Reflection on Jeremiah 18: 1-11
A Reading from the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:1-11)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
My thoughts on Jeremiah 18: 1-11
In the reading from Jeremiah, God instructs Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. There he sees the potter working with the clay. It gets spoiled, so the potter must reshape and remake it. It struck me that the potter did not throw the clay away and fetch new clay but rather he reshaped the clay that he was already working on. God says to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” The Lord later suggests that He is the potter and can destroy a nation or a kingdom unless the nation or kingdom turns away from its evil ways.
In verse 12, Jeremiah describes the response from the people. “So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart.” The people insisted on following their own plans, which was contrary to the plan of God. They’re not willing to change. Chapter 19 goes on to describe what happens to the people that followed the evil of their own hearts. You can read it for yourselves, but suffice it to say, it did not work out well for them.
As a society we might think that we don’t need molding but I see every day that we do. I see it in people who have lost their way, in people who are preaching hate, in people who have turned away from the teachings of Jesus and the other prophets, because they don’t think that they need to heed the words of the prophets or that those words are not relevant to them. Maybe we’re like the ancient Israelite’s, we want to go our own way. But I want us to think about this, if we’re not being molded by God, who or what are we being molded by?
I for one know that I need molding. That was not always the case. In my youth, I turned away from the church thinking that there was nothing here for me. At that time, my attitude was the same as the people that Jeremiah was addressing, that I was not willing to change and needed no moulding. I thought “I’m an intelligent person I can figure things out for myself”. I’m smart, but I learned that I was not that smart. I do remember during a difficult episode in my life, I was praying and suddenly these words came to me “Lord help me to get out of your way so that you can mold me to your will”. I don’t know where those words came from, but I remember that I felt quite calm at that very moment.
I soon realised that other than my parents, the church is a place where I can be molded by people who care to mold me into the right shape. And so I returned to the church.
I go back to my previous question, if we’re not being molded by God, who or what are we being molded by? Are we being molded by our own thought processes? That can be a scary thought! Are we being shaped by the opinions of others? An even scarier thought! Are we being moulded by TV, the internet, or social media? Are we being formed by our culture today, the trends, whatever is popular? We are being shaped by something. What are you being shaped by? Many in our society are being shaped by some of those very things I have just mentioned.
I must admit that it is not always easy to step out of God’s way and let Him be the potter especially if we don’t understand His master plan. And let’s face it, sometimes we resist being moulded. So what do I think God wants me to be? Based on the messages I think that I am getting from Him…honest, trustworthy and giving as a start. Do I think that God will throw me away and start again…no the Potter in Jerimiah kept the clay and reshaped it, he didn’t throw it away. Do we have to be destroyed to be remade? I don’t think so. God said to Jeremiah about the nation, “I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.”
Realizing that one needs to be remade is a difficult concept for some to understand and accept, especially if you think that you are perfect. Realizing that there is something about you that must be reshaped can be a bitter pill to swallow.
As Christians we come together today realizing that there’s at least some part of us that wants to be formed by God. We are here because we want something beyond ourselves to shape us. We don’t necessarily want to follow our own way.
There are limits to the pottery analogy. The pot has no choice in the matter. It’s an inanimate object. It’s just there. We’re different. God has created us with free will. We can choose to follow God or choose to follow our own way, just like the Israelites. However God wants us to be malleable. God wants to shape us into the person He wants us to be. God doesn’t force us, but asks us to open up our hearts to Him.
Are you willing to open your heart to Him? Are you willing to step out of His way so that He can shape you? Amen
Deborah Warner, September 4, 2016