INSIGHT Jeremiah used the analogy of the potter and clay to illustrate God’s freedom to judge and restore His people. Even if God promised that a nation would be “built up and planted” (Jeremiah 18:9), that didn’t mean a nation should become complacent and arrogant, for God is free to respond to unrepentant sin with judgment (v. 10). At the same time, God’s judgment of Israel didn’t suggest their permanent destruction; for if Israel repented, God, like a potter reshaping clay, would freely reshape and rebuild Israel (v. 8).
The metaphor of the potter and clay also emphasizes God’s good purposes for His creation. A potter responds to defects in the clay (lack of moisture, a lump, or other issues) by further working the clay into a usable form. Likewise, God doesn’t throw away His creation but continues to work toward His good purposes.
In 1952, in an effort to prevent clumsy or careless people from breaking items in a shop, a Miami Beach storeowner posted a sign that read: “You break it, you buy it.” The catchy phrase served as a warning to shoppers. This type of sign can now be seen in many boutiques.
Ironically, a different sign might be placed in a real potter’s shop. It would say: “If you break it, we’ll make it into something better.” And that’s exactly what’s revealed in Jeremiah 18.
Jeremiah visits a potter’s house and sees the potter shaping the “marred” clay with his hands, carefully handling the material and forming “it into another pot” (v. 4). The prophet reminds us that God is indeed a skillful potter, and we are the clay. He is sovereign and can use what He creates to both destroy evil and create beauty in us.
God can shape us even when we’re marred or broken. He, the masterful potter, can and is willing to create new and precious pottery from our shattered pieces. God doesn’t look at our broken lives, mistakes, and past sins as unusable material. Instead, He picks up our pieces and reshapes them as He sees best. Even in our brokenness, we have immense value to our Master Potter. In His hands, the broken pieces of our lives can be reshaped into beautiful vessels that can be used by Him (v. 4).
Prayer: God, You’re the Potter and I’m the clay. Mold me as You wish. Remind me that I’m in Your skillful and caring hands.