1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 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.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6 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 NIV
If you are anything like me, I am sure some days you feel like a marred pot. We are the creation of a holy God, made in His image and desiring to be like Him. Yet some days, for whatever reason, we do not act like it.
The spark that starts the fire that ends up spoiling our day can be almost anything. A rude or selfish act by another might cause our own anger to rise up within us – that happens to virtually everybody. But how do we respond when our anger flares? With criticism? Raising our voice? Retaliation? Escalation? Full blown conflict? Or instead, do we lean on the Holy Spirit in prayer for restraint, allowing the Lord to deal with the offence?
You may also be like me in that the last option listed is usually not the first one that comes into my mind. Any of the other responses might be regarded as a “spiritual failure”, something I am all too familiar with. But on the positive side, they can be used by God as a learning experience – our “Potter” can smooth them out, remolding the clay of our character. Even actions we are not proud can be used by Him to produce more patience and tolerance the next time we encounter a perceived infraction against us.
There are any number of other imperfections in our lives that the Lord is working to chisel away and purify. Most of these defects are the result of our fears or selfishness, found deep within our human hearts. They are a reflection of our inherent frailty, which in times of trial, can seem greater than our faith and trust in God.
God warned Jeremiah that when he gives this message to the people of Judah, they will not receive it, but instead will chose to follow their own path.
12 “But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’” Jeremiah 18:12 NKJV
Every one of us falls short of God’s glory on a regular basis, He knows that. But here is God’s plea to us when we fail: “Return to Me.”
When we do act in an unholy manner, we then have a choice to make. We can get up, dust ourselves off, and return to the cross of Christ for complete forgiveness, or we can choose to be stubborn and continue along the destructive path we have chosen, unaffected by His plea to return. The further we continue along a selfish and unfaithful path, the harder it is to return. Each act of willful disobedience sears our conscience a bit more, making it less effective in warning us of dangers that lie ahead.
When we reject the lifegiving Spirit of God in our life, we become like dry, lifeless wood. But if we seek and abide in Him, God’s Holy Spirit will flow through us like the healthy grape branches in a vineyard. We will then bear the fruit of goodness, peace, patience, and restraint with those around us.
Jesus spoke to His disciples about this just before He went to the cross.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8 NIV
If we seek God’s Spirit and abide in Him through the word and the cross, the Potter will continue to smooth out the imperfections in our character. This is a life-long project and, of course, there will be many failures along the way. But the Potter will continue to shape us, right through to the end of our lives. As we bring our sins and failures to God to seek His forgiveness, He gives us the blessings of beloved children, and uses our imperfections to instruct and improve us. He will even make use of them to help others to succeed in overcoming their own struggles. Our God is so generous and loving, a Master Craftsman and Creator of good and holy things.
What areas are the hardest for you to behave in a God-like manner? We take them to the Potter’s House today.
God, help us to overcome our greatest character struggles and temptations. We bring our failures to the cross of Christ and ask for complete forgiveness and a fresh start in You. May Your Holy Spirit flow through us as a healthy vine, producing much fruit that will lead us and others closer to Your holy kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.