Jeremiah 18:1–15comment (0)
June 30, 2011
By Douglas K. Wilson
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1–15
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Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
NEVER SAY IT’S HOPELESS
From Jeremiah’s perspective, he was living in a hopeless situation. The king and his counselors deluded themselves into thinking that God would not allow Judah to fail. Priests allowed idols to be erected in the Temple. The nation’s leaders were leading the people to destruction.
God’s people are never without hope. Leaders may fail them and circumstances may seem overwhelming but their hope rests in the God who accomplishes the impossible. As Christians, our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Appreciate God’s Patience (1–4)
In this passage, God uses a visit to the potter’s house as an object lesson to convey truth about Himself and His people. He is shaping them for His purposes and plan. Since Genesis, there has been a connection between God as Creator and the art of making pottery. The Hebrew verbal root used to describe the creation of Adam (Gen. 2:7) is the basis for the term “yotzer,” meaning “potter.”
The potter demonstrates his patience as he works the clay until it suits his desire. Clay must remain moist, pliable and in the potter’s hand in order to be useful for his design. Following this analogy, we must appreciate and accept God’s patient shaping of our lives, which includes the painful process of being reshaped according to His plan and purposes.
Acknowledge God’s Power (5–10)
God is unchanging (immutable) in His nature, character and power. Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh reveals Himself to Israel and its enemies as the Creator God who demonstrates both grace and justice, who blesses and curses (Jer. 17:5, 7). Probably the most significant self-revelation by God is recorded in Exodus 34:6–7. This unchanging dual reality of God’s mercy and His wrath is referenced in every subsequent period of biblical history.
God is not a man and has no need to repent as humanity does. This unchanging nature of God is stated in the Law (Num. 23:19), the Prophets (1 Sam. 15:29) and the Writings (Ps. 110:4). Why then does this passage state that God will repent (8, 10 KJV)? Four-hundred-year-old English is distinct from present usage. Relenting, rather than repenting, is today a more apt rendering of the Hebrew verb “nacham.” It conveys a course of action here, more than a state of mind. God’s response to a person or nation is not based on arbitrary whims but rather on His unchanging character.
When believers submit themselves as clay in the Potter’s hands, they experience God’s blessing. God clearly states in this passage that a nation who hears of His impending judgment and turns from its wickedness will be spared. At this time, Jeremiah would have been well aware of the events recorded in Jonah. By contrast, when a nation that previously experienced God’s favor becomes hardened against its Maker, the inhabitants become objects of His wrath and judgment.
Amend Your Perspective (11–15)
Scholars differ in their understanding of this passage. Some are of the opinion that Jeremiah is giving up hope that God will deliver them (12), while others see him stating an undeniable truth — there is no hope that Judah will repent. Indications from the previous section indicate that Jeremiah was giving up on the nation, not God.
With natural disasters becoming commonplace today, relationships experiencing greater strain and political corruption seeming to be a rule rather than an exception, we may be tempted to give up hope in God’s deliverance. If so, then we need to change our perspective. This world is not our home. Nations rise and fall. On this Independence Day weekend, it is time to take stock in where we are as citizens in our relationship with God.
The nation lost its way. It wandered from the ancient path that had been marked for it by God’s covenants. When it no longer experienced God’s blessings, it turned to gods of its own design. It blamed God for its dissatisfaction, yet He remained faithful and unchanging. Until it returned to the road, there was no hope for it. What would it take for the nation to return to the ancient path?