1The Lord told me, 2“Jeremiah, go to the pottery shop, and when you get there, I will tell you what to say to the people.”
3I went there and saw the potter making clay pots on his pottery wheel. 4And whenever the clay would not take the shape he wanted, he would change his mind and form it into some other shape.
5Then the Lord told me to say:
6People of Israel, I, the Lord, have power over you, just as a potter has power over clay. 7If I threaten to uproot and shatter an evil nation, 8and that nation turns from its evil, I will change my mind.
9If I promise to make a nation strong, 10but its people start disobeying me and doing evil, then I will change my mind and not help them at all.
11So listen to me, people of Judah and Jerusalem! I have decided to strike you with disaster, and I won't change my mind unless you stop sinning and start living right.
12But I know you won't listen. You might as well answer, “We don't care what you say. We have made plans to sin, and we are going to be stubborn and do as we please!”
13So I, the Lord, command you to ask the nations, and find out if they have ever heard of such a horrible sin as what you have done.
on Lebanon's mountains
never melts away,
and the streams there
never run dry.
15But you, my people,
have turned from me
to burn incense
to worthless idols.
You have left the ancient road
to follow an unknown path
where you stumble over idols.
16Your land will be ruined,
and every passerby
will look at it with horror
and make insulting remarks.
17When your enemies attack,
I will scatter you like dust
blown by an eastern wind.
Then, on that day of disaster,
I will turn my back on you.
My sister has taken up pottery and to my amazement can take a lump of clay, manipulate it thoroughly and shape it into a wonderful bowl on her potter’s wheel. And when she spots an imperfection or fails to produce the shape she has in mind, she starts over. She is always in control.
In chapter 18 Jeremiah tells his listeners that God has power over them just as a potter has power over the clay; they are in his hands and he is able to do what he intends to do with them. If they had really been listening, these words might well have paralyzed the people in Jeremiah’s day. Reading these words today we too might throw up our hands and say “if that is the case, why bother making choices?” We would do well then to read the incredible truth that follows (in v 8) which makes it clear that our choices matter. God goes on to say this to the people (and to us) “your actions will affect my actions – I will change my mind if you will choose well”.
It is incredible to think that an all-powerful God will change his mind based on our actions. The choice is ours. Do we want to obey God’s call to be honest and faithful or do we want to live selfishly and with complete disregard for our neighbour’s plight? Both choices have consequences.
Lord God, you are a holy and almighty God. I recognize a huge power difference between you as the potter and myself as the clay. I am in your hands. I do not want to be squashed and remade but would rather be shaped into something beautiful and worthwhile. Help me to live in obedience to your commands. Grant me your grace. Amen.