LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE POTTER
Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NKJV)
The Potter and the Clay
18 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
God uses many images to describe His relationship to His people. He speaks of the shepherd and sheep relationship, the husband and wife relationship, a Father and His children, just to name a few. All of these are blessed and teach us many needed and valuable lessons about life, ourselves and our Lord. However, while we like sheep are protected and provided for by the shepherd, and as a wife, we are loved without condition by the husband and like children we are constantly under the Father’s loving watch care, there is another facet of our lives that needs to be factored into the equation. After all, Jesus did not save us just so we could go to Heaven and miss Hell. He saved our souls so that we might be actively engaged in His service here on the earth. Now, if we are to be His servants, we are going to need His power to get the job done. Never let any child of God think that he can do it own his own, John 15:5 makes our dependance upon Jesus crystal clear. Therefore, perhaps the greatest portrait of God and His people to be found in the entire Bible, related to this matter of service, is this picture of the Potter and the Clay. In these brief verses, we can see the plan of the Potter on display.
Let’s take a few minutes this evening and look into these verses together as we consider the subject, Lessons Learned From The Potter.
I. V. 1-3 THE MISSION (M) OF THE POTTER
A. His Intent – The Potter has a singular purpose. He desires to produce vessels that will reap a profit, that will be found useful, and that will bring honor unto Himself. The pieces he manufactures are pieces that will be used by Himself and others.
(Illustration. This is God’s intention as well. He excels in taking old worthless clay and transforming it by His grace into vessels of honor and glory. He takes those things that are the “off scouring of all things” (niv – the scums and refuse of the world), 1 Cor. 4:13, and turns them into vessels of honor. Jesus saves the sinner by His grace and then He begins the process of changing that vile sinner into a vessel that will produce a profit for the Kingdom of God, one that will be useful to Him in His work, and one that brings honor and glory to His Name. God is interested in taking the worst He can find and changing it into the best Heaven has to offer.)
B. His Ingredients – In order to accomplish this lofty goal, the Potter must work with materials that leave much to be desired. Ill. The condition of the clay as it is found:
( Illustration. The clay as found in the ground is not suitable for use. It is dug out and brought to the vicinity of the pottery and allowed to weather for weeks. The dry material is then dumped into a cement-lined tank or wooden trough and covered with water. When the lumps have softened they are stirred in the water until all have disintegrated and a thin slimy mud or “slip” has been formed. In coast cities-the potteries are all near the sea, as the sea-water is considered better for the “slipping” process. The slip is drawn off into settling tanks. All stones and lumps remain behind. When the clay has settled, the water is drawn off and the plastic material is worked by treading with the feet. The clay used on the Syrian coast is usually a mixture of several earths, which the potters have learned by experience gives the right consistency. The prepared clay is finally packed away and allowed to stand another six months before using, during which time the quality, especially the plasticity, is believed to improve.)
(In other words, the clay, as it is taken from the ground, is worthless. It must be transformed into a useable state and this is a process that takes time and energy on the part of the Potter. This is a perfect portrait of sinners. We are worthless to God in our natural condition. However, He is able to see the vessels the we can become. Therefore, He begins the process that will bring us to a place of usefulness. He digs us out, drys us up and washes us clean. This is a clear picture of the process a sinner must go through prior to salvation. The heart is pricked and the conviction of God begins to work in the heart. The sinner is lead along in little baby steps until he reaches the place where he receives Christ as Savior. At that point, God begins the molding process.)
(Ill. It’s seems pretty evident that the Lord doesn’t have a whole lot to work with when He finds us. After all, we are all made from the same clay – Rom. 3:23; Rom. 3:10; Gal. 3:22)
C. His Instruments – The potter uses several implements to bring the clay to a place where it is usable.
1. A Shovel – This is the tool he uses to dig the clay from the earth. This is a picture of the Spirit of God who comes to where are in sin and speaks to us in convicting power and draws us to Jesus.
(Ill. Praise the Lord for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it best when speaking to Saul on the Road to Damascus – “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5).
2. A Mallet – After the clay has been cleansed and processed, it is lain on a table and beaten with a wooden mallet. The Potter does this to remove any air bubbles that might be trapped in the clay. If he doesn’t the air bubble will form a pocket that will produce a weak spot and cause the vessel to be fragile and unusable.
(Ill. This is a picture of the trials, calamities and chastisements of life that tend to work together to shape us in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ – 2 Cor. 4:17. We may not like the pounding of the mallet, but its sole purpose is to make us more usable and pliable in the Potter’s hand. Therefore, it is a good thing!)
3. The Wheels – (Describe the wheels – A large bottom stone, usually made of stone, is mounted upon a shaft that sits in a stone socket. Coming out of this large stone is an upright shaft that extends some 3 feet with another, smaller wheel mounted on top. The Potter, using his feet, spins the large, lower wheel. As he does, the upper wheel is turned. This is where the clay is placed. As the clay turns, the Potter will place His hands upon it and shape it according to his will.)
(Again, these wheels are symbolic of the circumstances and situations that life brings our way. Life often times seems like a large circle. It seems that we just get past one trial when here it comes around again. These things are hard to take and leave us confused and burdened, but we must remember that the Potter controls the speed of the wheels and they only rotate according to His will. Never forget that God is still in control, regardless of what you are facing in life, and that all things are eventually going to work out to your good – Rom. 8:28.)
4. His Hands – While the clay spins around on the wheels, it is never out of contact with the Potter’s hands. He is in constant contact, molding, shaping and bringing the clay along through Hid loving guidance. If he were to ever remove His hand, the clay would spin right off the wheel and would be lost. Therefore, he remains there with the clay and brings along until it become what He desires it to be.
(Illustration. What a picture of the Heavenly Father. There are times when God seems remote, removed and millions of miles away from us and from our needs. However, He has promised us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us and that He will ever be with His children, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. The child of God need never fear that the Lord will walk out on us and leave us to spin out of control. No matter how fast the wheels spin, or what comes our way, we can rest assured that the Lord of glory will never remove His hand from us. He is always in touch with His clay!)
I. The Mission Of The Potter
II. V. 4 THE MINISTRY (M) OF THE POTTER
A. A Problem With The Vessel – Even in the Potter’s hand, things can go terribly wrong. The fault is not with the Potter, but is a problem with the clay. There are times when with the best of care, the vessel still gets out of shape.
(Illustration. Isn’t this the way our lives seem at times? We are going along Good and we are growing the grace of the Lord, then there comes a temptation or a trial and for one reason or the other, we are thrown off balance and we become marred in the Potter’s hand. Every turn of the wheel makes the blemish more visible. It soon becomes evident that God cannot use us in our present shape.)
(Ill. Never be guilty of believing that this cannot happen to you. There are many people in this world who started out running well for the Lord, but along the way they got weak and out of balance in their lives. Before long, they were vessels of dishonor. They never planned it that way, but it happened just the same. So, never think that it can’t happen to you – 1 Cor. 10:12) (Ill. The Bible is strewn with the wreckage of lives that began well and ended poorly. For example: Hymaneaus and Alexander – 1 Tim. 1:19-20; Demas – Phm. 1:24; Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:10.)
B. The Perception Of The Potter – Because his hand is resting on the vessel, the Potter knows when a problem arises. He sees the status of the clay and begins taking whatever steps are necessary to correct the problem.
(Ill. The same could be said for the Lord. There are times when we are all cracked pots. Yet, because He knows everything about us and because His hand rests on our lives, He is instantly aware when things aren’t as they should be. At that moment, He begins to take the necessary steps to get us back in usable condition. Never think, even for a second, that you are going to hide something from the Lord. He sees it all, Pro. 15:3; Heb. 4:13. He is aware of every thought, every deed and every motive and will allow none to pass before His gaze unchallenged. If God knows when I have a need, it stands to reason that He also knows when I have a sin or some flaw in my attitude that needs correction. I am kidding myself if I think I am keeping a secret from the Lord. The best thing I can do is be responsive to His touch and yield to His activity in my life. The sooner I reach the place He desires me to be, the sooner He can begin to use me for His glory.)
C. The Patience Of The Potter – Even though the clay is misshapen and deformed, it is still in His hand. The Potter takes the marred vessel, presses it back into a lump and begins again. This time, the vessel may turn out well, but it may be deformed once again. If so, as long as the clay is moldable and pliable in His hand, the Potter will rework it and reform it until he is able to produce a vessel that satisfies Him.
(Ill. Again, this is a picture of the work of our heavenly Father in our lives. There are many times along the way that I can look back to and see myself deformed and misshapen upon the Potter’s wheel. At those times, He loving pressed upon me with His hands and began the process once again. Ill. This process is always pleasant! There are times when the Lord has to bring His chastisement into out lives. He does this because He loves us and seeks His best in our lives. However, it isn’t a pleasant thing when the Lord has to press us down, Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:6-11)
(Ill. When the vessel is marred, the Potter does not throw the clay away and start fresh with a new piece. There is a reason for this.. He has already invested too much time in salvaging the clay from the soil and in preparing it for use. He has a vested interest in what happens to the clay. Therefore, He can afford to be patient and to keep working in the clay until it begins to resemble that image that He desires it to bear. By the same token, never has the Heavenly Potter thrown His clay away. He has paid the ultimate price for His clay. He died for it to redeem it from sin and from disuse. Now, He is determined that He will make something special out of it. Therefore, the Christian need never fear bing thrown out by the Potter. What God saves, God saves to keep forever! 1 Pet. 1:5; John 10:28-29)
(Ill. Now, I will say this, there are times when the clay becomes no longer pliable and yielded under the Potter’s touch. When this happens, the Potter has no choice but to set aside that hardened vessel and chose another lump of clay with which to work. That is not a picture of losing one’s salvation, but it is a picture of being shelved. There are times when the Lord removes His hand of blessing and places us aside and uses another vessel instead. However, we can assure that this never happens to us by always being moldable and yielded to His hand – 1 Cor. 9:27.)
I. The Mission Of The Potter
II. The Ministry Of The Potter
III. V. 5-6 THE MESSAGE (M) OF THE POTTER
A. A Message Of Control – According to verse 6, the Potter has absolute control over what becomes of the clay. It is in His hand and He makes of it what He desires.
(Illustration. What a message to the people of God! He is in control of our lives and He makes of us what He wishes. Some are sturdy vessels that are used over and over again. Others are very fine and delicate like expensive china. They are used only on special occasions, but are glorious to behold at any time. Whatever the usage, it is according to the will of the Potter and those types of choices are totally up to Him. The clay has no right to question the Potter’s judgment in the matter of what kind of vessel He makes of it – (Ill. Isa 45:9, Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?) The whole point here is that God decides what He wants you to do and to be. You duty is to submit to His will for your life.)
B. A Message Of Compliance – As I was saying, the only duty that the clay has to yield to the will of the Potter. If we want the blessings of the Lord and want to be vessels of honor unto Him, then let us be what He has equipped us to be. Al I am saying is that we are to grow where we are planted and use our gifts for His glory. If we will place ourselves in His hands and genuinely allow the Lord to work His will in us, then we will be blessed and will be vessels of honor unto the glory of the Lord.
(Illustration. Can you honestly say ; “I am totally yielded to the will of God for my life.”? Or, would you have to say, “There are areas where I am still in control. There are parts of me that I haven’t given to the DIVINE Potter. There are circumstances that I face that I still try to control and work out.”? Are you like “putty in the Master’s hands” this moment?)
(Many years ago in the “horse and buggy” days, a man and his wife were driving along a very narrow and dangerous stretch of road. The woman became extremely nervous, and in her fright she grabbed one of the reins. As calmly as possible the husband responded by offering her the other strap. “Oh, no,” she cried, “I don’t want them both! I could never manage that animal alone!” “Well, then,” he said gently, “you must make your choice. It’s either you or me. We can’t both drive the same horse!” The frightened soul quickly surrendered full control of the carriage to her husband. Everything was once again in good hands, and they journeyed safely onward.)
(Many of us are like the fellow who rode in his car as it was being towed to be repaired. When they arrived at the repair shop, the tow truck driver told him, “I didn’t think I was going to make it up that big hill.” The man replied, “I didn’t either. That’s why I kept the brakes on so we wouldn’t roll backwards.”
To live without total dedication to Christ is the same as trying to go forward and to hold back at the same time.)
As you fly around on the wheels of life, are you confident that God’s will is being done in your life as it should? If you are a vessel that is refusing to yield in your life, here or there, there is no better time that the present to take care of that need.
Will you come to Jesus Christ this moment and place yourself afresh and anew into the miracle working hands of the Heavenly Potter? Will you allow Him to work His will in your life so that you can be a vessel of honor and glory unto the Lord?
Yes, Lord! Yes! Amen!