Tuesday 16 March 2021

Bible Book:

'Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done?' (v. 6)

Jeremiah 18:1-6 Tuesday 16 March 2021

Psalm 111


Most people will probably have seen a potter in action, either in real life or on television, sleeves rolled up, protective apron on, hands smeared with wet clay. You may even have a memory as you read this and recall the smell of the dampness of that clay. It’s an earthy, sensuous picture. Then as the potter starts the wheel spinning,  a lifeless lump of earth miraculously assumes a life and form of its own.

Jeremiah hears God speaking to him again as he gazes on this everyday scene from life in Judah around 600 BC. The wet clay is put on the wheel, something goes wrong, and the potter starts again. What was a spoiled lump of clay is skilfully reworked into a useful vessel or an object of beauty. As the prophet Jeremiah admires the perseverance, skill and experience of the potter, he becomes aware of God’s message, in the form of a rhetorical question: “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done?” (Jeremiah 18:6)

God, the creator of all that we know and imagine, has limitless power available and can both give and take away.

 Jeremiah’s main concern is of course the way that people have turned away from God, to worship idols and then behave in evil ways. Further on in verse 15 God is reported as saying, “But my people have forgotten me.” It is such a powerful statement. It is the reason that the people of Judah are in the mess that they are; moreover, this lack of awareness about the old agreement with God means that they also seem unable to repent. Their moral compass has gone awry. Stubbornness prevails. Jeremiah predicts Exile for an unrepentant Judah.

 As described here, God does not use his power to punish the people of Judah. Jeremiah’s realisation is that God could use his omnipotence to do that, but instead allows the people to choose their own path to exile, both from their lands and their God. Will they ever come to their senses?

To Ponder:

  •  "Do no harm; do good; stay in love with God” are often quoted as John Wesley’s rules for daily living. They are deceptively simple! Are they your 'moral compass', or are there other words that help to keep you pointing to a spiritual north?
  • Charles Wesley’s hymn 546 in Singing the Faith contains these words: “Mould as thou wilt thy passive clay… but let me all thy words obey, serve with a single heart and eye…” The entire final verse can serve as a prayer for today, or any day.
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