Never Say It’s Hopeless
Jer. 16:1–18:23 Jer. 18:1-15 July 3 2011
In this chapter we have, A general declaration of God’s ways in dealing with nations and kingdoms, that he can easily do what he will with them, as easily as the potter can with the clay , but that he certainly will do what is just and fair with them. If he threaten their ruin, yet upon their repentance he will return in mercy to them, and, when he is coming towards them in mercy, nothing but their sin will stop the progress of his favours . A particular demonstration of the folly of the men of Judah and Jerusalem in departing from their God to idols, and so bringing ruin upon themselves notwithstanding the fair warnings given them and God’s kind intentions towards them . The prophet’s complaint to God of the base ingratitude and unreasonable malice of his enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and his prayers against them .
1. God’s power over his creatures is represented by the potter. (Jer. 18:1-10)
1 The word that hath been unto Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, 2 Rise, and thou hast gone down to the potter’s house, and there I cause thee to hear My words; 3 and I go down to the potter’s house, and lo, he is doing a work on the stones, 4 and marred is the vessel that he is making, as clay in the hand of the potter, and he hath turned and he maketh it another vessel, as it was right in the eyes of the potter to make. 5 And there is a word of Jehovah to me, saying: 6 As this potter am I not able to do to you? O house of Israel, an affirmation of Jehovah. Lo, as clay in the hand of the potter, So are ye in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 The moment I speak concerning a nation, And concerning a kingdom, To pluck up and to break down, and to destroy, 8 And that nation hath turned from its evil , Because I have spoken against it, Then I have repented of the evil that I thought to do to it. 9 And the moment I speak concerning a nation, And concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant, 10 And it hath done the evil thing in Mine eyes, So as not to hearken to My voice, Then I have repented of the good That I have spoken of doing to it.
While Jeremiah looks upon the potter’s work, God darts into his mind two great truths. God has authority, and power, to form and fashion kingdoms and nations as he pleases. He may dispose of us as he thinks fit; and it would be as absurd for us to dispute this, as for the clay to quarrel with the potter. But he always goes by fixed rules of justice and goodness. When God is coming against us in judgments, we may be sure it is for our sins; but sincere conversion from the evil of sin will prevent the evil of punishment, as to persons, and to families, and nations.
2. The Jews exhorted to repentance, and judgments foretold. (Jer 18:11-17)
Jer. 18:11 And now, speak, I pray thee, unto men of Judah, And against inhabitants of Jerusalem, Saying: Thus said Jehovah: Lo, I am framing against you evil, And devising against you a device, Turn back, I pray you, each from his evil was ,And amend your ways and your doings.12 And they have said, It is incurable, For after our own devices we do go, And each the stubbornness of his evil heart we do. 13 Therefore, thus said Jehovah: Ask, I pray you, among the nations, Who hath heard like these? A very horrible thing hath the virgin of Israel done. 14 Doth snow of Lebanon Cease from the rock of the field? Failed are the cold strange waters that flow? 15 But My people have forgotten Me, to a vain thing they make perfume, And they cause them to stumble in their ways—pat of old, To walk in paths—a way not raised up,
Sinners call it liberty to live at large; whereas for a man to be a slave to his lusts, is the very worst slavery. They forsook God for idols. When men are parched with heat, and meet with cooling, refreshing streams, they use them. In these things men will not leave a certainty for an uncertainty; but Israel left the ancient paths appointed by the Divine law. They walked not in the highway, in which they might travel safely, but in a way in which they must stumble: such was the way of idolatry, and such is the way of iniquity. This made their land desolate, and themselves miserable. Calamities may be borne, if God smile upon us when under them; but if he is displeased, and refuses his help, we are undone. Multitudes forget the Lord and his Christ, and wander from the ancient paths, to walk in ways of their own devising. But what will they do in the day of judgment!
Jeremiah is sent to observe a potter at work in his workshop. When the vessel the potter is making is flawed, the potter squeezes the clay into a lump and begins again . God tells Jeremiah He will work the nation like clay, constantly reforming it through judgment and renewal until Judah takes the good shape that He has in mind . Jeremiah shares the message with the people of Judah and urges them to change their ways. But the people insist it is too late and refuse to consider repentance .
In another of the poetic oracles that appear frequently in this book, the Lord expresses wonder at the passion of Judah for idolatry and He pronounces judgment .
The leaders of Judah are so infuriated by Jeremiah’s preaching that they plot to “attack him with our tongues” (slander) and at the same time ignore him . Their hostility is even more active: They try to trap Jeremiah, perhaps by accusing him of treason, so as to have him killed. In frustration and fear the prophet calls on God to strike down his enemies when the judgment begins .