“As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah xviii:6b
Yahweh, the living God, is sovereign and almighty. Our lives are in His hands, like clay in a potter’s hands. Depending on our day-to-day response to God, He will exercise his authority and power over us to determine our future.
When God had to teach his people Israel that His plans for them were dependent on their response to Him, he used a wonderful imagery. God sent His prophet Jeremiah to a potter’s house: “Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.“(v 2) Jeremiah found the potter working at his wheel. “But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again.” (v 4)
A potter has complete authority over the destiny of a lump of clay in his hands. Similarly, God has the final say regarding the destiny of an individual, family or nation. “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” (v 6) This was the first lesson that God taught Jeremiah.
The potter-clay imagery has a problem. A lump of clay cannot rebel against the potter; and the potter’s decisions are not dependent on the ‘moral choices’ of the lump of clay! On the other hand, God’s people can rebel against God and go off course. Depending on the moral and spiritual choices the “People of the Covenant” makes, God is determined to make changes to His people’s destiny.
“If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will build up and plant a certain nation or kingdom, making it strong and great, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless that nation as I had said I would.” (v 7-10)
Does God change His mind so frequently and suddenly? Why would He not remain faithful to his promises even when His people desert Him? Are not His promises – at least a few of them – unconditional?
Yes, God is faithful. However, we should understand that His ways are much more comprehensive than ours. His covenants and promises always include provisions that deal with our compliance and non-compliance to His will. God doesn’t “switch” from Plan A to Plan B or from a promise of blessing to a threat of punishment. What appears to us as two opposite plans are indeed components of His grand plan. If we walk in His ways, we inherit the promises and blessings that are a part of His plan. If we walk away from Him in stubborn rebellion, we inherit another component of His plan! No nation or individual should take God’s favor for granted.
It is unfortunate that this graphic lesson was wasted on Israel. Prophet Jeremiah’s message was rejected by his people. They said, “Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, following our own evil desires.” (v 12). The calamity that struck that nation is well known.
In spite of the negative outcome of this lesson, we can take hold of the brighter side of this passage. If we are on a sinful path, and if God has determined evil against us, it is never too late to turn to God and submit to His authority. A fresh start, a glorious future! That’s what God, the Master Potter, offers us today.
Because I’m in the Potter’s House,
I should never be discouraged.
Even when the clay’s distorted—
I must heed his words that encourage.
He is the mighty Potter,
And He’s molding me each day;
Making a beautiful vessel—
From what was spoiled clay.
– Maureen Lefanue (from the poem The Potter’s House)