Throw Your Clay Onto the Potter's Wheel

January 14, 2018 Speaker: Ted Detiveaux Series: Redeemed in 2018

Topic: Workmanship Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1–:6

Throw Your Clay Onto the Potter’s Wheel

Jeremiah 18:1-6 (ESV)

The Potter and the Clay

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:

In the old testament when God would speak to his people through prophets, He would often instruct his prophets to declare the word of the Lord through symbolism.  It was common that the prophet himself would act out the prophetic word.

God had asked Ezekiel to do some strange things.

  • Once God asked him to eat a scroll symbolizing the need to take in and digest God’s word. Don’t just read it, but think about it and make it apart of you.
  • God also asked him to lay on his side for 430 days. Each day representing a year of sin.
  • He was asked to cook his food using human excrement to show the future desperate state of Israel.
  • He was ordered to not mourn his wife’s death showing there was greater suffering ahead
  • He was also to take a sharp sword and cut his hair and beard. Then he was to divide the hair into 3 equal parts. He was to burn on part, strike another third with his sword and with the remaining third he was to scatter in the wind. (Ezekiel 5:1-2) paraphrased.

This was to symbolize the future destruction that was coming to Jerusalem. A third would die of pestilence, a third by the sword and the remaining third would be scattered like the wind.

Or what about the prophet Hosea

  • God tells the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. He marries her, she eventually runs off with another lover.  God tells Hosea to pursue her.  This was done to show Israel’s unfaithfulness, and at the same time revealing the love, mercy and the pursuit of God.

How about Isaiah

  • God tells him to strip naked and walk barefoot in Jerusalem declaring the word of God. He was to do this for 3 years.

Let us not forget about Jeremiah

  • God orders him to get a new pair of underpants and to wear them for some time without washing them. Then after some time had passed he was to hide them in the cleft of a rock near the Euphrates river.  After more time had passed he was to retrieve the underpants and pronounce a judgement upon it.   He declares it to be “ruined and useless” so would be the pride of Judah and Jerusalem.

Keep in mind these prophets were instructed by God to reveal His message in the way that He had ordered. God had used these symbolic messages to get the attention of His people so that they would turn from their sin.

This also shows the great love that God has for his people by taking such extreme measures.

In our story today, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah the prophet and he is to go down to the potter’s house and make some observations. God would speak to him there.   

 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel.

  • Has anyone ever worked with pottery before? As I have researched, there is a lot that goes into making a beautifully crafted piece of pottery.

One of the most important things before forming anything is picking the right type of clay.

While there are thousands of clay bodies available for purchase, the 3 basics types are porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. Each has its own unique purpose. 

One of the qualities that makes a good clay is that it is workable. A workable clay is easily shaped and allows you to fix any problems that may occur and allows one to continue working.

After picking the right clay you begin to knead the clay to get all of the air bubbles out.

The clay is then thrown onto the center of a wheel where it will be formed into something amazing.

While on the wheel several variables like the amount of water used, the speed of the wheel, and of course the skill of the potter all play a part in the outcome of the vessel.

It’s hard work, it’s messy and it takes time to create something that is valuable.  The potter must be patient as he/she looks for consistency in thickness of the vessel.

Once the potter is satisfied with the shape of the clay, it is then dried for several days and then placed in a kiln where it will be heated to a temperature over 2000 degrees. 

This process takes the soft, pliable, weak, breakable clay and makes it into a strong, hard and even stone like substance. 

After coming out of the kiln the material is then cooled down, glazed and then back into the kiln.

The result is a beautiful piece of pottery that has been carefully shaped by the hands of the potter and has endured the test of fire.

So Jeremiah comes to this potter to hear God speak to him.

 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled (ruined) in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Another important thing to consider when making pottery is that the clay must be centered on the wheel.  If the clay is not centered on the wheel it is impossible to pull the clay into a balanced object and could result into a giant mess.  Too much pressure or too much water can also ruin the piece.

Perhaps in our story the clay was off centered, maybe too much water, or too much pressure applied. We are not told how the clay was ruined but we are told the clay was spoiled or ruined.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

The Lord is making a comparison between the potter and his clay and God and His people.

He is likening himself to the potter, while associating the clay to His people. This makes perfect sense as Adam was formed from dirt (clay)

Now that we have this analogy let’s re read vs 4 again.

 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled (ruined) in the potter's hand,

  • If He is the potter and His people are the clay, what caused His people to be spoiled or ruined while in the hands of the potter?

The answer is in the book of Jeremiah 1, when he was first called to be a prophet.

Jeremiah 1:16

 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 

Up to this point God had showed the children of Israel great things.  He had delivered them out of Egypt showing great signs and works.  He led them to the promise land defeating all their enemies.  He had provided for them their every need.  He had blessed them and made them a great nation. He had cared for them as a chosen possession.  They were “in His hands.” After all that God had done for them, they forsook Him and worshipped other gods which were made with the hands of man. 

This is what ruined them.  This is what made them unfit for the Potter’s use.  Their idolatry was the reason why God was wanting to start all over with them.  Just as the Potter would start all over on a piece of spoiled pottery.

They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 

Before we are too judgmental on the children of Israel, before we say in our hearts we would never worship idols like they have.

  • How many times have we put things or people in the place of God?

God is to reign on the throne of our hearts, yet often we exalt everything but God.  We exalt our problems, our status, our things, we exalt our accomplishments, our fleshly desires, our addiction, our pride, we exalt worry or fear.  The list can go on, of things we exalt over God.

When we put more trust in a material thing, more than we do in God we commit idolatry.

When we rely more on a substance more than the presence of God to fill the void, we commit idolatry.

When we more satisfied with the things of this world more than we are satisfied with Him.  We commit idolatry. We are no better than the people of Israel. 

I am thankful that the story doesn’t end at the clay being spoiled in the potter’s hand. 

4b and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

That’s the beauty about clay.  It can be reworked, reshaped, recrafted into something amazing, something that meets the potters’ standard.  There is no waste when using clay as it can be brought back to a lump, kneaded again, it can be redeemed. 

The same can be done in your life.

God wants to make something new out of you.  He wants to annihilate any resemblance of your old life.  The things that use to define who you were will no longer define who you are.  He wants to make all things new for you today. 

Notice when the potter decides to start over, he uses the same clay.  He will use everything that makes you unique for his Glory. But He will turn it into something far more valuable than you could have ever imagined.

Yes it will be messy, Yes He will trim the excess off and it may hurt, Yes you will go through dry seasons, Yes you will have to go through the fire which is the trials of life. But while you are in the Potters hand, know that He is taking great care in making you a vessel that is worthy of His approval.

Ezekiel, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah, were workable clay in the Potter’s hands. They said yes to whatever the Lord would have them do.  Even if it cost them everything.

In a sense they said, “mold me into whatever you want me to be as you see fitting,” you are the Potter and I am the clay. 

A Few questions I have for you today,

  • Are You Workable Clay?
  • Are you willing to be used by God in whatever way He desires?
  • Are you ready for Him to rebuild something new out of your old life today?

If that is your prayer today would you stand to your feet.

Throw your clay onto the Potter’s wheel

Centeredness, Too much water, Too much pressure, speed of the wheel.

More in Redeemed in 2018

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January 7, 2018

Redeeming Your Time and Your Money

December 31, 2017

Letting God Use Your Story For His Glory