“Like Clay in a Potter’s Hands” | Jeremiah 18:1-6
Are we able to trust God enough to place our lives in God’s hands and to yield our lives to God as clay in the hands of a potter?
Have you ever watched a potter throwing pottery? As the lump of clay spins on the wheel, it responds immediately to the slightest movements of the hands of the potter.
It is fascinating to watch. One of these days I’m going to take a pottery class and try it out. I’m sure it is much more difficult than it looks, but it looks so therapeutic and relaxing to me.
In our scripture text for Sunday, we hear the young prophet Jeremiah tell of his experience in the potter’s house. The word of the Lord came to him and prompted him to “go down to the potter’s house” and watch and wait for a word from the Lord.
The potter’s house was an important place because in Jeremiah’s day, you couldn’t cook a meal, carry water from a well, store food, light a lamp, or any number of others necessary activities unless you went down to the potter’s house. God’s message to Jeremiah was, in effect, “If you want to understand who I am, Jeremiah, you have to go down to the potter’s house.”
So, Jeremiah went and found the potter at work at his wheel. He watched as the potter reached into his container of clay, pulled out a lump of it, sprinkled it with water, and began to pound it on the wheel.
He watched as the potter twisted it, pulled it apart, and pushed it together. He watched as the potter pounded the clay, rolled it out again and, wetting his hands, started the wheel turning with his feet. From that round lump of clay, a beautiful, useful vessel started to emerge, shaped by the careful and skillful hands of the potter. I can picture Jeremiah, standing there watching the spinning clay and meditating on what was going on in his world.
After watching for a while, Jeremiah realized that’s what God’s been doing with us all along. God, like a potter at his wheel, is at work in his world, shaping, forming, stretching, pushing, pulling us into shape.
As he watched and meditated, the word of God came to Jeremiah: “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter had done? Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”Jeremiah realized that just as the potter can take old clay and make a new thing, the people of God can be remade, even in their brokenness — if with repentance and willingness to be shaped they will yield themselves to the strong, skillful hands of the Potter. In this passage, God was calling the people to allow their lives to be shaped by God’s grace, God’s love and God’s will, much as a potter creates a useful vessel from soft and formable clay. And God continues to work in our lives like a potter shaping a vessel on the wheel.
Like a potter at the wheel, God takes hold of our lives and smoothes and presses out the flaws and imperfections that can weaken us and make us less fit for the kiln—those fiery times in our lives that have the possibility of making us stronger.
Sometimes the Potter presses hard — and we feel the pressure more keenly; sometimes we experience the gentler, healing and shaping touch of the Master’s hands. Sometimes the shaping can be rough,as if the vessel will be destroyed when, in fact, the it is made stronger to face the fire. Irenaeus, the Father of the Church of the Second Century, wrote these words which challenge us even today: “If, then, you are the work of God, await the hand of your Maker, who fashions everything in due course…Keep your heart soft and pliable for Him; retain the form in which the Artist fashioned you, having moisture in yourself, lest, becoming hard, you should lose the marks of His fingers…. But should you prove hardened and reject His artistic work and prove ingrate for being made human, with your ingratitude you have also lost His art and your life. For to make is the property of God, but to be made is that of humanity.” Will you trust God with your life…like clay in a potter’s hands? Consider the words of the hymn:
Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter;
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Can these words be your prayer this week?
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster