Are You There, God?
In the good times and the bad, we’re always in God’s hands!
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” -Jeremiah 18:1-6
When God chose to speak to his people, Israel, he would often lead his prophet to some ordinary scene from daily life, then give him a message using the details as a metaphor to make it as clear and straightforward as possible. God didn’t want the meaning lost in abstractions and complicated theology.
In Jeremiah 18:1-6, God allows the prophet to observe the potter as he fashions the vessel for some practical purpose. Here’s the basic message that Jeremiah passes on to the people:
1. Just as the clay depends on the potter, so do we depend on God. Since the potter knows what he’s doing, the clay being shaped has no grounds for complaining or protesting about what the potter is doing.
2. In the same way that the potter has a design in mind for the clay, God works according to a plan and purpose for his people. There’s no randomness in the shaping of the clay.
3. There is good reason for the carving, scraping, cutting, and pressure on the clay. So, there is intelligence and logic behind the hardship, grief, and difficulties (the discipline) God allows in our lives.
4. Just as the clay sometimes seems to resist the shape it’s taking, we try to resist God’s shaping of us. Israel consistently rebelled and did the opposite of what God designed and willed for them.
5. But the potter is persistent and often has to take the whole clay, pick up the bits and pieces around the wheel, press them back into one lump, and start over again. He doesn’t just throw out the whole thing and look for new clay. His patience in fashioning and refashioning eventually brings the vessel to its original design. Even Israel’s (and our) mistakes are ultimately used to bring to pass his perfect will. God never gets so exasperated that he turns away and abandons his work.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” -Acts 17:24-28
Jeremiah’s message in the Old Testament and Paul’s message in the New have this in common: In the good times and the bad, we’re constantly and totally in God’s hands and in his providence—how and where we are born, the place we live, how many years we exist on the earth, the trials we go through, and all the boundaries of our lives are in the mind of God.
God is in charge of all the gradual (even painful) shaping of our lives and the end product, intended for a practical and good purpose. When the job is done, the beauty and form of the once formless clay brings pleasure, honor, and praise to the Potter.
All thanks and praise be to God for his immeasurable love for us.