The Role of the Potter’s Wheel – Jeremiah 18

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The Role of the Potter’s Wheel

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. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 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 18:5-12 NIV

We spoke about the potter’s intention and desire and the readiness of the clay as important forces in the potter’s house. Here we will explore the role of the potter’s wheel.

The job of the potter’s wheel is to go around and around and around while the potter forms the clay. We have seen that it is clear that God is the master potter. The clay refers to the worthless material that is formed and molded by the potter. The potter’s wheel then refers to the circumstances of our lives which God uses to mold and shape us.

Sometimes when we are on the potter’s wheel, we don’t like the way our lives turn. We don’t like the circumstances in our lives that we have to endure. We live our lives as if our comfort and convenience is what matters most. When Jeremiah enters the potter’s house, he sees that what matters most for the clay is not its comfort, but instead what the potter is forming it to become through the spinning of the wheel.

We think the question God needs to answer is, “Why? Why do these things happen to me?” When we understand from the house of the potter, the real question to ask is, “How Lord? How would You have me respond to what happens to me?”

While the potter’s wheel goes around and around, it is critical for the clay to stay on the wheel! That is what we need to learn today. Stay on the wheel!

The potter’s wheel is built to go around and around. Stay on the wheel! We don’t like the way life turns. Stay on the wheel! It is never about the potter’s wheel. It is not the comfort of life and convenience that matters most. Stay on the wheel! What matters most is what the potter is forming us and what are we becoming during the spinning of the potter’s wheel. Jeremiah 18:4

Stay on the wheel!

One thing about church goers is that we love being on the wheel and in the hands of God when things are going great. We thrive on those great times when we have a new house, a new job, or a new ministry. We love to be on the wheel when our kids are doing great and our marriages have never been better.

We aren’t as thrilled to stay on the wheel when we lose our job, our house, or our ministry. We want to get off the wheel when our kids go astray or our marriage is struggling. That’s when we want to throw a tantrum and make demands of God. We have a strong tendency to try and get off the wheel when things are not going as well as we would like them too.

Before a potter is done with his work, he will carefully look at the pot and examine his creation. If he sees something wrong, he will crush it and start again. Because he sees what others cannot see, the potter knows what needs to be done. He knows that if there are bubbles, lumps, or inconsistencies, when he puts it in the heat of the kiln, it will explode. The potter uses the turns of the potter’s wheel to form the clay. God does not stress Himself over clay throwing a tantrum. God, like a good parent, allows clay to exhaust itself with its own stupidity. The lesson from the potter’s house though, is that the best and safest place for the clay to be is on the potter’s wheel.

Stay on the wheel!

In order for clay to remain most usable, the potter must ensure that it remains moist and soft. A potter cannot work with hardened clay. Some may not agree, but I believe that the tenderness and softness of our hearts to remain on the potter’s wheel is determined by us. Though the grace of God and the water of His Holy Spirit help our hearts to remain soft and pliable before God, in the end, we decide whether or not our hearts remain that way. Here are some signs that our hearts are hardened.

My heart is becoming hardened when my prayers become empty phrases and repetition.

My heart is becoming hardened when my Bible reading comes from religious obligation.

My heart is becoming hardened when compassion leaves my heart.

My heart is becoming hardened when I am filled with pessimism.

My heart is becoming hardened when compromise enters my life.

Holy Spirit, I will remain on the Potter’s wheel. Increase my awareness of those times when my heart begins to harden. I choose to be faithful to endure on the potter’s wheel today. Amen.

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