The Teaching of the Potter
Jeremiah 18:1-10
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,…

Divine revelation is a possible thing only because of that great and earliest fact in the record of human history, "And God made man in His image," a fact which nothing, not even sin, can destroy. God's words to men are made possible and meaningful because of the fact that, in spite of rebellion and fall, there is enough deep, true kinship left to afford resting place for His appeal and interpretation of His speech. As long as spiritual being lasts, this must be true. Now proceed a further step. The method of communication is not a matter of essential importance. So long as I make you understand what I mean, the way in which I do this does not matter much. We meet with those who do not speak our language, or perhaps any tongue that we can speak and understand; but we find that some sufficient things can be said by signs. We can buy this or that by pointing to it, and showing the value in coin. There is one further step to take, and then we shall arrive at the position from which I want to look at the words of this text. The activities and occupations of men are full of resemblances to the activities of God. What we have to do, and are doing every day, illustrates much more fully than, perhaps, we have ever thought, what God is doing around us and within us; so that we may rise somewhat to comprehend His work in its grand patience and victory over hindrance and pauseless triumph, by means of a fuller understanding of our own. And, significantly enough, this is the more completely true of those occupations which are simple and manual, most necessary and least artificial, compelled by the wants which are common to us all, rather than of those which are the creation of empty social custom and artificial routine. The Divine word to Jeremiah, both in itself and in the manner of its communication to him, is strikingly suggestive. What was the word? Jeremiah had been a very faithful minister and messenger, and yet his endeavours had been unavailing to stay the torrent of national disaster. As a rock, staunch in midstream, only adds to the tumult of the waters that dash, and break, and hurry on their way, this man's obedient and firm obstruction only made him to suffer the fretful wrath of the people, whose downward rush would not be stayed. It seemed as though he were a protest and nothing more. For the people there was nothing but hopeless ruin. God wants to show His servant that such despair is not true. What the people might have been they refused to be, but they might yet be some. thing. What the potter does with the clay with which he works, the Lord can do with the men with whom He deals. What is that? Well, go down to the workman's house and watch him. See the frame, and the wheels, and the mass of ready clay. See the man's tutored hands and nimble fingers. He has purpose, ability, design. His power is complete. He can do what he likes. He can take the lump of clay in his hands and say, "This shall be a fair and stately vase fit to stand on the table of a king"; or, "This shall be a thing for common use, one among a thousand like itself, winning no regard or admiration, to be appraised at no appreciable value." He can bid the clay be what he chooses. Can he? Let us see. Now the workman has put clay upon the wheel, and it begins to whirl; the beginning of the design is manifest, some outline of a shape appears under the touch of his plastic hand. But then comes a pause: something has gone wrong. Where is the fault? Not in the care and genius of the workman? Surely not in the clay? Yes, there is a flaw, a rebellious and intractable mingling of impurities, and the workman cannot do as he had purposed. What will the potter do? Toss the clay away? Clay is plentiful and cheap. No, not if the workman's heart is right and his enthusiasm true. A fellow workman may say, "I would not trouble with it. No one can make anything of that piece; it is utterly useless." But the right-souled man says, "I waste nothing, and despise nothing. I can make something of this clay if you cannot; and I shall make what can be made, if not what I hoped, at least the very best that is according to its nature possible." "So he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it" (Jeremiah 18:4). And so can I do, says the cheery word to the prophet, so can I the Lord do with this apparently hopeless and intractable nation. With them, as with the piece of clay, there is a resolute, rebellious intermingling. They show themselves unworthy. They make themselves incapable of the high destiny among the nations to which My call would lead them. They must lose their crown. My purpose must be fulfilled in other ways, and by other instruments and ministries. But — and here speaks the heart of generous, patient love — I have not done with them. I shall do the very best that can be done with them, and put them in a place which they can fill. This is My pleasure anything short of it would be anguish. But, to do the possible best, even with the most unpromising material, is the object and aim of My redeeming hand. The right-hearted workman is like-minded of God, and, in his sphere, does an identical work. The man who makes two ears of corn grow where only one would grow before; the man who shapes wood, or beats and moulds metal into fashions of use, beneficence, and comeliness, is, besides all the wage-profit that his industry brings, doing a redemptive work that is akin to Divine. Industry, cleanliness, usefulness, beautifying labour — these are far more than means of livelihood, they are means of might and spiritual life.

(D. J. Hamer.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

WEB: The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying,

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