The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
Pottery making has been practiced for thousands of years. This ancient craft sometimes provides the only evidence we have of a people’s existence. As well as being used for practical purposes, such as food preparation and storage, pottery decoratively expresses the story of the people–their daily life, celebrations, struggles, and beliefs.
Jeremiah frequently draws on common everyday experience to illustrate to his people God’s presence and action in their lives. In this passage he recalls a visit to the potter’s house and tells us of the potter at work, shaping and reshaping the clay. He likens God to the potter and Israel (us) to the clay. The quality of the clay determines the beauty of the finished vessel. If the clay is impure, it will resist the intention of the artist. The prophet suggests that this is the case with…
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