August 20, 2007

Stopping for a Rest at the Potter's House

I have come to the rest stop known as Jeremiah in my yearly journey from Genesis to Revelation. And I’m reminded of what I always say to myself when I come to this steep point on the trail: ‘I’m glad I’m not Jeremiah!’ What a difficult task he had – preaching judgment to God’s people, and getting criticized for it. And what a difficult book this is to read! Finding a word of hope is sometimes like looking for a star on a cloudy night! A few stars of encouragement do, indeed, twinkle in Jeremiah’s sky – just not as many, it seems, as at some other clearings in God’s forest. But there is one specific bright spot that I pause to notice, year after year, when I walk with Jeremiah – Chapter 18.1-4:

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Isn’t this a hope-filled scene? Let’s sit down with Jeremiah for a rest at the potter’s house for a few moments. What do you see?

I see the skill of the potter. Of course, the clay was spoiled in his hand. Clay is like that. It develops bubbles. It will sometimes cave in on one side. It gets hard and almost unworkable. But the potter is able to take such a lump – a lump that has already proven its stubbornness – and make something good! And when I see the skill of the potter, over against the stubbornness of the clay, I am amazed at how God has made something useful out of me!

I see, too, the patience of the potter. Do you know what I’d do with that spoiled lump of clay? After a few sidewall collapses, I’d probably be out in the front yard, using it as a shot-put! But this potter is patient – just like our Father in heaven is patient toward His own – not giving up, even on the most hardened lump.

I also see the authority of the potter. What did the potter do with the clay? “He remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” That sounds like God, doesn’t it? He does not owe us anything. He can make us into a beautiful vase, or a dogfood bowl—whatever He chooses! He is sovereign. He has not, ultimately, left our usefulness – or even our salvation – in our own hands. He is sovereign, doing in our lives what He pleases. And, thank God He is! Otherwise, nothing good would ever come out of this old lump of clay – for nothing good dwells in my flesh (Romans 7.18)! I am just like that spoiled clay—showing forth no intrinsic beauty, and possessing no power of my own, but rather, needing to be molded by the hand of the potter.

So I say to the potter: You are the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me – this is what I pray!

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