Jeremiah and the Clay Jar
1The Lord said:
Jeremiah, go to the pottery shop and buy a clay jar. Then take along some of the city officials and leading priests 2 and go to Hinnom Valley, just outside Potsherd Gate. Tell the people that I have said:
3I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, and you kings of Judah and you people of Jerusalem had better pay attention. I am going to bring so much trouble on this valley that everyone who hears about it will be shocked. 4-5 The people of Judah stopped worshiping me and made this valley into a place of worship for Baal and other gods that have never helped them or their ancestors or their kings. And they have committed murder here, burning their young, innocent children as sacrifices to Baal. I have never even thought of telling you to do that. 6So watch out! Someday this place will no longer be called Topheth or Hinnom Valley. It will be called Slaughter Valley!
7You people of Judah and Jerusalem may have big plans, but here in this valley I'll ruin those plans. I'll let your enemies kill you, and I'll tell the birds and wild animals to eat your dead bodies. 8I will turn Jerusalem into a pile of rubble, and every passerby will be shocked and horrified and will make insulting remarks. 9And while your enemies are trying to break through your city walls to kill you, the food supply will run out. You will become so hungry that you will eat the flesh of your friends and even of your own children.
10Jeremiah, as soon as you have said this, smash the jar while the people are watching. 11Then tell them that I have also said:
I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I warn you that I will shatter Judah and Jerusalem just like this jar that is broken beyond repair. You will bury your dead here in Topheth, but so many of you will die that there won't be enough room.
12-13I will make Jerusalem as unclean as Topheth, by filling the city with your dead bodies. I will do this because you and your kings have gone up to the roofs of your houses and burned incense to the stars in the sky, as though they were gods. And you have given sacrifices of wine to foreign gods.
14I went to Topheth, where I told the people what the Lord had said. Then I went to the temple courtyard and shouted to the people, 15“Listen, everyone! Some time ago, the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, warned you that he would bring disaster on Jerusalem and all nearby villages. But you were stubborn and refused to listen. Now the Lord is going to bring the disaster he promised.”
Soft clay can be shaped and molded; fired clay can be broken and shattered!
In chapter 18 a potter was using soft and malleable clay to make a pot but here in chapter 19 Jeremiah picks up the finished product from the potter: a cured and fired clay jar. In chapter 18 the message from God was that he was able (and willing) to change and shape the people should they choose to worship and obey him but here in chapter 19 the message does not suggest change is even possible; the time to avert God’s judgment is now past just as the fired clay jar is now past the point of being reshaped.
Two things are made clear in God’s words to the people. Firstly, a host of disasters will overwhelm Judah/Jerusalem in the near future: “…enemies will kill you…Jerusalem (will become) a pile of rubble…the food supply will run out… you will be so hungry you will eat the flesh of your friends…” (vv 3, 6-9 and 11-12). Secondly, the reason for this harsh pronouncement is made clear: the people have failed to heed God’s commands and engage in true and faithful worship, and they have continued to worship idols (vv 4-5, 13b and 15b).
And if the words were not clear enough, surely the demonstration by Jeremiah should make it clear for he takes the hardened/fired clay jar and smashes it on the rocks.
It is hardly a pretty picture nor a hopeful one. At some point the people of Judah, and we in turn, must recognize that our actions will bring consequences.
Lord God, you are a holy God and have made it clear what you ask of me: obedience and true worship. Help me to see how I might be more in tune with your will and your ways. Grant me your Spirit so that I might serve you faithfully, through Christ our Lord, Amen.