1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
5Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
A beautiful and powerful image of God's relationship with his people and with other nations is the picture of God as the potter and his people and other nations as the clay. Given this image alone, we might conclude that as a human potter does whatever he or she would want to do with the clay, God does whatever he would want to do with his people or other nations. But this conclusion is mistaken if we read what the above passage actually says.
God is like a potter and we are like the clay in the potter's hands. The surprising element in the passage is that the potter responds to the clay. If the clay (i.e., nation) turns away from evil, then the potter (God) will change his mind from judgment to mercy. If, on the other hand, the clay (nation) turns toward evil, then the potter (God) will change his mind from mercy to judgment.
The moral of the story -- or, the moral of the potter-clay metaphor -- is that although God is powerful (sovereign), God is also interactive. That is, the sovereign God interacts and responds to how people live. God, as described in the Bible, is not a dictator, decreeing things that will be without any regard to his people and nations he's formed. The sovereign, almighty God acts in response to us! Our future is in part shaped by our relationship and interaction with God!
What wonderful weightiness our lives have! We are not trapped in some fatalistic outcome. We are actually sub-creators of our own future. The mystery to all this is the working of God's Spirit (grace) in us, helping us in our weakness and brokenness to overcome the sinful, fearful parts of who we are in order that we choose wisely and for God.
Does this open-ended future scare you? Or, does this open-ended future excite you? It should be the latter, knowing that as long as we walk in faith, hope, and love in Christ, the future -- God's good future for us -- will be safeguarded and fulfilled with God's best for our lives and for his glory.
I, for one, cannot think of a better outlook!
Let's pray: Father God, we thank you for the gift of life, especially the gift of a redeemed life in you. It is amazing and mind-boggling to think that our future is shaped in some small but significant part by our response to your grace and leading. We thank you for this open-ended future. We thank you that we are not puppets that you manipulate. We are not creatures who cannot move your heart and mind. We are, rather, your sons and daughters who get to build with you. We get to build a beautiful future together with one another and with you. We thank you that all that we need for a glorious future -- your grace, love, and power -- are always available in the name of Jesus. What a beautiful life! In Jesus' Name, Amen.