Jeremiah / chapter 18 (read the chapter)
You may have looked at the title of this blog and went, huh? In case you’ve never worked with pottery before, doing what Jeremiah describes in the beginning part of this chapter is known as throwing a pot: “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was working at the wheel. And the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it over, reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.” (vs 3-4)
I’ve never thrown a pot, so I don’t know how frequently the clay becomes “spoiled in the hand of the potter.” Perhaps that’s a common occurrence, as being smoothed out on the potter’s wheel exposes hard spots or air bubbles or other anomalies that render that particular lump of clay troublesome. Or, maybe it’s not so common. (Any potters out there want to weigh in?)
One thing I do know, however, is that it’s a very common occurrence for God when He sets out to fashion us as a potter fashions clay. For, in God’s case, the clay doesn’t just have incidental inconsistencies; the clay has a brain. And the clay has free will. And the clay can most certainly make life very difficult for the Potter.
But that’s why I love this image of God, as the patient potter who rolls with the punches (or, in this case, the lumps). As Jeremiah said, when He finds the clay spoiled in His hand, He simply makes it over, reworking it into another vessel. He can do that, you know. Throw pots on the fly. If, for some reason, His “Plan A” doesn’t pan out, He simply moves on to “Plan B.” (He has a whole alphabet of plans!)
This is exactly what He did with Israel. His “Plan A” for Israel was for them to be a nation that would be a light to all the other nations on Earth. The Israelites were supposed to be ambassadors for God to the heathen, sharing the truth about Him and His plan for life with them.
Had Israel been faithful to God, He would most certainly have shaped them into the beautiful pot He had planned for them to be! As they were honored and exalted among the nations, the truth that their God was the one, true God would have permeated the other nations.
But the Potter found the clay spoiled in His hand. Israel did not remain faithful to God, so God went with “Plan B.” He reworked that stubborn lump of Israelite clay into a different kind of pot—one that would, however, still accomplish God’s original purpose.
As the Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity and introduced to a new, harsh life, many renewed their faithfulness to God. And as they lived out their faith to Him in the midst of their suffering, the light of truth began to shine in the heathen nation, and a knowledge of God was distilled among the lands.
What God had wanted to accomplish through Israel via their honor and exaltation, He was only able—because of their stubbornness—to accomplish through their humiliation and suffering. But it didn’t need to be that way. God would much rather have gone with “Plan A.”
The point is, God’s plans for us are big enough to accommodate our freedom to choose something different than His ideal. God is a master potter, and He certainly knows how to throw pots on the fly! If we are unwilling to be made into one kind of vessel, He is able and willing to conform to our wishes and incorporate our choices into His ultimate purpose.
He will alter His design as many times as is necessary, but oh, what a beautiful thing it is when we allow Him to proceed with “Plan A”!