My youngest child and I recently went on a “daddy-daughter date” to a pottery shop. As we chatted, she painted a round trinket box in a rainbow of bright colors. Two weeks later, we picked up the finished piece, which had been glazed and fired in a kiln. This beautiful memory is on a shelf in front of me as I write this sentence!
At God’s direction, Jeremiah also visited a pottery shop (vv. 1–4). He took special note as the potter broke down a pot on the wheel and reshaped it into something else. In those days, a potter worked with two flat, circular stones (wheels) mounted on a rod or shaft. The lower wheel was spun by foot, while the potter worked the clay on the upper wheel.
This episode became another object lesson (vv. 5–10). God is the Potter; Israel is the clay. As the sovereign Creator, He has the right to do whatever He likes. When the clay fails to submit, He will remake it as He pleases. The same two conditions in yesterday’s reading apply here as well: If the people repent, then God would relent from judgment. But if they continue to sin, then God would “relent” from the blessing He’d planned for them.
Isaiah used the same image to make a point about who’s in charge, accusing Israel: “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!” (Isa. 29:16; 45:9). Paul similarly quoted Isaiah but probably had Jeremiah in mind as well when he admonished: “Who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Rom. 9:20).
The classic chorus, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” includes potter and clay imagery of surrendering to the Lord’s will. Why not sing it today as part of your personal devotions?
Extended reading: Jeremiah 18