Lessons At The Potter's House

Bible Book: Jeremiah  18 : 1-6
Subject: Will of God; Renewal; Life, God's Plan for your

Sometimes God drives home his truth in strange settings--and we’re going to read about an example of that this morning. Jeremiah, who ministered to the southern kingdom of Judah in the 6th century B.C., is known as “the weeping prophet” because of all the sorrow that he saw--and experienced.

Here’s the scene that we’re reading about this morning: The people of Judah had sinned against God and he had pronounced judgment upon them. He told them that the dreaded Babylonians were going to invade their land, cause great destruction, and take many of them to Babylon as captives. Knowing that that invasion was imminent, the people undoubtedly were downhearted--they were despondent. Some of them were probably saying, “This will be the end of us as a nation. We’re going to be wiped off the face of the earth.” It was right in the midst of all that gloom and despair that God spoke to Jeremiah and reminded him of three profoundly important truths--truths of which none of us dare lose sight. Let’s look at Jeremiah 18:1-3:

“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.”

I’m going to read the rest of it later, but for the moment let me skip to verse 6: “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.”

I. God Has A Plan For Every Life

Have you ever observed a potter at work? Probably many of you have. The old-fashioned potter’s wheel used in Jeremiah’s day was a simple and somewhat crude affair. There was a wooden framework, in the middle of which was a vertical axel. On top of that axel, laid horizontally, was a heavy stone wheel, and then on the bottom of that axel was another, similar wheel. The potter would place the moist, pliable lump of clay on that upper wheel; with his feet he would turn the bottom wheel, and of course that caused the top wheel with the clay on it to turn--and as it turned, the potter would shape the clay with his sensitive, artistic fingers.

Now, there might have been some maverick potters, and I suppose there were, but the sharp, experienced potter--the real “pro”--did not work haphazardly. He worked according to a plan. Before he really got started, he would carefully study that lump of clay and consider its possibilities. He would form a mental picture of the vessel he would make--the shape it would have, its height, the thickness of its walls, and even the way it would be used. It was only then, after finalizing his plan, that he started seriously to work.

When God said, “Cannot I do with you as this potter?” he was saying to Jeremiah, “I am not through with the nation of Judah. They do have a future, and I have a plan for that future.”

Now, a nation is but the sum total of the individuals who make it up, and if God had a plan for the nation of Judah, that means he had a plan for every individual in that nation. Acts 10:34 says that “God is no respecter of persons,” so if he had a plan for the people of that day and time, he has a plan for individuals today--and that was the first truth of which Jeremiah was reminded at the potter’s house: GOD HAS PLAN FOR EVERY LIFE.

What an awesome thing to realize that the great, eternal God who spoke this world into existence and sustains it by his omnipotent power actually cares enough about you and me individually that he has worked out a complete plan for each of our lives.

A. God’s plan for every person’s life includes salvation.

2 Peter 3:9 says that “the Lord is...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Acts 20:21 gives both sides of the coin: “...repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Not everybody does repent and believe. Some people reject Christ and spend eternity in hell--but that isn’t God’s desire. God’s heart yearns for people to be saved, but he has made us free moral agents and he will not force his grace upon us.

B. God’s plan for every peron’s life includes sanctification

There’s another aspect of God’s plan that is the same for everybody. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 the Bible says, “For this is the will of God for you, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain for fornication.” God plans for every person not only to be saved, but also to live a morally clean life.

C. God’s plan for every person’s life includes His will

From that point on, then, obviously God’s plan varies from one person to the next. For instance, he clearly doesn’t intend for everybody to follow the same line of work, or to perform the same ministry within the church. He has a particular plan for each of us in regard to family life. God leads some folks to serve him as single persons--and how much poorer this world would be without such great singles as Lottie Moon and others, many of whom are not widely known, but have served God faithfully and will have a rich reward in heaven. Apparently, though, in most cases God plans for people to marry, and in many--perhaps most--cases to have children--and he stands ready to reveal his plan in all those areas. Ephesians 5:17 says, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” God doesn’t play cat-and-mouse. God wants his will to be known--and he will reveal his will to us if we will earnestly ask him.

In his poem, “Peace,” Henry Van Dyke gave this testimony:

             “With eager heart and will on fire, I strove to win my great desire.
              ‘Peace shall be mine,’ I said; but life Grew bitter in the barren strife.
              My soul was weary, and my pride Was wounded deep; to Heaven I cried,
              ‘God grant me peace or I must die;’ The dumb stars glittered no reply.
              Broken at last, I bowed my head, Forgetting all myself, and said,
             ‘Whatever comes, His will be done;’ And in that moment peace was won.”

That’s when peace is won in anyone’s life--when you bow before the Son of God and say, “Lord, I give it all to you. Please show me your plan for my life. I trust you, Jesus, as my personal Lord and Savior, and I ask you to show me your will--for my work, my family, my church, and my personal life.” That’s the one, and only, path to life’s highest and best.

II. We Can Mar God’s Plan For Our Lives

There is a second truth--a very sad, sobering truth--that Jeremiah was reminded of at the potter’s house. He saw the potter at work on the wheel, but look at verse 4: “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter....” Jeremiah was reminded of the sad fact that YOU AND I CAN MAR THE HANDIWORK OF GOD IN OUR LIVES.

Many years ago, in the 1700’s, a young lady who was a devout Christian was taking a trip--I assume in a stage coach. She was trying very hard to be a good witness. There was a gentleman seated next to her whom she did not know, so she tried to strike up a conversation, hoping to talk with him about the Lord. But he didn’t have much to say. He wasn’t rude, he simply was withdrawn for some reason. Since she couldn’t seem to get into a conversation with him, she decided to witness by singing this great hymn:

“Come, thou fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing thy grace;

Streams of mercy never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above;

Here’s the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of thy redeeming love.”

She looked over and there were tears in the man’s eyes. She asked, “Sir, is something wrong?” He said, “My name is Robert Robinson. I wrote that song. Since that time I’ve gotten away from God, and I’m a miserable man. I would give anything in the world to have now the joy in my heart that I had then.”

A person can mar the handiwork of God. One of the most sobering statements in the whole Bible is found in Psalm 78. It has to do with the journeying’s of ancient Israel. Psalm 78:40-41: “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.”

Think of that! We sinful, finite human beings can actually limit the work of the almighty, all-knowing, Sovereign Creator of this universe! The reason is that he has made us free moral agents. He didn’t want us to be automatons or puppets on a string, so he has given us the awesome power to choose. We can choose to trust and obey him, to his glory and our good, or we can choose to rebel against him, to his sorrow and our detriment. We can, if we are so minded, mar the handiwork of God in our lives.

I may be speaking to someone right now who, deep down in your heart, feels the burden of having marred the handiwork of God in some area or areas of your life. Well, don’t throw in the towel. Don’t give in to despair. I’ve got good news, because here is the third truth of which Jeremiah was reminded at the potter’s house:


Look at Jeremiah 18:4-6:

“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. 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.”

No doubt that vessel was marred because there were some hard lumps in the clay that resisted the sensitive fingers of the potter, and that is illustrative of the fact that often through our hardness of heart we resist God’s efforts to shape our lives. But this potter didn’t discard the clay. He didn’t quit. He very patiently and persistently kept working the clay so that he was able to remold it--and that’s what he desires to do with our lives when we’ve gotten off the track.

The year was 1929. It was New Year’s Day, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The University of California “Golden Bears” were playing the Georgia Tech “Yellow Jackets.” Early in the game Georgia Tech fumbled. A University of California player named Roy Riegels scooped up the ball--but somehow amidst all the grabbing and shoving he got confused and started running in the wrong direction. There went up a roar from the crowd, but he thought they were cheering him on, so he ran all the harder. He had run 69 yards when a teammate, Benny Lom, caught and tackled him just before he scored for his opponents.

That strange mistake happened in the first half. Everyone was asking, “What will Coach Nibs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?” During half-time, Roy Riegels sat by himself over in the corner of the locker room, a blanket around his shoulders, and cried. When time came to return to the field for the second half, the players got up to leave the locker room--all but Roy Riegels. He didn’t budge. Coach Price went over to where the dejected player was sitting and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me?” and he told Roy it was time to go back onto the field.

Roy Riegels looked up with tears in his eyes and said,“Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, I've ruined myself, I've ruined the University of California. I couldn't face that crowd to save my life." Coach Price responded by saying "Roy, get up and go back out there — the game is only half over." Roy Riegels looked at the coach for a long moment, and then got up and strode resolutely back to the field. People who saw that game said that they had never seen such inspired football playing as Roy Riegels did in that second half.

Furthermore, he went on to be team captain his senior year, helping lead his team to an outstanding season and earning All-American honors. He graduated from the University of California in 1931 with a major in agriculture, taught and coached football at both high school and college levels, served as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, and then became a successful business man, forming his own agricultural chemical company. He received plaudits from the California legislature and from the governor for his contributions to California farming. In 1991 he was elected to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, and in 1998 was posthumously elected to the University of California Hall of Fame.

I love that story, because it reminds us that when we go in the wrong direction in the game of life, the great Coach of the universe doesn’t throw us out of the game, and our future can still be bright. You may have really messed up. You may be hurting and despondent. Well, don’t throw in the towel. Don’t write yourself off. Don’t cave in. Remember that failure need not be final. Our great God is the God of another chance. He says, “I’ll remold your life, if you’ll meet my conditions.”

I may be speaking to someone who had never even let God begin shaping your life in the first place--that is, you’ve not yet become a Christian. But you can change that situation right now, if you’re willing. Right where you’re sitting, pray this prayer: “Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I repent of my sins, and in faith I surrender my life totally to you. Save me, Lord Jesus, and from this point on, for the rest of my life, help me to live for you--and then take me to heaven when I die.” Jesus promises, in John 6:37, “...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Then, having made that surrender, thank him for saving you, and get to work obeying him. Come forward asking for believer’s baptism. Become a part of the church. Make it your business to be in Sunday School and church regularly--and begin having a personal quiet time of Bible reading and prayer each day. You’ll become stronger day by day, and the Lord will help you develop into what he created you to be.

Perhaps, though, you are already a Christian, but your problem is that you haven’t read your Bible and prayed daily, or you haven’t been faithful in Sunday School or church, or in some other way you’ve let your guard down and the devil has temporarily brought you down. How do you get back up? You don’t come to Jesus as an alien; you come to him as an erring child to a loving father. You haven’t lost your salvation, but you’ve lost your way, you’ve lost your joy, and you’ve lost your influence. Confess your sins, ask his forgiveness, ask him to make you into what he wants you to be--and he will do exactly that. Just like the potter remolded the marred vessel, he’ll remold your marred life.

The poet said, “I wish there were some wonderful place called The Land of Beginning Again.” Well, praise the Lord, there is such a place--it’s the place of repentance and surrender to Jesus Christ. I challenge you to go to that place right now!