Gospel. Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Scripture is clear, every one of us is broken spiritually when it comes to salvation, that everyone of us has sinned and come short of the glory of God. It’s only through the blood of Jesus Christ that we are mended again and made whole again by God, the Master Potter, the person in charge.
Walt Disney, another person in charge of his creation, had the same idea. He reportedly said: “Disneyland is like a piece of clay: If there is something I don't like, I'm not stuck with it. I can reshape and revamp.”
God created us to do his holy and true will. He knows the true value of who and what he created, when he created us. He doesn’t want to lose us. Just as he loved and kept forgiving and renewing the nation of Israel, he loves us and treasures us.
Pope Francis noted: “We are all jars of clay, fragile and poor, yet we carry within us an immense treasure.”
The Final Truth.
As with the nation of Israel, we also have a nation and a world that is broken and needs to be fixed. And only God can heal them. Listen to God’s message again. It’s worth repeating.
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
But, if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 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.
God is the Master Potter. He is in charge.
He's got "the whole world in his hands," holding a big ball of clay.