Sometimes we just don’t get it. Sometimes the lesson just doesn’t make its way past our thick skulls and into the gray matter of our brains. In having to repeat a lesson, good teachers will adapt their methods in an attempt to find another way to connect with our minds. Repeating the information verbatim would just be a waste of time; we need a new approach to get the facts to sink in.
In reading the book of Jeremiah, we see that the disciplinary training of Judah and Israel has been an exercise in repetition. The Lord has continued to come back to them over and over again, warning and rebuking and pleading with them to repent and come back to Him. And yet, they still will not repent of their idolatry, abandon the gods of other nations, and turn back to God. The lesson just isn’t sinking in.
In teaching the lessons of discipline, God brings Jeremiah and the nation to the pottery studio. It’s here that He teaches a simple yet profound lesson; just as a potter can do whatever he desires with a lump of clay in his hands, so God can do with the people He has created. God had promised His people blessing, but without turning away from their sin, He will bring judgment upon them. But if these same people living in rebellion will repent and turn to Him, He will bring blessing on them (Jeremiah 18:1–11).
The visual imagery should help make the point, but it doesn’t. Judah doesn’t respond well or receive Jeremiah’s warning from the Lord; instead, they persist in their rebellion (v.12). This time God has another pottery studio lesson for them. Jeremiah is commanded to buy a clay jar and go out with the elders of the people to a specific valley. There Jeremiah smashes the jar in front of them and tells them that God will smash the nation in the same way, in the same place, “for they have become obstinate, not obeying [His] words” (Jeremiah 19:15). The visual lessons are necessary to communicate the lesson Judah is failing to learn. God is all-powerful and holds authority over all things. He will break down and build up in the long game of pursuing the hearts of humanity.
These parables in the pottery studio are lessons for our hearts as well, asking us this question: What will God have to do in order to get through to us? What kind of sign or wonder will it take for us to listen and obey God’s word?
The Son of God became flesh and blood to call us to Himself once again. He pursued us to the point of His own death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. Jesus’s body was broken and shattered like that clay pot, all because of His great love for us. The signs are there, and the lessons are clear. Are we willing to see and pay attention to them, to believe and obey Jesus? The Father has gone to great lengths to call us home. May we not miss His message.
Written by Jeremy Writebol