The Reshaping of Life

MEMORY VERSE: “But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand.” —Isaiah 64:8

JEREMIAH 18:1-11

OUR lesson is based on the custom of the potter in handling vessels which do not turn out to his liking in his first effort to shape the clay into the style of vessel which he had previously decided upon. Jeremiah explained: “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.”

After Jeremiah had observed this, the word of the Lord came to him 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.” Enlarging upon this the Lord explained to Jeremiah that even though he had declared himself as being against Israel, and ready to execute judgment upon the sinful nation, if the people would turn from their evil way, “I will repent of the evil which I thought to do unto them.”

The Lord explains that the reverse of this would be true; that is, if he promised to bless a nation, and that nation failed to be faithful to him, he would withhold the promised blessing. In other words, in both cases the nation, or nations, involved were as the clay in the hand of the potter, who had the right to mold the clay as seemed good to him. One of the notable examples of this given to us in the Scriptures is God’s dealings with the Ninevites (see the Book of Jonah).

The Israelites did not always recognize God’s principle along this line, although at times at least some of them did. Our memory verse is a good example of this: “O Lord, thou art our Father.” The followers of Jesus during the present time are Spirit-begotten children of God, and he is their Heavenly Father. But prior to Pentecost none of God’s people enjoyed this blessed relationship. In our memory verse the word “father” is used simply to denote a paternal love for the Israelites, and God’s care over them.

The verse continues, “We are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thine hand.” The recognition of this by the Israelites meant their acknowledgment of his right to deal with them as seemed good to him. This is a good lesson for the Lord’s people in every age. Surely none who follow in the footsteps of Jesus would wish to complain about the manner in which God’s providences are manifested in their lives.

It is worthy of note that while the potter whom Jeremiah observed working was not satisfied with his original vessel, he did not throw away the clay, but used it to make a different sort of vessel—one, probably, to be used for a different purpose. So in God’s dealings with the Israelites at the time of Jeremiah, God did not destroy the nation. Jeremiah speaks of this: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22,23) These words were written after the Israelites were taken into captivity.

However, God’s outlook for the nation was changed. Up to this time the sincere among them expected that one day Israel would be a holy nation, and a peculiar people; a royal nation, so to speak, to be used of the Lord as the channel of blessings to all the families of the earth. But because of their continued unfaithfulness they lost this opportunity.

However, God promised not to permit them to be destroyed as a nation, but in his due time to restore them to their land and give them an opportunity to be blessed under the terms of the promised New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31-34) Speaking of Israel’s spiritual blindness which prevented them from recognizing Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, Paul wrote, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, [the New Covenant] when I shall take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:25-27) They will not then be a royal nation, but they will be a blessed people to whom the Lord has shown his great mercy.


What is the lesson of the potter as given to Jeremiah by the Lord?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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