The Clay in the Potter's Hand
Jeremiah 18:1-10
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,…

I. THE PURPOSE OF THIS PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION. It is a practical illustration in the most suggestive sense of the word "practical." Jeremiah had not to go out of his way to produce a sufficiently impressive figure of what God was about to do. He had to go through a very peculiar and protracted experience to bring out the lesson of the marred girdle. But here he has only to go down to the potter at his wheel, a thing he could do at any time; and there is a lesson particularly plain and forcible, as coming out of the daily life, the simple and common life, of the people. Notice, then, that Jeremiah was not sent down to learn just what his own unaided observation might tell him concerning the potter and the clay. He might, indeed, have drawn out many important lessons, yet overlooked the one that was most important of all. God wished the prophet clearly to understand and then distinctly to impress upon the people this truth, that as the potter is to the clay, in respect of the control which he has over it as clay and in its plastic condition, so Jehovah is to Israel in respect of his control over its temporal destiny as a nation. Hence we have to look at the potter's action upon the clay, positively and negatively. We have to recollect both what he can do and what be cannot do. Within certain limits his power is resistless; outside those limits he has no power at all. Give the potter a piece of moist plastic clay; he takes it up, designing to make from ira vessel of a certain shape and for a certain use. Suddenly he finds it desirable to change the shape, and because the clay is still moist and plastic he can do this with the rapidity, expertness, and success which come from long practice It is this particular power of the potter which God would have us to understand is his power over us. What the potter does is limited by the nature of that with which he works. He cannot turn clay into something else than clay. Clay it is when he first touches it: clay it remains when its shape is finally decided. Let the vessel be baked in the furnace and come out hard, its shape cannot then be altered. If it is thrown to the ground it will be broken, it may even be shivered "so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit" (Jeremiah 30:14). No volition or power of the potter will give to the clay vessel the qualities of a wooden vessel or one of metal. He may fashion it for a vessel of honor or dishonor, just as he pleases; but whatever its use its material is still of clay. And similarly we must recollect that, whatever God does with us, he does in harmony with our nature. He finds us, as to the affections and purposes of our hearts, free agents, and, however great the changes he may affect in our circumstances and our future, all must be done without touching this freedom. The Divine potter hero was changing the circumstances of the human clay, just because that clay was so stubborn in submitting to his will so clearly, so lovingly, so often expressed. If we refuse to be molded into the shape that means for us true peace, glory, and blessedness, then we must be molded into the shape which will secure at the least peace and blessedness in God's kingdom, and manifest glory to his great Name.

II. THE GREAT RESULT WHICH SHOULD BE PRODUCED BY OUR CONSIDERATION OF THIS ILLUSTRATION. Too readily is it said by many, "If we are as clay in the hands of the potter, then we need not trouble ourselves. God will shape our destiny, whatever we do." But if we look honestly and humbly at this illustration, we shall see that what God would have us above all things to learn from it is that the shaping of our destiny lies practically with ourselves. In selfish and ignorant obstinacy we wish our life to take a certain mold. Strenuously, and heedless of all Divine counsel and warning, we try what self can do toward the shaping. Then at last our purpose comes to be broken off. All that we have been and all that we have done prove useless so far as our aims are concerned. But for all that we cannot be useless to God. God wishes to work in us a change which would make all our circumstances those of liberty. He wishes to renew our hearts and establish in them a holy love as the central principle. If we refuse this Divine appeal, then we must come under ever-narrowing constraints. We are asked to walk in the liberty of God's children; if we refuse and confess ourselves the enemies of God, then we must be loaded with chains and put in the innermost dungeon. Our wisdom is to turn from our hardness and impenitent hearts, and allow God to lead us into the full μετάνοια (Romans 2:4). Then with understanding shall we address God, "We are the clay, and thou our potter" (Isaiah 64:8). If we by repentance come beck to God and make ourselves clay, such as will have in it a peculiar responsiveness to the touch of God, then we may leave ourselves to his loving-kindness. He will fashion us into just that shape whereby we shall be meet for the Master's service. And if men say in their ignorance that we are turning out but vessels of dishonor, let us recollect that of honor and dishonor God alone is judge. If we only stoop from our pride to do the will of God, God will take care of our position. For is not God he who exalts the humble and abases the proud? - Y.

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

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

The Blessed Parable of the Potter and the Clay
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