Thursday, May 27, 2021

Sword, Famine, and Pestilence


Week 21 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 21; 2 Kings 24 



Background

What is culture? Various dictionaries define culture as the customs, social institutions, arts, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or social group. We recognize culture as “a way of life” or more simply the way a group of people do things. Culture represents belief systems and social practices of a group while society is the people who share these common beliefs and customs. Economic and political factors can influence both culture and society. Culture and society exist together. 

“Culture is the combined characteristics and knowledge of a group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts.”[1] Jeremiah begins his ministry during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign. The spiritual and ethical revival of Josiah changes the outward and emotional tone for the culture, but after Josiah, the undertones of truth remove their masks. There is an open shift back to idol worship and false assurance from political and religious leaders. The increase in cults of Canaan and a zealous disrespect for God dominate the culture, even attempt to normalize these dark practices. These swings in political and religious leadership strongly influence both culture and society. 

As a small land, Judah remains conflicted in her allegiance to either Egypt or Babylon. The powerful Assyrian Empire, who captured the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, falls to the Babylonians, just over a hundred years later. As Jeremiah’s ministry continues, kings come and go while an era of materialism and economic prosperity and social injustice dominates the culture of Judah. Archaeologists find indications of a significant educational infrastructure in Judah. By the 7th Century, Jerusalem’s population grows, as does its valuable olive oil industry, but becomes a vassal state of Assyria. When Assyria falls, both Egypt and Babylon desire control of Judah, which ultimately leads to the military destruction of Judah.

Commerce and education are significant components in Judah’s cultural heritage, while political and religious leadership frequently intersect. In ancient history, Israel begins as a group of people designated by God as His chosen people. With specific religious beliefs and rituals that define its culture, the Hebrew people evolve and grow. Ultimately, Israel is divided into twelve tribes. Now, only the last tribe, Judah, remains, and its customs and belief systems barely resemble the culture of Abraham, their faithfulness to the One True God fails. 

Study

It is good to note that this chapter is an example of chronological differences and incongruities of a timeline in the book of Jeremiah, some back and forth historical recording of events outside of chronological order. “One possible explanation of the time-leaps here is the fact that Jeremiah made many additions to his writings when he replaced the scroll destroyed by King Jehoiakim (36:32).[2] Apparently, much of Jeremiah’s messages are “arranged by subject rather than by chronology.”[3] Jeremiah 21-23 are designated as prophecies against Judah.

Many Jeremiah’s messages are to special people. In Chapter 21, we see this message is to the leaders of Judah: to King Zedekiah and Pashhur “one of the court officers”[4] and Zephaniah, a priest. Some scholars believe this event recorded in Chapter 21 probably takes “place in the year 588 BC when the Babylonian army camped around the walls of Jerusalem.”[5] Zedekiah is a weak king who rebels against the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and now finds the situation desperate. He desires Jeremiah put in a good word for him, to “inquire of the LORD for us” in hopes Nebuchadnezzar would leave them alone.

God says no! The Chaldean (Babylonian) army will come – even into the middle of the city, and Yahweh will allow all of this. “Judah’s military would be ineffective against the Babylonian Army.”[6] How will this happen? Destruction will come by pestilence, by sword, and by famine. According to the original Hebrew, this can also read, by pandemic, by war, by starvation. 

The terms of the covenant previously agreed upon by God and the Hebrew people never change. Their disobedience would bring His judgment. In verses 8-10 describe the way of life or the way of death. Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20 for the terms of the covenant. Choose life or choose death. To go into exile would be to choose life, to go without outward symbols and depend only on God and His promises. In verse 9 Jeremiah recommends surrender, but this singles him out as a traitor. This incident is also recorded in Jeremiah 38:1-6 and ends with Jeremiah being arrested. Choose life is the message!

The last message addresses the House of David (vs 11-14). “David and his dynasty are mentioned only in this verse in Jeremiah; ‘house of David’ appears only eight other times in all the prophets. Jeremiah is calling those in this royal line to follow example”[7] in doing what is right. In The Message verse 11 gives instruction for the House of David or the King of Judah and reads, Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him who is plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. “Within Israelite traditions, one of the main duties of the King was to ensure that justice was practiced throughout the land.”[8] Clearly, the King Zedekiah fails.


Reflection 

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your current culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 The Message

The old hymn, Jesus Is All the World to Me, begins, Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all; each verse ends with He's my friend. The words of this hymn reinforce the theology of living a Jesus-Centered life. In times of sadness, trials, and blessings, at beginnings and endings, and into eternity, Jesus provides everything we need. This divine promise for us hinges on whether we make Jesus the center of our world or not. The world stands full of contradictions and excuses luring us away from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

To become a 
living and holy sacrifice, an offering to God, one must accept the cost of obedience. The world's prince, Satan, never reveals the price of disobedience; rather, he charms the mind with unattainable more, teases the heart with fading hope, and leaves the soul with elusive satisfaction. To conform to culture's expectations only fuels futility, but through the Holy Spirit comes a spiritual transformation that is the foundation of discipleship. A Jesus-Centered life merges righteousness and holiness combining spiritual worship and holy living.

God's Grace opens the door to having a Jesus-Centered life. Our response comes next. Peterson's 
The Message describes how to take our everyday, ordinary life and embrace God! To recognize God in a culture that proudly denies Him, to give generously within a culture that takes selfishly, to hold faithfully to God's promises in a culture that persecutes His truth, to value life surrounded by a culture that marginalizes weakness, to love others more boldly than culture hates God - THIS is to be transformed by Jesus. When one truly embraces God, every aspect of living should reflect Christ's Light into the world. Then the soul can sing, "Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. . . Eternal life! Eternal joy! He's my friend!"  

Application

  • How does historical context in Biblical writings help you better understand the message?

  • Blackaby writes: “Daily, God invites us to follow His path of righteousness. We are free to choose our way, but God makes it clear that the choice is between life or death.” Free will or God allowing us the freedom to choose brings responsibilities and consequences. Do you Choose Life? 

Donna Oswalt



[1] https://www.live science.com/21478-what-is-culture-definition-of-culture.html

[2] Jeremiah Classic Commentaries; Kidner, Derek, pg 83-84

[3] Ibid

[4] Wiersbe Study Bible commentary Jeremiah Chapter 21

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C., p261

[8] Reading the Old Testament Commentary Series, notes on Jeremiah Chapter 21

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Terror on Every Side



Week 20 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 20; Lamentations 3 

Background

In this week’s lesson, Jeremiah is suffering and despondent over all that is happening to him. Some scholars call a feeling like this a “dark night of the soul.” In this emotional time of deep sorrow of his soul, Jeremiah goes to Yahweh.

A dark night of the soul is when what you believe life to mean or be collapses around you. This overwhelming and deep sense of despair or meaninglessness is usually caused by an external event or disaster which triggers these emotions. Examples are death, divorce, diagnosis, or disaster. Beyond falling to your knees, it is more of a curled-up-on-the-closet-floor with great sorrow kind of time.

Described by spiritual leaders and writers and poets over the centuries, the phrase, dark night of the soul, is believed to originate with John of the Cross (1547-1597), a priest, scholar, spiritual director, and poet from Spain. It can describe a spiritual crisis or a time when things just do not make sense. Usually temporary, it can last for a period of time. Internal feelings of emptiness and doubt compete with experiential knowledge of trust and faith, an intersection where sorrow and truth meet. Only by integrating these two, the overwhelming grief and trusting God’s unchanging character, only in the merging of emotion and intellect can the soul move through the crisis.

The other side of the dark night of the soul often reveals a new and deeper understanding or sense of purpose. A spiritual awakening or reset can be transformative. New insights and greater intimacy with God frequently emerge. Perhaps the the hardest part is holding on to the truths of God, His true character, while riding out the dark times.

Lamentations, the Old Testament book authored by Jeremiah, says this in its opening verse of Chapter 3,”I am the man who has seen affliction.” In verses 17-18 Jeremiah writes, “You have moved my soul far from peace…My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD.” Jeremiah is speaking of his experiences with suffering. While these verses may sound hopeless, simply read on a few verses. In remembering his afflictions, Jeremiah also remembers God’s goodness and finds renewed hope. A few verses later he writes, “Surely my soul remembers… therefore I have hope.” (20-21) In some of the most quoted and familiar verses from Lamentations Jeremiah reminds, “The LORD’s mercies never cease; for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” (22-23) 

“In remembering His God, the prophet gains a clearer and more complete understanding of God’s sovereign purposes for the suffering of His people.”[1] Like many servants of God in the Old Testament and countless others throughout the ages, suffering can lead to greater intimacy with God. God’s sovereign purposes will always remain. Great is His faithfulness! 

Study 

Most believe that this takes place during the time of Jehoiakim. At the end of Chapter 19, Jeremiah again shares the message at the Temple, and this makes the elders and Temple leaders angry. Pashhur is the “chief officer” which is more like the “head of security detail for the large complex.”[2] In verse 2, he has Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks at the Benjamin gate near the Temple. Stocks are a confinement device of the feet, neck and hands that fastens a person in a stooped position. This Upper Gate of Benjamin is likely the same as the north gate of the inner court as opposed to “the Benjamin Gate” in the city wall. (Jeremiah 37:13;38:7) Both gates face north toward Benjamin territory.

Jeremiah is released the next day and calls Pashhur “Magor Missabib” which means “terror on every side”. The King of Babylon is coming, and Judah will be given over to him as they become exiles. Along with captivity, their wealth and treasures will fall to the enemy also. In verse 6, Pashhur is told that he will be taken into captivity and die there. He is identified as one of the false prophets. Likely Pashhur will go “into exile in 597 BC”.[3] “Destruction comes in three waves of invasion by Babylon, the first 605 BC, then 597 BC when Pashhur and King Jehoiachin are captured, and 586 BC the final defeat.”[4] 

Jeremiah 20:7-18 is the sixth lament of the prophet. Jeremiah shares his despair and praise to God, shares his burdened heart. Having demonstrated his obedience in giving God’s message, in return, the response is persecution. When Jeremiah writes that he feels “deceived” this a “sense of being overcome or prevailed on to do something for the Lord.”[5] People mock him and make fun of him; yet he continues to speak God’s message of “violence” and “destruction”. For this he is taunted and scorned, shamed and disrespected. 

“Jeremiah is the only prophet to compare the word of God to ‘fire’” (5:14; 23:29)[6] I am reminded of the two followers of Jesus after the crucifixion, returning home on the road to Emmaus and how they felt a burning within when Jesus teaches them. The presence of God is powerful. Jeremiah feels this is a spiritual fire inside, and while it motivates him, Jeremiah is weary. He tires of the rejection. 

In this lament, in verse 11, Jeremiah is reassured as “the LORD is with me like a ruthless (dread) champion (hero).” Jeremiah recognizes God’s protection and righteous justice. We begin to see some self-loathing, feelings of insecurity, feelings of failures and weaknesses, honest feelings of his heart as he lays it out before God. This is called by some commentaries as Jeremiah’s “dark night of the soul”, a time of spiritual darkness yet an awareness of the unchanging character of God. 

Finally, the question of “why is God allowing these things to happen to me?” “His own despair is so all-consuming that all he can think about now is some quick way out of this mess.”[7] We must always remember there is a bigger picture – God’s Picture – which begins and extends beyond our comprehension. Like others, like Jeremiah, “we, in our depressed states, need to have a  whole new vision of the greatness, magnificence, and awesomeness of our God.”[8] 

Reflection

Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations  3:22-23 NIV 

Various Bible translations use great love, lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercies, faithful love to describe the way God loves, the character of His love, and the depth of His love. Even as Israel suffers for her unrepentant disobedience to God, as she nears captivity in Babylon, as Jerusalem waits for complete destruction, God’s covenant love for His people remains. God’s never-ending mercy constantly seeks restoration. I will hope in Him! 

Words struggle to adequately explain deep grief or spiritual emptiness or deliberate rebellion or profound remorse. God’s unmeasured grace finds us wordless, defenseless, guilty and starving.  With compassion, God understands the wordless sighs, the heart’s intentions, the soul’s great needs. Even though we stumble or fail, sway or faint, God’s faithfulness will always endure. 

“Even though at times Jeremiah felt an acute loneliness, he nevertheless experienced God standing by his side as a great champion.”[9] Jesus teaches that we will have trials and troubles, but He will be with us. Adonai, my great LORD, hear my whispers of regret, my sighs of anguish, my confessions of sin. Replace my emptiness with Your goodness; let my story tell of Your mercy-full forgiveness. Great is Your faithfulness, overflowing with truth and compassion and never-ending grace.   

Application

  • Betrayal stings! Jeremiah feels betrayed by his friends. When have you felt the sting of betrayal and rejection?
  • Do you tell God how you feel, pour your heart out at His altar? Will you trust in God’s infinite love and never-ending mercies even in the hard places? 

Donna Oswalt

 



[1] English Standard Version Literary Study Bible notes on Lamentations Chapter 3

[2] Archaeological Study Bible notes Jeremiah Chapter 20

[3] Ibid

[4] Chronological Life Application Study Bible notes

[5] Complete Word Study Bible Dictionary

[6] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C, p 251

[7] Ibid, p 254

[8] Ibid, p 255

[9] Shepherd’s Notes, Jeremiah and Lamentations

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Broken

Week 19 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 19; 2 Kings 21:10-15 

Background

“Each generation comes up with its own ways to offend God.”[1] The Book of Jeremiah records the purpose of the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry which is to bring God’s message to Judah regarding her apostasy. So, what is apostasy?  it means “turning away”. “In a religious sense, apostasy indicates a turning from the truth.”[2] The word or concept is used more frequently in the Old Testament, meaning waywardness, backsliding, or faithlessness.

This rebellion or abandoning of belief in God is repeatedly told in the Old Testament. Much of the narratives in the OT books Judges, Samuel, and Kings document Israel’s falling away from God. The root cause, according to our study of Jeremiah, is an unrepentant heart.  Blackaby points out the recurrence often comes from “building on the sins of past generations.”[3] Certainly this pattern reveals itself over and over in the OT. 

Hosea, prophet to the Northern Kingdom/Israel from 753-715 BC, declares God’s message, “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely.” (Hosea 14:4) This messages comes to the Northern Kingdom prior to 722 BC when Assyria conquers Israel. Blackaby says, “Receiving God’s word is our choice, but living in the consequences is not.”

“We must remember that God cares for us continually… when our shortcomings and our awareness of our sins overcome us, God’s love knows no bounds.”[4] In Hosea, this is Israel’s hope. In Jeremiah, this is Judah’s hope. Today, this is our hope. True repentance remains the road to reconciliation.  

Study 

Heading back to the potter, Jeremiah is told to go get a clay pot, then take it and a group of elders of the city and the temple to the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. These elders would be Jewish religious priests and leaders, as well as, civic leaders, likely political allies of the king. The mentioning of the ‘potsherd gate’ is where the broken pottery is thrown out. The gate overlooks the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, Jerusalem’s garbage dump. In verse 3, Jeremiah begins to share God’s message, “Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place.” Jeremiah must know that this will not be well received, delivering the message requires strength and courage from Jeremiah. These folks are tired of him.

Despite this same message being given during the reign of King Manasseh over 50 years prior, the people continue to ignore the consequences. Again, the same reasons echo - idol worship, sacrifices to false gods, turning from the One True God. Another name for Tophet or the Valley of Ben-Hinnom is the Valley of Slaughter, as this is where child sacrifices had been performed.

Consequences hit close to home with “I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place.” An image of fallen leaders is followed with the desolation of Jerusalem after disaster. (Vs 7-8) To better illustrate this, Jeremiah smashes the clay jar into pieces. This image is God’s message of how He will break the people and the city. In Proverbs 6:15 the image is given of a “calamity that will result in being broken beyond healing.” Isaiah 30:14 give the same example of “smashing a potter’s jar” into so many pieces, no fragment is useful.

Historically there exists many references for shattering pottery as ritual. For example, before going tin to battle, military leaders in the Near East perform this ceremonial act of smashing a piece of pottery as a  “symbolic [act] of their total defeat of their enemy.”[5] Another example is, “Egyptians of the Twelfth Dynasty (1963-1786 BC) inscribed the names of their enemies on pottery bowls and then smashed them, hoping in so doing to break their power.”[6]

The visual for Chapter 19 continues to use clay pottery, but a change to note is that in “Chapter 18, the clay is still pliable and worthy of being reshaped by the potter, but by now the vessel has been completed and baked hard in the oven.”[7] Verse 11 proclaims that the clay vessel “cannot be made whole again.”

From the valley, Jeremiah goes to the Temple and stands “in the court of the Lord’s house” and repeats  the message of judgment from verse 3, this time to the people. “Judgment is the only response to willful apostasy.”[8]

Reflection

The brokenness of the clay jar in this week’s lesson reminds me of my own brokenness, my fractured and flawed nature. No amount of self-effort or religious rituals or rule-following can ever completely heal my spiritual brokenness. I must ask Jesus to take all my broken pieces, all the fragments of my best intentions, all the shattered edges of my worst days, take my scraps of faith, take my remnants of doubt, and make me again, make me new in Him! This is Grace, both undeserved and unmeasured, anguished and amazing.

[Jesus to His disciplesAnd He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19 NKJV 

Common to Passover tradition, a blessing comes after a meal, after eating bread, a grace spoken to express gratitude for God’s constant and unchanging care. Until this night, the Passover meal involves a thanksgiving blessing of remembrance such as, “This is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate when they came from Egypt.” This night, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks and says something new. The unleavened bread takes on a new meaning as Jesus establishes a new way of remembering. “This is My body, broken for you”.   

For now, the disciples do not fully grasp the underlying meaning of Jesus’ words, do not understand the implications of the symbol, and do not recognize the offering will come within hours. Soon, Jesus will be hastily arrested, falsely accused, and brutally afflicted. This celebrated bread of affliction will be remembered as the Bread of Life, as Jesus willing allows His body to be broken for the disciples in that room, for those who arrest and beat and crucify Him, for those who do not understand, for all people ~ then and now and to come,… for you… for me.

Application

Warren Wiersbe writes: Can nations and individuals sin so greatly that even God can’t restore them? Yes. As long as the clay is pliable in the hands of the potter, He can make it again if it’s marred (18:4), but when the clay becomes hard, it’s too late to reform it.

  • Do you see any parallels to these times in history and today? If so, what are they? Are we still pliable clay in The Potter’s hands? What are the consequences to our choices?

  • Do I find any parallels to these people in history and myself? If so, in what ways? Am I willing to be pliable clay in The Potter’s hands? What are the consequences to my choices?

 Donna Oswalt



[1] Blackaby Study Bible notes; Jeremiah Chapter 19

[2] Complete Word Study Bible Dictionary

[3] Blackaby Study Bible notes; Jeremiah Chapter 19

[4] Chronological Life Application Study Bible notes; Jeremiah 19

[5] Wiersbe Study Bible

[6] Archaeological Study Bible, notes on pottery

[7] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C; p 242

[8] Wiersbe Study Bible

Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Potter and The Clay

Week 18 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 18 




Background

The time in history for Chapters 17-20 in Jeremiah is estimated to be around 609 BC.[1] There are many sources, many timelines, many outlines for Jeremiah and various conflicts with many. The chronological order of Jeremiah does not follow a sequential timeline; however, history does have some certain records of this period in Judah’s history.

Judah is a nation that exhibits political and economical success but is entering a critical point. Military powers of Egyptian and Babylonian empires are gaining strength. “Assyria’s capital city, Nineveh, fell under the onslaught of a coalition of Babylonians and Medes in 612, Egypt (no friend of Babylonia) marched northward in an attempt to rescue Assyria, which would soon be destroyed.”[2] Trying to stop Egypt, King Josiah dies.

When King Josiah, the king who begins a spiritual revival in Judah, dies in 609 BC, Jeremiah is about 35 years old. Much of the prophet’s messages centers around the theme of Judah’s broken covenant with God. Josiah’s efforts, while widespread and sincere and hugely significant, pass with his death. The people, many of whom only pretending to reform, simple return to their pre-revival mode. In the window after Josiah’s death, his son, Jehoahaz, takes the reign but only for 3 short months and Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho puts him in prison. Then Necho makes another son of Josiah the king, Jehoiakim. At this point, Necho takes Jehoahaz to Egypt where he dies.[3] Jehoiakim pays the imposed tax from Pharaoh and increased the taxes, giving the extra money to the Pharaoh. All the while, Jehoiakim does “evil in the sigh of the LORD”.[4]

Jehoiakim reigns for 12 years (609-597). The end of his reign is the beginning of the Babylonian take-over. In 597, the Babylonians take their first prisoners. Judah’s exile begins, although it will be another long 10-11 years of capture and destruction until Jerusalem’s final fall in 586 BC. During these final years, Zedekiah, the last king of Judah watches it all fall apart.

 Study

“Over thirty words in the Hebrew vocabulary relate directly to pottery because the manufacturer of pottery was a major industry in the Near East in that day.”[5] The opening is a familiar passage, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house.” The image in the opening verses of Chapter 18 is of a potter, at a wheel, working the clay into a vessel. When it takes an undesired turn, the pottery simply reshapes the clay “ into another vessel”. Like Jesus who frequently uses familiar agricultural example, here Jeremiah is given the familiar image of pottery. The potter’s power over the clay equates to God’s sovereign authority over nations. The problem is not with the potter, “the problem is with the clay: that is the people.”[6] 

Once again, we see a series of verses about the evil choice of the people and how God would like to relent and not bring disaster, but because of their wickedness, He is still “planning a disaster and devising a plan against” them. (v 11) God always stays in character, consistent with His nature, acting with holiness, justice, and wisdom. Still, God’s will remains a mystery to humanity, not deserving of an explanation. 

Judah’s reply, “That is hopeless!” So, they decide to continue with their own plans and hoping the false prophets are right. The beginning of verse 13 gives us the Scriptural pause ‘therefore’. God’s message continues using strong language to remind them why: because you “burned incense to worthless gods” and stumbled “from the ancient paths”. God continues that He will make “their land desolate” and scatter them “before the enemy”. His consistency stands in stark contrast to the inconsistency of humanity. Time after time, the people are willing to take God’s blessings but ignore the laws of God that bring the blessings.

Hope lies in the possibility of repentance, individually and nationally. As long as God is calling to us, we have hope. “No failure in our lives need be fatal or final, although we certainly suffer for our sins. God gave new beginnings to Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, and Peter when they failed. He can do the same for us.”[7]

Jeremiah is not liked for telling it like it is. “Come let us devise plans against Jeremiah.” The verses 18-23 is another lament, in fact, it is the fifth of six laments. (Jeremiah 11:18-23, 12:1-5, 15:10-18, 17:14-18, 18:18-23, and 20:7-18) Righteous anger is acceptable to God. Jeremiah, a prophet called to bring God’s message, finds strong opposition in his task. Instead of taking things into his own hands, Jeremiah, while expressing his angst over it all,  turns the matter over to God.


Reflection

The LORD said to Jeremiah: Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you. Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay did not turn out as he had hoped; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make . . . Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand. Jeremiah 18: 2-4, 6 (NASB/NLT)

The Master Designer is creating a beautiful vessel! Somewhere, during some revolution of the wheel, the vessel begins to change, hard to say just how or why or when. Efforts to reshape the broken vessel do not go as hoped. Perhaps, the Potter will have to remake the original vessel into another vessel, one that pleases Him more.

Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand. We are clay in the Potter's hand, each of us being molded into a beautiful vessel ~ designed by Him, complete in Him and useful for Him.

He holds each of our broken vessels and longs to repair them. Knowing we are tenderly held in His Hand gives me great peace. I believe He takes us like clay, mends the broken parts and creates new vessels that will be better ~ stronger and braver, more compassionate, more generous ~ not perfect, but more graced!

Holy Potter ~
Take me in Your hand like clay, make me into a vessel that reflects Your Glory. Mold my words into deeds of kindness and compassion. Shape my heart with Love, my soul with Light. Glaze me with Grace. Put me in Your kiln and let the holy fire refine me, seal me forever. When anyone mentions the wonder of Your craft, I shall always praise the Holy Potter! I shall tell them of the Love and Light and Grace that comes only from Your hand. Amen! 
 


Application

Wiersbe Study Bible commentary says this: God uses many different hands to mold our lives – parents, siblings, teachers, ministers, authors – and we can fight against them. But if we do, we’re fighting against God.

  • Thinking back over your life, who has God used to help mold you into a vessel for God? Maybe you should write them a note of thanks. Most of the time, the willing, obedient servant has no idea how he or she may influence another.
  • God, pick up the pieces.
    Put me back together again.
    You are my praise! Jeremiah 17:14 (MSG)  Is this your hope?

Donna Oswalt



[1] Biblehub.com/timeline/Jeremiah

[2] First-century Study Bible notes, introduction to Jeremiah

[3] 2 Kings 23:31-37

[4] Ibid

[5] Wiersbe Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 18

[6] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C.; p 231

[7] Wiersbe Study Bible notes on Jeremiah 18:15