In chapter 15:1-22, the Lord's answer came to Jeremiah. Intercession was rejected and the nation's fate was sealed. The prophet's grief was followed by the Lord's reply (verses 10-21). The nation of Israel should have remembered II Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." But they did not heed God's call--they did not repent--they did not turn from their wicked ways, in spite of the faithfulness of the weeping prophet, Jeremiah.
In chapter 18 the prophet visits the potter's house and watches him mold the clay. This is a picture of God's grace. As we read of the potter and the clay, we can see a picture of our lives and our relationship to God. Each object has a meaning. God is the Potter, and our lives are in His hands. We are not controlled by some invisible force or by blind fate. We are in the hands of a Person, Almighty God. He is not just our Creator. He is our Father if we have, by faith, accepted His Son. He has a personal concern for our lives. He is the power that molds us. Clay cannot mold itself; neither does man have the power to mold his own life. He makes it very clear that He is sovereign over all men (verses 6-10). Of course, this does not mean that God is to blame for the sins of man or failures of nations, but it does mean that He is all-powerful and Almighty, and He desires the free will that He has given us to be used for Him rather than for serving the devil.
Another way that God is like the potter is that He has a perfect plan for our lives. He, like the potter, sees the finished product in His mind. We cannot see God's plan for us, but He promises that if we will trust Him and turn our lives over to Him, the final outcome of our lives will be wonderful.
The patience of the potter can be easily compared to the patience God uses to direct our lives. Often He uses the hands of others to help shape us--parents, teachers, fellow Christians, and even those who persecute us. It takes time to make a worthwhile product, and God is patient as He deals with us. Of course, in Jeremiah's message the clay represents the nation of Israel, but we are not wrong in applying it to our lives today. Christians are God's vessels, molded by Him to contain the treasures of the Gospel and to give forth that Gospel. Clay is a mixture of dust and water. We are of the dust (Psalm 103:14), but the water of the Spirit of God has given us life through faith in Jesus Christ. Clay is of no value in itself, but it can become something great if molded by the right hands, for the right purpose. We are worthless to God unless we allow Him to mold our lives into what He has for us to do.
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