The Word of the Lord from the Potter’s House
Jeremiah 18:1-6; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 4:7
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying. ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.’”
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.”Jeremiah 18:1-2; Isaiah 64:8
In our text, the Lord instructed the Prophet Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house where he would receive a message from God as he watched the potter working with clay on a potter’s wheel.
As Jeremiah watched the potter working with the clay, a reassuring message came from God to him, which also has a powerful spiritual application for us today. Jeremiah observed the clay go through three stages:
- The clay was being made into a vessel
- The vessel, being made of clay, was marred
- The vessel of clay that was marred—was mended
“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this Potter? Says the LORD.”Jeremiah 18:6
The nation of Israel was ‘made’ by God but was ‘marred’ by sin! But God the master potter, could ‘MEND’ them again so that He could use them for His purpose and glory!
All human beings were originally ‘MADE’ in the image of God, for His glory but were ‘MARRED’ by sin (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3); but praise God, through the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary, fallen humanity can be redeemed (Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 1:7) and ‘REMADE’ by the master potter into a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This is described in Ephesians 2:4-10 as “His Workmanship”. Humans can be made into Christ’s spiritual image (Romans 8:28-29) as vessels of honour (2 Timothy 2:21) to be used for His purposes and for His glory, as they submit to the Lord the master potter (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Some years ago, in a couple of places here in Canada, we had the privilege of visiting potteries where we were shown how ordinary clay could be skilfully moulded and made into a beautiful vessel. We have also observed the beautiful pottery made by African Potters.
There are some particularly important spiritual lessons for us to learn from how a potter works with clay to make distinct kinds of vessels. Let us remember the passage of scripture in Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.”
Let us consider together the steps or stages utilized to make clay into a beautiful vessel. (NOTE: In Bible days, and many places even today, these, or similar steps, are still followed, although there may be some variations in different locations, especially in larger potteries).
Step One: The clay must be found by the potter. Not just any kind of dirt or material will do, but the potter searches for clay that can be used to make vessels. The clay the potter finds is brought into the potter’s house or to the place where the potter makes vessels.
We too had to be found by God, our master potter. He searched for and found us; Compare Psalm 40:1-4 & Ephesians 2:1-10.
The Local Church is certainly like a ‘potter’s house.’ Compare 2 Timothy 2:20-21: After the Lord finds us (the clay) he brings us into a local church where we can be disciples—moulded, and made into the vessel He desires.
His desire for us is that we become ‘chosen vessels’ of ‘honour’ to bring honor and glory to His name. Note the new believers (disciples) in the church at Antioch became known as ‘Christians’ as a result of the teaching ministry of Barnabas and Saul! Acts 11:21-26.
Note Ephesians 4:11-16: the five-fold ministries named as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers help to equip and train the believers (saints) in the local church to serve in their God-given place in the church and in service beyond. The local Church is indeed like a potter’s house!
A word to parents: Your home is also a key place where parents have been given the responsibility and privilege of being the extended hands of the master potter! Moulding the lives of children in the ways of the Lord so that they will become vessels of honour—for God’s purpose and glory! Teaching, training, discipline, and character development should begin in the home. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
The Lord, the master potter, also uses the circumstances in life we go through to help mould and make us into His image, (note Romans 8:28-29), and to help prepare us for the work and ministry He has for us. Think of the life of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50.
Step Two: The clay is washed.
All foreign substances, stones, dirt, sticks, grass, and rubbish must be washed out of this clay until it is pure clay. This is an important process. The clay must become pure and pliable so he can work with it.
After the Lord finds us, He also washes us. He uses several agents to wash us. He washes us with His precious blood. 1 John1:7-9; Hebrews 9:12-14 and Zechariah. 13:1; Hebrews 10:10.
He washes us with His word. John 15:3; John 17:17. Ephesians 5:25-2.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies and sets us apart from sin to live a life of holiness. Compare Romans chapter 8 and 1 Peter 1:2.
The clay is washed and made pliable so that it can be moulded and shaped into the kind of vessel the potter desires. We also must learn to be surrendered and yielded—pliable in the hands of our master potter.
Step Three: The Potter then begins to mould and shape the clay into a vessel he has in mind. He, therefore, places the clay on the potter’s wheel and begins to gently work with the clay, moulding and shaping it.
He has a plan and purpose for each of us. It is important that we yield and submit to the hand of our master potter; for only then can He mould our lives into what He desires us to be. In Romans 8:28-29 we are taught that God’s ultimate purpose is that we be ‘conformed’ or ‘transformed’, into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He works in every situation we go through in life to further mould us into the image of His Son. He also has a work or ministry for each and every believer in His house, which is His Church (also called His body). Compare Romans 12:1-8; Ephesians 2:18-22; and Ephesians 4:7-16.
In our text in Jeremiah18:1-6, the vessel was marred in the hand of the Potter, possibly because of a stone or lump of dirt. But the Potter picked up the clay and remade it into another vessel as was pleasing in His sight.
The Lord, the master Potter can do this in our lives as well. There are many examples down through history as well as in our day, where the Lord has picked up a marred, broken vessel, and remade it into a vessel of honour for his glory.
Step Four: After the vessel is moulded into the shape and type of vessel the potter desires, it must then be hardened or strengthened in the fire. The vessel is placed in a furnace where it is exposed to certain degrees of heat; enough to harden the clay with which the vessel is made so that it becomes strong.
After we are born again [saved] and the Lord is moulding us into a vessel He has desired to make us into, He also allows us to go through times of testing and even fiery trials. The purpose of this is to strengthen us as vessels and for character development. The Lord desires us to grow and become strong in Him. Compare 1 Peter 1:7 and 1 Peter 4:12-13. Note Isaiah 48:10; “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”
Remember God’s servant Job. Job 23:10. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.…”
“And not only that but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”Romans 5:3-5
Step Five: The vessel is then beautified and glazed. Paint is used to paint flowers and other designs on the vessel. The potter will also at times put his own name or trademark or special ownership mark on each vessel. The next step is to put the vessel back into the furnace for the glazing process. When this step is completed, the vessel is beautifully glazed and strong.
The master potter desires us to become Christ-like. The beautiful fruit of the Spirit in our lives makes us Christ-like. As we allow the Lord to continue to work in our lives by His word and by His Holy Spirit, the character of Christ will be reflected in our lives increasingly.
Step Six: The vessel can now be filled and used for whatever purpose the potter has for it.
As true believers in Christ, He indwells us by His Spirit. Read 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; l Corinthians 6:19-20, and 2 Corinthians 4:7.
But we also need to be:
- Filled with His word (Colossians 3:16)
- His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 7:37-39)
- And then flow out in blessing to others with His word, love, and compassion.
“A Chosen Vessel of Mine” (Acts 9:15-16). The Lord told Ananias to go and minister to Saul (later named Paul), for “he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my Name before Gentiles: Kings and the children of Israel…” As believers, we are all also called to be vessels to bear our Lord’s name and His message to others.
Step Seven: A vessel must be kept clean and set apart unto the purpose the potter has for it.
We need to continue to be surrendered to the Lord, and submitted to His purpose for our lives. Our lives need to be kept clean and we need to live and walk in the Spirit. Compare Romans 12:1-8; Galatians 5:22-25.
In 2 Timothy 2:19-22 Paul the Apostle spoke to Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, about the importance of living a dedicated and separated life so that he might be “a vessel of honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work”. Note also Mark 4:19.
We also need to constantly be reminded of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
We are only vessels of clay, but we have within us a treasure of great value. Christ Himself indwells in us by the Holy Spirit who fills us as we surrender to Him. We have His word within us. We have the message of the Gospel in us.
What a treasure we have within us! We need to share this treasure with others all around us: but we can only do this effectively through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are many examples both in the Bible and throughout history where the Lord has done this. God uses that which has been broken.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart”
“For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’”Psalms 51:17; Isaiah 57:15
He will do this today for each and all who truly humble themselves and fully submit to the master potter. God cannot use a proud heart. We need to humble ourselves and be broken in His presence.
We understand that in Japan they have found a way of taking vessels that are broken and repairing them with liquid gold. They then are exceptionally beautiful vessels and are a showcase for special purposes, showing the handiwork of the master potter. If we humble ourselves and are broken, God will do the same for us.
We need to get to the end of our self-sufficiency and realize our absolute need of the Lord in everything. May we all surrender to the Lord the master potter and allow Him to mould us and make us into vessels of honour into which He can pour His Spirit and His word, and then use us for His glory and honour.
The words of the beautiful Hymn, Have Thine own way Lord, so beautifully express the truth of the message of The Potter and the Clay. Please take time to read and use the words of the song as a prayer and allow the master potter to minister to you…
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the potter; I am the clay. Mould me and make me After thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Search me and try me, Saviour today! Wash me just now, Lord, Wash me just now, As in thy presence Humbly I bow. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Wounded and weary, Help me I pray! Power, all power, Surely is thine! Touch me and heal me, Saviour devine! Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o'er my being Absolute sway. Fill with thy Spirit Till all shall see Christ only, always, Living in me!
Written by Lloyd Schuetz—Word in Season