Friday, July 24, 2015

The Potter’s Power

Jeremiah 18:1-23

:The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” (Jeremiah 18:1-4)

God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house to see an illustration of what He was doing in Judah.  As the potter worked on the wheel, something went wrong with the pot he was making.  Rather than throwing it away or trying to patch it, the potter simply rolled the clay back into a ball and started a new pot shaped the way he chose it to be. 

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.  At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:5-10)

Just as the potter could start over and make something different if the pot didn’t turn out the way he wanted it, God has the power and the right to destroy what he started and make something different if a people doesn’t do what he wants.  If God tried to effect change in a nation, warning them of their sin, and they complied, he will not judge them.  If they resist his efforts to make them like he wants, he will destroy them and start over, as he sees fit. 

“Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” (Jeremiah 18:11)

Jeremiah was to then go to the people of Jerusalem and warn them of the judgment they were facing.  He was to encourage them to turn back to God, doing what was right instead of evil.

“And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.” (Jeremiah 18:12)

The people of Jerusalem said that doing what God commanded wouldn’t make any difference.    Instead, they were going to do the things they thought would work, and that other nations had done in similar situations. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.” (Jeremiah 18:13)

If they would just ask other countries how those ideas worked, or study their histories, they would recognize they were making a horrible mistake.  Even the countries that survived went through extended periods of struggle and conflict. 

“Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?   Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.  I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.” (Jeremiah 18:14-17)

A person who has vacationed in the mountains and enjoyed being able to play in the snow on a hot day or has enjoyed being by a cold stream on a hot day will probably not forget how nice it was to be there.  Israel has forgotten how wonderful it was to have God’s blessings.  They’d worshipped other Gods and followed the teachings of false religions, leading them to live in a way that was not pleasing to God.  In doing so, the cause their land to be desolate and made themselves despicable to the nations around them.  They will be destroyed, and when they call on God for help, he will just turn His back on them.
“Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” (Jeremiah 18:18)

When they heard God’s warnings, the people turned on Jeremiah.  They were sure that their priest couldn’t be misinterpreting the law, their advisors were too smart to make a mistake, and their prophets were all speaking for God, so Jeremiah must be crazy.  They decided to destroy his credibility and ignore what he told them. 

“Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.  Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.  Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.  Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.   Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.”  (Jeremiah 18:19-23)

Jeremiah prays that God will see how he has tried to show Judah what is right and how to fix their problems and they have punished him for trying to help them.  As a result, he asks they receive the full measure of judgment they deserve.  He prays that they not be excused for their attempts to kill him but that they be repaid in kind.  It is really frustrating when you try to help people and they turn on you.  

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