God gives Jeremiah an apt illustration of His grace. He sends the prophet to the house of a potter in Jerusalem (Jer.18:1-6). His task is to observe how the clay is treated by the craftsman. The analogy of potter’s clay and God’s shaping of individual lives is common in Scripture. Isaiah says, “We are the clay, Thou art the Potter, and we are all the work of Thy hand” (Isa.64:8). Paul asks, “Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why have you made me thus? Has not the Potter power over the clay?” (Rom.9:20). It is an illustration everyone can easily relate to.
A potter is an example of perseverance and patience as he configures his wares. While God does shape individual character, Jeremiah is sent to the potter’s house to comprehend Jehovah’s sovereignty on a national level. The point in this parable is the absolute control God has over His people. It is a message of hope. Just as the potter reshapes his clay to conform to his purpose, so the Lord will remold His nation.
The initial task of a potter is the formation of a vessel. The clay is in his hands and under his direct control. If for some reason he is dissatisfied with the pot he is forming, he begins his task again and makes a more serviceable product. However, any defects are in the clay – not the potter. The imperfection in Judah’s case is disobedience. Jehovah is not a human potter and makes no mistakes. But if His original plan is thwarted, He continues to shape and reshape events to fulfill His will.
A potter has a plan before he begins and God has a divine design for each of us. In skilled hands, a lump of clay can become something of value. We are the raw material needed to bend to His will and become useful vessels. He often keeps us on His “potter’s wheel” for a long time. But if a piece of pottery on His wheel falls below His expectations, He begins anew to rework the clay. The Lord will reshape you however He chooses until He has what He needs. Only the Potter knows exactly how to mold both nations and individuals to conform to His purposes. Let us pray He will continue to fashion each of us to become “vessels of honor, sanctified, and fit for the Master’s use” (II Tim.2:21).