A New Beginning at the Potter’s House

Jeremiah 18:1-6

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”

The prophet Jeremiah lived at a very difficult time in Judah’s history. The revivals led by King Josiah were a distant memory. Idolatry and immorality plagued the nation. They were following in the footsteps of the Northern Kingdom and soon judgment would meet them. In Jeremiah chapter 18, God issues a very solemn plea beckoning His people to return to Him. History tells us they refused to repent and would not return to the Lord. As a consequence, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive by the Babylonian Empire.

The beauty of this passage (chapter 18, verses 1-6) is that God is reaching out to His people –even well into the 11th hour! The message that God had for Jeremiah was a visual sermon at the potter’s house. God is offering His people a fresh start. We all want a new beginning. We have all said something or acted in a particular way and afterward wished we could take it back or do it differently. We have all had times, happy times and wonderful memories that we would like to re-live.

As much as we all would like to turn back time to re-live a happy moment or take back hurtful words –we cannot. You and I are at this moment the complete sum of every decision we have ever made. No matter how much we want to make a brand new beginning for ourselves – it is impossible. The good news is: “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God is able to give you a new start! That is the message God is preaching to His prophet Jeremiah.

This visual sermon has but three main contributors. Consider them briefly.

The Master Potter

Perhaps Jeremiah had seen this particular potter before. No doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the work of pottery as it was very common in that day. In fact, the Old Testament uses no less than 30 references to this skill in conveying spiritual truth. But on this day, it was different for Jeremiah. This day, God was preaching to him. At the potter’s wheel we see the potter’s ability. Not everyone can make a piece of clay into something desirable. An even smaller number of people are able to create a piece of artwork that is sought after by museums and collectors. The potter is a man of ability.

At the potter’s wheel we also see his sovereignty. That wheel is the potter’s universe in a sense and he is in complete control of what is taking place. The speed of the wheel; the shape into which the clay is molded –all these are completely subject to him.

These are valuable lessons for Jeremiah to learn. Because the potter he was learning about was no ordinary potter. The master potter in this sermon was not the man in the shop. The Master Potter has a different identity. Consider Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

The Master Potter is the LORD. He has infinite ability and sovereign in all things.

The Marred Clay

It takes 9-12 months to prepare the clay. As it is found, it is completely unsuitable for the potter’s wheel. The clay is dug out and goes through a detailed process of filtration and refining to remove all the unwanted debris. The clay is tread under foot to increase its plasticity and then left to weather for months. So much care is given to preparing the clay.

Even though such attention is given to its preparation, sometimes small rocks and other debris remain in the mix. These go completely unnoticed until placed upon the potter’s wheel. As the potter begins his work of shaping and moulding, suddenly the rubbish is brought to the surface and in a moment the new creation is marred. A deep groove is cut into the vessel and the smooth surface is suddenly out of shape.

I heard of a man who was stuck at the bottom of a steep hill and needed to be towed to the top. At the top of the hill, the driver of the tow truck said, “I didn’t think we were going to make that hill.” The driver in the other car replied, “Neither did I, so I kept my feet on the brakes to keep us from rolling backwards!”

That may sound silly, but you and I behave that way more times than we would like to admit. God desires to mold us and make us after His will, but as God looks forward we are looking backward. The apostle Paul, said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14. But before he could press forward, in verse 13 he declares: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

Let go of the past, relinquish your plans and yield yourself to the hands of the Master Potter! Sometimes the clay is marred –not because of a mistake of the Potter, but because there was a bit of debris leftover from the former life still in it.

The Miracle on the Wheel

What happens when God finds a little rubbish in the clay? It’s obvious. He annihilates it. Utterly destroys it and casts it away. No. He does the exact opposite. Note again verse 4. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The Master Potter did not throw the clay away. He started over with the same lump of clay! We have all made a mess of things at times. Attitudes and actions of the old man, the sin nature, comes to the surface. But God in His grace and mercy, with tender hands removes the rubbish. As we confess our sins to Him and yield to His plan –He rebuilds and restores. God has a plan in mind for you.

2 Timothy 2: 20, 21

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Each morning we embark on a brand new day. In many ways it is a clean slate –a fresh start. We cannot tell what it will hold for us. We do not know what challenges we will face, what mountains we will climb or what valleys we will endure. But I do know this: God is still God and His ways are perfect. I know that He is still at work and His hands do not rest. The wheel of time continues to turn and as I will yield to the Master Potter, He can make something beautiful in me. I know that I am prone to failure, but God will not throw the clay away. God will continue His work; day by day, making and remaking me into a vessel that is fit for the Master’s use.


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