The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
(with Jeremiah 19:1-2, Jeremiah 19:10-11)
I. There is a Divine ideal possible for every man. God has not made any man simply for destruction. He has an archetype or pattern before Him, which it is possible for each man to reach. That ideal is not the same for all, but it is in each appropriate to and in correspondence with the environment in which he is placed.
II. This ideal is to be attained by a man only through implicit faith in God, and willing obedience to His commands.
It was a profound saying of a great philosopher that "we command nature by obeying her." And similarly we may affirm that we command God by obeying Him.
III. If such faith and obedience are refused by a man, that man's history is marred, and it is no longer possible for him to become what otherwise he might have been. Sin mars the Divine ideal for a man. It deprives him of the full advantage of the skill and help of God in the development of His character. It is no longer possible even for God, in consistency with the moral nature of His government, to make of him all that was originally attainable by him.
IV. If the man should repent and turn to the Lord, he may yet, through the rich forbearance of God, rise to a measure of excellence and usefulness, which, though short of that which was originally possible to him and intended for him, will secure the approval of the Most High.
V. If the man harden himself into persistent rejection of God, show stubborn impenitence, there comes a time when improvement is no longer possible, and there is nothing for him but everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. The clay that was plastic was made into another vessel; but the bottle that was burned into hardness, and was found to be worthless, was broken into pieces and cast out. So when impenitence is perversely persisted in there conies a point at which the heart is so hardened that impenitence is neither thought of nor desired, and the man is abandoned to perdition.
W. M. Taylor, Contrary Winds, p. 150.
Jeremiah 18:6I. Every human life is, first of all, an idea in the mind of God. The potter is an artist, and it is the thoughts of his head he embodies in the vessels he makes. Our beings are Divine productions, embodied thoughts of the Divine heart, the very work of the Divine hands.
II. Every human life is shaped for a Divine use. When the potter turns a vessel on his wheel, the first pulse of thought concerning it touches its use. It is the use which determines the shape. And this holds good in the shaping of human life by God. We are created to be vessels for God, and of God; vessels of His sanctuary, set apart for His service, and filled with all sweet and wholesome things.
III. The third truth in this parable is that lives tried in one shape are sometimes broken up and re-shaped to fulfil themselves in new spheres of different capacities and shapes of the Divine character and life.
IV. God has left it to man himself to decide whether he will be a vessel of honour or dishonour. If we were mere clay, God being Lord and Maker of us, each would pass to the fulfilment of the Divine purpose as stars and trees do, and there would be no after-story of sorrow—no divergence from the Divine intention. But we are human beings, not mere clay. The Creator has power over the lives He moulds, but it is never so wielded as to quench the power of choice He has given to us.
V. Be true to the Divine intention and shaping of your lives. The Great Householder reserves for the highest honour the cup which carries the wine to His own lips or to the lips of His guests. Be, each of you, that cup for God. So shall God be well-pleased with the work of His hands.
A. MACLEOD, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 23.
References: Jeremiah 18:11.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 279. Jeremiah 18:12.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xii., No. 684. Jeremiah 18:18-19.—J. S. Howson, Good Words, 1868, p. 617. Jeremiah 19:13.—S. Greg, A Layman's Legacy, p. 223.
Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.
Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?
Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;
To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.
I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.
Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.
Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.
Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.
Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.
Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.
Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.