In today’s Scripture, God command Jeremiah to watch a potter at work and then proceeds to give him a message from the experience.
Jeremiah Chapter 18
Lessons from the text
A Guilty Holy Man
Contained in this chapter is the thought that those who have religious authority are automatically correct. Such is not true. Have you ever heard of a pastor being found out to be committing a lewd sin? Have you ever listened to a well-established teacher and found his doctrine to be unbiblical?
Just because someone holds a position of authority within the church does not automatically mean that the person is righteous. Ideally, only godly men enter into the service, yet Paul makes it clear that from the beginning of the Christian faith, there are those who preach and teach who inwardly do not bear the marks of a Christian (Phil. 1:15-18).
Therefore, while you are to always respect preachers or pastors, until you have listened to their doctrine and diligently compared it to the Scriptures as well as witnessed their daily walk with Christ, you are not to assume that they are speaking sound doctrine. In the judgment, there will unfortunately be some authorities within the church who will be denied entrance into heaven regardless of their service on earth due to the fact that they never knew Christ (Mt. 7:21-23).
Sound doctrine is a belief that is derived directly from Scripture (such as you must be born again to enter into heaven - Jn. 3:3) or which can be reasonably concluded from Scripture (there is a Rapture because Paul speaks of being called up into the air and being changed in the twinkling of an eye, there is an example of it given in the story of Enoch and Elijah, and it is suggested in the Jewish traditions of marriage as stated by Jesus in Mt. 25:1-13. There may be multiple interpretations (like when the Rapture occurs) and each be sound doctrine as long as each can be explained by considering the Scriptures.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 This is the second time God has commanded Jeremiah to perform an action, and later He will give the prophet a message concerning that action (Jer. 13:1-11).
3-4 Jeremiah once again demonstrates obedience to God’s command. Arriving at the potter’s house, he watches the potter work a piece of clay. As he is shaping the clay, the shape becomes damaged. Therefore, the potter ceases to work with it as it is, reforms the clay into its original ball, and then works on it to create a different vessel. He works on this new vessel until he creates a good, satisfactory piece of pottery.
5-10 God uses the illustration of the potter at work to make the point that humans are creations of God who can be shaped, cut down, and remade according to His will. Just as the potter uses the same piece of clay which became marred to create a different, good vessel, so are the Jews capable of being reshaped into a good nation if they will merely repent.
Noteworthy is that the clay does not have any say in the matter of whether or not the potter remakes it. Even so, the nations, once they become marred, can at any moment be scrapped and damaged and changed into a completely new vessel. In revolutions and conquests the people do not change; the government and political system may be remade, but the actual substance that makes up the nation (the land and humans) remains the same.
11-13 Now that Jeremiah has a clear understanding of God’s message, he can go proclaim it publicly. Because the nation Israel has become marred in God's hands, He intends to destroy the current vessel so that He can make it anew. If the people return from their wickedness, then they will have removed the blemish from them and therefore not need to be re-sculpted.
The people, however, have up to this point refused to hearken to God, claiming that they are helplessly lost to their sin. God does not accept this explanation of their spiritual condition. Instead, He says that they are virgins that have chosen to do a very horrible thing so much so that their actions startle the heathen because of the sheer wickedness of the people. This is the exact opposite of how it should be; God’s people should be shocked and revolted by the actions of the unbeliever.
14 Cool, refreshing waters are something to be desired. God is asking why do the Jews want to leave that which is refreshing for their souls, for God is the water of the soul (Jer. 17:13).
15-16 On burning incense to vanity, see Jeremiah 10:14-15. God’s path is a proven ancient path that has been used to mold people throughout time just as a cast is used to make objects. The Jews have forsaken this proven path for a way of life which brings desolation, humiliation, and disgrace.
17 Because of their rejection of God, instead of God being there to help them in a time of trouble (Ps. 46:1), He will act as though He does not hear their prayers, presenting His back to them rather than His face.
18 Jeremiah now records the response of the people to his message. They believe that he is not speaking the words of God because, in their eyes, the priests, wisemen, and prophets are too important in the covenant with God to ever lose a right relationship with Him. They believe that holding the office makes one holy instead of the correct realization that the contents of the heart makes one holy or defiled towards God regardless of what position one does or does not hold.
19-21 Jeremiah appeals to God on the grounds that he preaches for the benefit of the people and yet they spurn his help. Proclaiming the prophecies of God, Jeremiah is a watchmen and intercessor between the people and God's judgment, shouting a warning of the consequences of sin and how to avoid said consequences (Isa. 62:6). Now that he has been rejected, Jeremiah ceases to pray for them and prays against them.
22-23 Knowing the details of the coming destruction, Jeremiah prays for the words that he has prophesied in the name of the Lord to come to pass; namely, that the women will be made widows by an invading army (Jer. 6:22, 15:8).
Jeremiah is not merely praying for vengeance against his enemies; he is praying that since the people have rejected the word of God, God's name and words will be vindicated against their rebellion. Since Jeremiah is a true prophet of God, when the people reject and fight against him, they are also fighting against God. Such is why Jeremiah is not praying for the immediate destruction of the people (the disciples of Jesus are rebuked for such thinking—Lk. 9:54-56) but is instead praying that when God judges, He will judge according to the words which He has already spoken against the wicked so that all may acknowledge that God is real.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
Please comment below to share what you learned from today's lesson.