Thus said the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;…
There is a point up to which the potter can do what he pleases with the clay: he can make the vessel high or low, broad or narrow, shapely or ungainly; he can play with the wet clay. There was a time when the Lord could do this with man; when He took the dust out of the ground and shaped it, and prepared it for the reception of inspiration; He could have broken it, or reshaped it, or done what he liked with it, but not after He had breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Reverently, then, God conditioned and limited Himself. The Lord cannot convert the world without the world's consent. In Almightiness the Lord still reigneth in the fulness of His power. He can make the nations, and put them down; but what can He do with a little child's heart when that heart is set in deadly animosity against Him? He could break the child upon the wheel, but breakage is not conversion, destruction is not reconciliation. How does He propose to proceed in this matter of bringing the world to Himself? We find the answer in the music of the New Testament. What is there? Any hint of omnipotence? Not one. What is the tone of the New Testament? Reasoning, entreaty, persuasion. Everything depends, then, upon the state in which the potter's vessel is found. Jeremiah is to take a potter's earthen bottle for dramatic uses. He is to go forth, not personally, but officially: "Take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests; and So forth." Cruelly have these prophets been used, as if they in. tended all the harsh expressions they used. They had nothing to do with them; they were errand bearers; they were sent with messages of thunder, and all they had to do was to deliver them. They themselves trembled under the very burden they carried. The Lord has made men different. Some men could not read a prophecy aloud without taking out of it all that is distinctive of its intellectual energy and spiritual dignity. Such men would turn a denunciation into a kind of lying benediction. Others, again, could not read the Beatitudes am they ought to be read, with musical tremulousness, with tears, with infinite suggestiveness of tone, with sympathy that would not irritate a wound. Each man must operate according to his own gift and function. We need some such introduction as this to the tremendous sentence which Jeremiah pronounced when he went unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate. He was there to recite a lesson: "proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee," at the moment. How he must have writhed under the torture! How his lips must have been made again to speak this molten lava! How he must have lost consciousness in a certain way for a time, and have become a mere instrument or medium for the using of Almighty God! Man never conceived these supreme judgments; they bear an impress other than human. What an awful cataract of judgment — what complaining of neglect and forsakenness — what an exhibition of treachery, blasphemy, self-idolatry, and all shame! And what resources of retaliation — what mockery — what taunting! What then happened? Jeremiah, having thus denounced the judgment of the Lord, took up the bottle and broke it in the sight of the men that went with him. Then he was to say: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city," etc. Sometimes we need graphic displays of God's meaning. The Lord resorts to all manner of exhibition and illustration and appeal, if haply He may save some. This is the reason why He dashed your fortune to pieces. You remember when the sum was large, and you said you would die in your nest, how He took you up the bottle and broke it at your feet, and you started, and wondered as to what was coming next. It was thus that God broke the bottle of your little child's life; He saw that this was the only way in which your attention could be excited, for you were becoming imbruted and carnalised; you were losing all spiritual life and dignity and value, and were rapidly amalgamating yourself with the dust; therefore He had to send infinite trouble before your eyes could be opened in wakeful and profitable attention. Thus the Lord is defeating crafty politicians, and selfish statesmen, and ambitious kings, and families that are bent on their ruin through their dignity: and thus, and thus, by a thousand breakages, God is asking man to think, ere it be too late. Throughout this condemnation there is a spirit of justice. We never have mere vengeance in the providence of God, any more than we have mere power in the miracles of Christ. The miracles of judgment and the miracles of Providence are all explained by a moral impulse or purpose. The Lord condescends to use the explanatory word, "Because." Thus we read: "Because they have forsaken Me." Why this Divine wail because God has been left, neglected, forsaken? This is not the complaint of mere fastidiousness; this is the revelation of the Divine nature. He condescends to cry that we may understand that He has heart; He is willing to send upon the earth a shower of tears that we may know how capable He is of being grieved. There is, then, a spirit of justice in the whole condemnation. Verily, there is a reason or an explanation of all the judgment that falls upon our life.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;