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 JEREMIAH 18:1-6

THE POTTER'S HOUSE

 

 

THE BIBLE OFTEN USES COMMON ILLUSTRATIONS FROM GOD'S CREATED WORLD TO TEACH VITAL SPIRITUAL LESSONS!

 

LET'S FOLLOW JEREMIAH AS HE GOES TO WATCH A POTTER FORMING A VESSEL OF CLAY!

 

 

"The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 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." Jeremiah 18:1-6

 

LESSON 1, VERSE 1:

Everyone remembers Jeremiah's trip to the potter's house! That great 18th chapter of his Prophecy begins with these words: "The Word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying ...."

No doubt about the Source of this event!

Here is a direct and miraculously inspired revelation from God!

That opening noun "word" is spelled "dabar" in Hebrew and means "that which is said!" It focuses on the content of the text. It could have been sung or announced or lamented, but the words would have remained the same, the "dabar."

But look!

This "word" is alive!

It "came" to Jeremiah!

Hebrews 4:12 informs us that the Word of God is "quick!" That adjective, "zon," means alive!

When the Holy Spirit tells us that It "came" to the Preacher, the verb "hayah" is used. It means "to exist" or "to come to pass" or in a sense "to be birthed into existence."

The Word of God is often personified in Scripture. It can teach and rebuke and cut and heal and save and destroy and a whole lot more!

Now let's meet the Prophet. "Jeremiah" means "whom Jehovah has appointed" according to one source and "Jehovah will rise" according to another. Either way, it's a great name! Perhaps linguistically speaking both are true. The God Who is eternally alive called  and appointed Jeremiah to preach the Word! Called him while he was still in the womb! Listen: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

The grammatical construction that forms the simple English expression "from" is astounding! The Holy Spirit uses two words, "men" and "eth," to convey the intended meaning. The Word was exceedingly close by the Lord ("eth") ... then it came from Him ("men") to Jeremiah. "Eth" denotes extreme proximity!

Now watch what this Word does ... "saying ...."

The verb "amar" is utilized here. It refers to the simple act of communicating, usually verbally. It is most often used of direct speech, as here.

The time sense it expresses (as an infinitive) is one of on-going action. God kept speaking for a while!

Henceforth Jeremiah will be going to a potter's house. Usually these businesses were in the lower part of Jerusalem near the Valley of Hinnom. There we are told were found some rich deposits of clay, some of the best in the whole land!

As you know Hinnom is where the city garbage dump would have been located. Unending fires, putrid smells and crawling maggots were there in abundance! Jesus used the site one day as an object lesson to His listeners. He compared it to Hell! I mean to the literal Hell where the fires truly never end and man never dies and constant weeping and wailing are heard!

That's where the best clay is found?

Yes!

Nearly in Hell!

As you know, earthly "clay" in the Bible is a picture of a human being, a soul that will live forever in one of two places.

And I know a Potter who can find His clay ... with which He forms some lovely and useful vessels ... right on the borderline of Hell itself!

Some of you were nearly there when Jesus found and saved you!

Aren't you thrilled that He came looking that day?

                                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, VERSE 2:

Jeremiah 18 discusses a profession that is often mentioned in Scripture, the potter.

The Lord commanded the Prophet: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words." Jeremiah 18:2

The opening verb "arise" translates "qum" and means "to stand up." It is here expressed in the imperative mood, a command from God!

This trip to the potter's house is not recreational.

Jeremiah is "working" ... for the Lord!

He's doing "research" for a sermon!

The actual location of the area of Jerusalem where potters lived was downhill ... down toward the valley of Hinnom! In ancient cities professional men and women usually worked in generally the same area of town.

The noun for "potter" in Hebrew is "yatzsar" and depicts one who designs or fashions or frames a given object. The potter certainly does so to the clay!

Next we consider the verb "cause to hear." In Hebrew "shama" means to hear, listen or obey. In the Hiphil stem as here, the verb is causative in nature. The Lord has the power to cause us to listen and hear and obey Him!

Now to talk about the awesome power of a word picture, this potter's actions are said to convey God's words!

A valuable lesson is about to be taught us!

"Potter" and its cognates are used nearly two dozen times in the Bible.

The great Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah all preached about potters!

So did Paul!

The Psalmist too, in Psalm 2:9.

And any student of the New Testament does remember where Judas was buried, in a "potters' field!"

Preacher Bagwell, do you mean a lowly potter can teach me spiritual truth?

Yes! If the Holy Spirit is leading!

Job suggests that we "Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:  or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?" Job 12:7-9

Therefore if the beasts and the fowls and even the fishes can teach us wisdom and understanding ... surely potters can too! After all, they get their clay from the "earth!"

Lord willing, more tomorrow.

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3:

The potter's house!

This is the subject of the eighteenth chapter of Jeremiah's prophecy.

And there we learn that the earthly potter is a picture of the Heavenly Potter, the Lord God Almighty.

Later the Lord will say to Israel: "Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."

Or, as Paul words it: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Romans 9:20

But the best example of all may be Isaiah 64:8. "But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand."

God is the Potter!

As such I thought it would be interesting to study that little Hebrew word for "potter" and see just how it is used by the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament! So, here's a short history of the pertinent uses of "yatzsar."

In Psalm 33:15 God is specifically said to form or fashion man's heart! God is the Great Cardiologist! "The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He FASHIONETH their hearts alike; he considereth all their works."

God, like a potter, formed the light! "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." Isaiah 45:7

God formed the earth too! "For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else." Isaiah 45:18

God can frame (still "yatzsar") evil against any disobedient people! "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." Jeremiah 18:11

And God, like a Potter, made man! "The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" Lamentations 4:2

God even formed the mountains! "For, lo, he that FORMETH the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name." Amos 4:13

And grasshoppers too! "Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings." Amos 7:1

God created the spirit of man also! "The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and FORMETH the spirit of man within him." Zechariah 12:1

Yes, God forms things beautifully and completely.

Today acknowledge him as your Potter!

Thank Him for His handiwork in and around your life!

Let Him have His Own Way!

That's always best!

And ultimately ... after the Lord Jesus has "fashioned" you into His Image, all will be well!

Today be aware that God has you on His wheel, conforming you according to His perfect plan for your life.

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, VERSE 3:

In Jeremiah's great sermon preached at the local potter's house, the great Prophet simply said: "Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels." Jeremiah 18:3

Of course this is an object lesson for us Believers in Jesus.

God is the Potter.

We are the clay.

And His Work is that of shaping and molding us into conformity to His Will!

This whole potter incident recorded in Jeremiah 18 presupposes the gathering of the clay.

I mean the artist, the potter, here already had the clay with which to make his vessel.

It is taken for granted that the raw material has already been provided.

But let's not forget that ordinarily this potter each new day would have immediately faced the necessity of procuring his clay.

Let's think together.

The potter would have gone searching for the clay. It certainly could not have been looking for the potter! It is inanimate. Likewise, Jesus Who is our Potter came searching for us as! And He found us too!

This potter would have to known which type vessel he was going to make also! For we are told that certain jobs require certain types of clay! This is great! God has enough different kinds of clay to do every job!

I have read that the clay had to be dug up from the filthy depths of the countryside. Shovels inserted into the dirt, they were digging deeply to find any hidden treasures no doubt, deposits of good workable clay!

While in Jerusalem the clay generally came from the valley of Hinnom, yet a good potter could locate some just about anywhere if given time to search. In the swamps, the hills, the caves, near cities or out on a lonely isle. So is it with the lost! God finds them in many different places!

Let us thank God that He came to us!

He, digging and tearing, separated us from the world!

And all this occurred before He ever places us on His Wheel!

What Grace this implies!

Thank God for that!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5:

In Jeremiah 18 the Prophet is sent by the Lord to the local potter's shop.

As Jeremiah observed the craftsman at work he wrote: "Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels." Jeremiah 18:3

The verb "wrought" translates "asah," a Hebrew action word meaning "to fashion or to accomplish or prepare or to produce."

As a participle in the active voice, "asah" implies sustained motion. It took the potter some time to make the vessel!

In fact, as the context implies, often the potter has to pull the clay off the wheel, knead it again, and start all over with the whole process!

This is necessary because the potter is creating a "work" on the wheel. That noun, "melakah," usually means "business, occupation or service." In other words, the potter's very reputation rides on the quality of this vessel!

No wonder he takes his time!

Having chosen and dug his own clay, the potter then picks out any rocks, sticks or roots. Next, water must added to make the mixture more malleable.

Then present day-potters say he would have had to press and throw and stomp that lump of clay again and again, often slamming it against a special rock surface formed for this very purpose. 

All resistance must be erased. Inconsistencies must be removed. Lots of work, if the clay is to make a lovely vessel!

Here we are describing prolonged interaction between the potter and his clay! "Hands-on" interaction!

If the clay could talk, all kinds of groans would be heard!

And hours would come and go on the sun-dial out front!

Does anyone today hear me?

God is our Potter!

We are His clay!

He often has to prod and pick and slam and soften us too!

For our own good!

And this whole process takes time!

But, without it, no vessel of honor will ever emerge!

I can't end this Lesson today without a verse from A. A. Pollard who lived from 1862 through 1934. You will know the hymn:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Friend, the next time things are going "rough" for you, don't grumble and question the Lord! Just remember, you are the clay ... He is the Potter ... and the wheel is turning! He's just getting you ready to make something beautiful of your life!

Now, once again, but this time pray it:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Amen!

                                                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6:

I am still thinking about Jeremiah 18:3. "Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels."

As the "weeping" Prophet looked at the vessel being formed on that wheel ... he became the "learning" Prophet too.

Someone recently told me that every potter somehow leaves his own mark on the vessel he creates!

Yes, the artist is revealed in his work!

Sometimes a name is etched on the bottom. Then again the way a vase is turned might give the hint. Or the shape of the handle. The flair of the spout.

By the way, Almighty God the Creator of the universe has certainly left His marks, His fingerprints on His work! Everywhere they are seen! Indeed, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." Psalm 19:1

And we as Believers in Christ are certainly designed to bear the marks of our Saviour! Into our very lives is poured love and joy and peace and gentleness and so much more! Placed there by the Holy Spirit of God!

We bear resemblance to our Designer and Creator!

"And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Acts 11:26

See! These disciples literally bore Christ's Name!

And when the Old Testament priests pronounced the great three-fold blessing upon the people of Israel, God said "And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them." Numbers 6:27

God's Name ... upon His people!

Even in Heaven it will be so! "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads." Revelation 22:3-4

See His Name on His people!

And, I promise you, ultimately we shall all bear a striking resemblance to our Potter, Our Creator, Our Redeemer!

Read with me 1st John 3:2. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

Like Him!

Like Potter, like clay!

It should be the prayer of each follower of Christ Jesus to be so conformed to His Image that others may see Jesus in us!

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7:

Jeremiah 18:4 talks about a potter. He is making a vessel. From clay! Moist earthen clay!

"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter" records Jeremiah.

Remember that the verb "made" translates "asah," the Hebrew word that carries the idea of skilled shaping and fashioning and forming an object!

The Lord is our Potter!

We are His clay!

He is today fashioning and shaping and forming each saved man or woman into the very likeness of His darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! He longs for Jesus' love and joy and peace and longsuffering and gentleness and goodness and faith and meekness and temperance to be in each of us ... in ever growing degrees!

The word for "clay" used here is "chomer" and is twice in the King James Bible translated as "mire!" He took us from the mire and mud and filth of the world, saved us and cleansed us ... and is making lovely useful vessels of us ... all to His Glory!

Praise the Lord!

Also note that the clay is "in the hand" of the potter.

Needless to say, we are "in His Hands" too!

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand," said Jesus in John 10:27-29.

I was reading this week about those old Bible potters. It is said that on the wheel they worked the clay again and again! Up and down! Up and down! Up and down! Sometimes nearly beginning all over! Pressing and pulling and sometimes gouging and picking!

Rough handling!

Come to think of it, next time it seems things are going rather unevenly for you ... remember ... your Lord knows! He just may be shaping you into a lovelier Believer at that very moment!

And if you do experience some "ups and downs" He could be just smoothing out the rough edges of a future useful tool in His Hand!

One old potter even suggested that a relationship develops between a potter and that lump of clay! Much like that between a shepherd and his sheep! Or a husbandman and his vines! Or a farmer and his wheat!

The clay says, "Oh!"

The Potter responds, "Quite child, this is for your own good!"

The clay wonders, "How long?"

The Potter assures, "Not one minute longer than necessary!"

In fact here's what the Lord wants us all to know: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11

How precious!

He, right now in the midst of our turmoil, knows the end!

He has a goal!

A finished product is in His Mind!

One to be displayed in Glory forever!

YOU, my dear friend!

YOU, saved Follower of Jesus!

YOU, Blood washed saint!

We are so faulty ... He is so Perfect!

Thank God we are "in His Hands!"

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8:

Of the Bible writers who mention the potter and the clay, perhaps Jeremiah gives us the most complete view.

His Prophecy allows more space for the subject than any other Book, Old or New Testament.

In Jeremiah 18 the Prophet makes his well known and God ordained trip to the potter's house. Then again in Jeremiah 19 he used a vessel of clay as an object lesson for disobedient Judah.

Jeremiah 18:4 talks about the potter at work and "the vessel that he made of clay."

Two things I have learned in studying the whole pottery process. At least everyone with whom I've ever discussed the subject mentions these facts.

One, much water must be available! In the forming of the pot or lamp or whatever, the clay tends to become dry as it is worked. Once that happens it looses its plasticity, its malleability, and will not as easily respond to the potter's hands. So, as the wheel turns water is often added! "A little more water," the potter might be heard to say to his apprentice. Then, "A bit more please."

Water needed in pottery work?

Yes!

And spiritually speaking our Heavenly Potter needs water, much water, in forming us into vessels of service too! We must be kept moist with the water the Potter has made available! And again, spiritually speaking, that water is a picture of the precious Word of God! Listen to Paul talk about Jesus and His Church: "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Note the words "the washing of water by the Word!" And in John 15:3 Jesus added: "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." It's a fact! Vast amounts of Scripture are necessary if we are to grow and develop properly as Christians!

Secondly, the potter must add pressure ... much pressure ... if he is going to be able to shape that piece of clay into a useful vessel. Some say the craftsman may even be heard groaning as the pressure to push or pull is exerted! We are "in the hand" of the Potter, Jeremiah 18:4 cries! I'm quite sure if that clay could talk it would yell, "That hurts!" Or "Enough, please!" But "no pressure" means "no vessel!" Likewise our Heavenly Father allows us to feel the pressure of His wise and loving Hands as we are shaped on His wheel of divine providence. Sometimes it is quite painful! But it is never without purpose!

Am I writing today to a Believer who is tired of such pressure? Or has become far too "dry" in his or her Christian walk? Realize what God is doing ... and get back under the water where you belong!

Expect it!

Much of the water of God's Word must be poured upon you life, administered by the Holy Spirit both through the preaching of the Man of God down at Church and of course your personal time in the Book!

Then pressure and heaviness of hand must come as well! They can't be avoided. But it sure helps to know that God through such trials is forming us and preparing us for a better place of usefulness to His Glory!

God is going to "mold us and make us" according to His Will. We just need to cooperate!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, VERSE 4:

The word is "marred." It is a verb. Jeremiah uses it in his account of the potter with his clay.

Precisely, "And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter." Jeremiah 18:4

"Shachath" is used 147 times in the Bible. Its root meaning seems to be something like "to go to ruin."

It is once translated "spilled."

But most often it is "destroyed" or "destroyer."

But here it appears to mean something like "becoming defective" or "lacking some particular quality" the potter desired.

For example, in Leviticus 19:27, Jewish men were commanded: "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." Do not "disfigure" the edges of your beard!

But, notice this. The verb here is in the niphal stem in Hebrew, telling us that it's passive in voice. The little vessel did not mar itself! This is something that happened due to a slip of the wheel or an interruption of some kind or maybe even a small foreign object that evaded detection thus far!

All of us have been marred a few times I suspect as we spend our time on the great Potter's wheel! We are human and frail. After all, clay is simply a form of the dirt of the earth!

And in the end we may discover that such "mars" were needed to further make us into what our Lord wanted us to be anyway!

Our spiritual Potter, the Lord God Almighty, is far wiser than any earthly counterpart! He is all-wise and all-knowing and supremely skilled at the task of building vessels, men and women who will live fruitful and productive lives to His Glory!

At any rate, a little mar or two is NOT going to stop this potter, the one in Jeremiah's account!  Read with me the rest of our verse: "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." Jeremiah 18:4

Same clay, just re-formed!

And this time it's pleasing to the potter!

To "seem good" translates "yashar," meaning "well fitted, right, straight, level, pleasing or even upright!"

Here, even at the beginning of this little vessel's career, apparent blemishes and failures are transformed into beautiful features ... by a caring potter!

After all, his reputation is partly riding on that little piece of clay!

His name will rest on it somewhere, his initials anyway!

This verse is nearly a Romans 8:28, nestled right in the middle of an Old Testament Prophet's fiery writing!

Everything that belongs to the Divine Potter works to His Pleasure!

Even marred vessels can be re-worked and transformed into useful and lovely tools of service!

I'm so thankful I met that Potter, the One Who will not throw away a little marred vessel!

Praise the Lord!

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10:

The Lord is described in many beautiful ways in Scripture.

In fact, He is The Potter according to Jeremiah the Prophet! Isaiah agrees ... saying to God: "But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." Isaiah 64:8

Jeremiah in one whole chapter, the eighteenth, describes a trip to the potter's shop.

There the skilled potter made a vessel "as seemed good to him!" Jeremiah 18:4

Did you ever think about the time necessary to make a lovely vessel?

God invested years, decades, even centuries in trying to mold Israel the Nation into a people fully dedicated to Himself!

And He now has been forming the Church, His Bride, for two thousand years!

So logically, when he deals with one of His children, brother or sister, He will carefully and patiently transform him or her from a raw lump of clay into a beautifully crafted vessel of service, investing whatever time is necessary to complete the task!

A potter who has recently written on this subject reminds us that there are many unseen steps in the process ... from digging that clay out of the ground all the way to displaying it as a finished trophy of excellence!

One of those steps involves taking that little pot or lamp or saucer and, removing it from the wheel, then setting it aside for a while!

That's right!

It must be placed on a shelf somewhere ... to dry!

A busy large scale potter in an Israelite village would have had a "drying" room in fact!

The clay must be air dried!

If not ... it might not survive the "fire" it was about to face!

Then again, un-dried pottery often will not respond properly to the glaze that needs to be added to its outer layer, glaze that will provide such rich color and beauty later!

Yes, the drying stage precedes the glory stage!

Am I writing to someone today who feels that he is on the shelf?

Someone who is dry and worried about it?

To a Believer who craves a few of those sweet "showers of blessing?"

To a discouraged saint?

Dear friend, the Potter, our Heavenly Potter, knows what He is doing!

He is not wasting you or forgetting you ... even while you are shelved!

He's just conditioning you for further and future ministry to His Glory!

Dry times?

Yes, they will likely come to us all ... if we are going to be vessels unto honour!

No wonder the great Apostle wrote: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Romans 5:3-5

Let's thank God ... even for the dry times!

Just remain faithful, pass the test ... and soon enough you will be "holding" vast amounts of the Water of the Word of God!

Vessels do that, you know ... hold water!

Then, thank the Lord, extended dry days on some shelf will be over forever!

                                                                                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11:

Jeremiah, during his trip to the potter's shop, was careful to mention the fact that the vessel created on that wheel would "seem good" to the potter!

That verb "seemed" is derived from the Hebrew root word "ayin" which just means one's "eye!"

The vessel "looked" good to the potter!

Here's the full verse: "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." Jeremiah 18:4

The adjective "good" depicts the a form of the word "yashar" which means straight or level or even! It was symmetrically lovely! Balanced in appearance! Paul in Romans 9 would have called this container a "vessel unto honor!"

What I am saying is this: God makes pretty vessels!

Now an earthly potter, one like Jeremiah visited, would have done something to that little pot or vase or pitcher that is not often known to us non-potters.

He would have coated it with a glaze.

As it was explained to me this glaze itself is colorless and watery has no apparent beauty. But when applied to the clay vessel and placed in the "fire," or the "oven" or the "kiln" ... a beautiful color appears!

The color or "pigment" is miraculously and invisibly contained in the glaze!

Now those few facts just preached a sermon to me!

After God takes us off the wheel, having fashioned us according to His desires and will, we still look pretty plain! Just old dirt molded into a hopefully useful vessel!

But no beauty yet!

We as the Lord's vessels must be coated or covered or glazed with something. Really, with Someone!

We must be covered by the Holy Spirit. He, as does the glaze on the clay, must seep into us, indwelling us and filling us with His Presence!

Paul said we are to "put on" the Spirit!

Jesus used the term "endued!" That means literally "to be clothed" with the Spirit of God!

He is the Member of the Godhead Who provides us the beauty and color and sheen that makes us useful to our Lord!

We are to wear the beauty of the Holy Spirit! Remember Moses' prayer in Psalm 90? "And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us," he begged!

Yes, the Holy Spirit, even in the hard times of life, when we are "in the fire," causes the lovely pigments of His Essence to begin to show in our lives. You know, the pigments and hues of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance! 

You dear vessels listen to me today!

Stay on that wheel.

Let God mold and make you!

Then, get ready.

Your plain, earthly, drab appearance is about to change!

The Holy Spirit will inundate (flood) you and coat you and fill you ... so that when the fiery hard times come ... beauty and loveliness will exude from every fiber of your being!

Holy Ghost produced beauty!

No wonder the Lord is going to put His vessels on display some day, vessels of Grace!

Praise His dear Name!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 12:

In Jeremiah 18:4 we see a piece of clay in the hand of the potter.

"And the vessel that he made of clay was ... in the hand of the potter." Jeremiah 18:4

Spiritually that vessel represents you and me, God's children.

And that skilled human potter living near the city of Jerusalem typifies The Real Potter, the Lord God Almighty!

Yes, we are in His Hands!

Listen to Isaiah as He quotes the Lord, Who is in turn speaking to His people: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." Isaiah 49:16

Jesus, in John 10 adds: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Then ... "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." John 10:28-29

But some strange things can happen when we are in the Lord's Hands. Never harmful things, mind you, but difficult things nonetheless! For example, read Jeremiah 18:4 again. This time I will not print it as an elliptical sentence. "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." In the Potter's Hands ... yet marred!

Beautifully the 78th Psalm mentions the "skillfulness of His Hands!"

God makes no mistakes!

Psalm 92:4 confidently assures us that we can "triumph in the works of His Hands!" That means "to rejoice or sing or shout!"

The God Who made the heavens with His Hands, can surely form a piece of pottery with great wisdom and artistry!  "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands." Psalm 102:25

Listen to Psalm 119:73 as David nearly adopts "potter" language concerning the Lord: "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments."

What I am trying to introduce today is the fact that after the digging of the clay and after it has been formed by the potter's hands and even after the glaze has been applied ... something remains to be done!

THE FLAMES!

THE HEAT!

THE OVEN!

Potters call it "firing" the vessel!

Until this trying time for the vessel, it could have never held water or milk or juice or been practically useful in any way at all!

In a short time water would simply have melted it!

But oh, when the fires come and the clay is "vitrified" ... it is hardened and solidified and proved to be a useful tool for the Potter's glory!

If the clay has not dried properly or still has air pockets, the firing process will make it explode! It will of course shatter into many useless pieces!

Again I say it. The fire reveals then further deepens the quality of the clay!

The fire also hardens it for practical work, in a kitchen or living room or bathroom or wherever the potter so wills!

And the fire awakens the pigment in the glaze, revealing the beautiful color scheme the potter knew was there all the time!

In His Hands ... and through the fire?

Yes, that's what the clay reports!

God knows that to be useful we as His people must pass through the fire!

He also knows that we will not be alone there! "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Isaiah 43:2

While in the fire we may rest assured that our Potter has not forgotten us! He will never forsake the works of His Hands! Pray Psalm 138:8 next time you're being tested: "The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."

"In His Hands!"

What a place to be!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 13:

The skilled potter whom Jeremiah visited had some trouble with the vessel he was making.

"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."  Jeremiah 18:4

Today I want to comment on those four little words "he made it again."

The verb is spelled "asah" and has the idea of crafting or designing or fashioning a product until it's completely finished.

In other words, the same clay remained on the wheel all the time. It just had to be re-worked in order to eliminate those earlier imperfections. And, of course, the patient potter was willing to do so!

"He made it again."

Those very words imply change!

And "change" is at the heart of this pottery business!

From moist gooey dirt still in the ground to filtered pounded and bagged clay is one change!

From raw clay in storage to that wet material on the potter's wheel is another change!

From shapelessness to a carefully designed form is yet another, a pitcher or vase or cup or lamp!

From its soggy wet unstable condition, after first being removed from the wheel, to the drying room shelf is another change!

From the shelf, once dried, to the glaze room where it's coated for future beauty is quite another change!

But the fire, the kiln, the oven ... that's where the greatest change of all occurs!

Truthfully that little vessel is made again and again and again until the potter is fully satisfied with what he has done!

For example: the pottery, when removed from the fire is noticeably smaller than it was before! The fire shrinks it! Yet it makes it more firm and stable too! By the way, spiritually speaking, the "fires" we endure give us humility and lowliness too! They can sure shrink that thing we call ego!

When the fires have done their job, the impurities have been purged from the clay too! No bacteria or poison there now! Not even any bubbles or straw left either! Spiritually God does the same for us, our great Heavenly Potter!

One artist says that the clay is actually changed chemically by the fire! Altered to appear more stone-like than earthen! Reminds me of Jesus changing old Simon's name to Peter, the rocky one!

Yet several authorities say that the fired piece, with all its improvements, still carries one thing! One thing that has not been burned away, but rather permanently etched into its very core! That is ... the fingerprints of the potter! I like the sound of that!

We Believers, through the whole process of Christian growth, acquire the spiritual marks of our Creator and Redeemer! But the fires, the hard times, the crises, affix His marks onto and into us as perhaps nothing else can do!

No wonder Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 12:9: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Yes, the heart of the Christian life is change, transformation, metamorphosis, being daily fashioned more and more like Jesus!

We are just like that pottery Jeremiah observed!

What a  metaphor or word picture the Holy Spirit has selected here!

                                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 14:

Jeremiah 18:5 says more in its ten short words than we will ever know, at least on this earth.

"Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying ...."

This verse claims for Jeremiah the direct and miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit!

In fact, Jeremiah repeats this clause a number of times throughout his precious prophecy, all 52 chapters!

God's Word came to this great Prophet as early as Jeremiah 1:2 which says: "The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign."

And the Word of the Lord kept coming to Jeremiah!

In total, eighteen times God spoke directly to this great Man of God, including chapter 18 which concerns that visit to the potter's shop!

But what about the "potter's house" could be so important?

"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." Jeremiah 18:5-6

God is again speaking, drawing some direct lessons from the potter and his work on the clay.

I have recently learned something about a piece of finished pottery that is amazing! I am reminded of this new bit of information as I contemplate the fresh clay in the potter's hand.

It is said that the more a piece of pottery is handled, the more beautiful it becomes!

One could make a case that such truth applies in many areas of life. A musical instrument, maybe a violin, shines more beautifully as it is tuned and played and caressed! Even a good book shows value and practicality as it is handled and read and marked and shared too!

But especially, a piece of pottery!

Let's take this truth as from the Lord!

He longs to touch us and help us and mold us and form us!

And as we yield to His hand ... we will for sure become more and more beautiful and shiny and radiant!

Handle us, Lord!

Touch us!

Mark us!

Glorify Thyself through us!

Thereby making us all the more beautiful in your Eyes!

In Jesus' Name, Amen!

                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 15:

If the Lord is the real Potter, and we are His clay, He indeed can do with us what He pleases!

That's exactly what Jeremiah concludes in the sixth verse of his great eighteenth chapter.

"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."

Jesus, in His parable of the laborers in the vineyard, asks: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with Mine Own?" Matthew 20:15

Generally speaking, most of our Lord's vessels are changed from common clay into beautiful pots or jars or lamps or whatever. They are transformed! They experience ceramic metamorphosis! Nearly all of them become vessels of honor!

But, at the same time, others are "marred!"

And, according to Jeremiah, some have to be "made again!"

Furthermore, Paul says in Romans 9 that the Lord even makes some "vessels of wrath!"

Astonishingly, Paul then adds that God makes those sorry "vessels unto dishonor" too!

He even forms the "vessels of mercy" as well!

My point today is this: Our dear Lord God, the Supreme Potter or Creator or Ruler of the Universe, can make any type of vessel He chooses.

Amen!

Certainly we, the vessels, differ greatly. I mean in size or color or purpose or weight or durability or even place of service!

But this one thing remains constant. In all His work the Potter receives glory for His creativity, His skill, His Wisdom, His Purpose, His Plan, His Mercy and so much more!

The potter's wheel cranks out utensils not for the pleasure of the clay ... but for the Glory of the Potter!

I am telling you ... all things exist for the Glory of God!

Even you!

Even me!

However He has made us!

We are to let our very being, our very existence, our very lives ... however chipped or broken or marred we may be ... bring honor and thanks and praise and glory to our Heavenly Potter, the Lord Jesus Christ!

May He be praised forever!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 16:

Let's admit this one fact.

When a potter makes his clay vessel, the end product is not always perfect.

A slight bulge here or there is often seen.

Or maybe there's a slightly visible grain of sand or nearly unnoticeable bubble there on the surface.

If fact, and not always due to the potter's hand, a crack or small leak may develop!

That's what I want to emphasize today, imperfect vessels.

Don't misunderstand! These are clean vessels, and they will serve well in the kitchen or living room or wherever.

Though flawed, they still can well be used as lamps containing fresh oil or dishes holding delicious food or vases displaying beautiful flowers!

We Christians, being human, are certainly not yet in our glorified state!

Our great Potter, the Lord God Himself, knows we are made of earthly clay, just common dirt ... or dust!

He knows our weaknesses and frailties and inconsistencies too!

Yet He uses us!

I mean if we are clean and obedient and submissive to His Hand!

I somewhere read an account of an old farmer who owned two water pots. Several times each day he had to make a trip from his home down to the riverside. He went there to fill the pots and bring water back to the house, water for cooking and farming and cleaning. One of the pots was nigh unto perfect, the other leaked! It had a small crack.

On each journey home the perfect pot of course arrived full, nearly overflowing! And the cracked pot, naturally, arrived less than full!

Personifying these little water pots, one was heard to say "I am a failure! I can't even get a full load of water to the house! My master must be disappointed in me!" The little pot was frustrated and obviously unfulfilled!

The wise owner said to the little pot. "Look, dear leaking vessel, on the right side of the path where we walk each day, the side where you are always carried, something is growing!"

The little pot then noticed them! For the first time ever he saw a winding row of flowers, beautiful ones! They grew all the way to the house ... all the way from the river ... on his side of the pathway! And on his side only!

The farmer continued: "Little leaking pot. I know you arrive home less than full several times each day! But the water you are leaking is not in vain! It is being used to bring life and beauty to these many beautiful flowers! Without your cracks ...  this loveliness could not have been! The flowers would have died!"

Do you see the lesson I am trying to convey?

Our cracks can bring glory and beauty to our Master!

If we will just yield everything to Jesus, including the cracks and bubbles and bulges, He can take them and use them and make something beautiful through them!

It almost makes a person want to thank God for his or her infirmities!

What an Owner That must be!

One Who can use our weaknesses and transform them into strengths!

Praise His dear Name!

Listen one more time to Jeremiah 18:6. There the Lord is talking. "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."

Amen!

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 17, VERSE 6:

I enjoy studying words, especially Bible words!

Since Scripture is verbally inspired, the nouns and prepositions and other parts of speech are critically important!

In Jeremiah 18:6 we read: "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."

Look with me at the noun "clay."

In Hebrew it is spelled "chomer" but is translated "homer" half the time in the King James Bible.

We often think of a clay vessel as being something quite small.

A little lamp or a tiny flowerpot or maybe a kitchen saucer filled with oil!

And likely most clay vessels were small rather than huge in Bible days.

But it is believed that "clay" here being rendered by "homer" indicates its volume or mass.

The word "homer" in the Bible was a measurement. It contained the equivalent of approximately 55-60 gallons of matter!

Technically speaking, a "homer" of clay from the field would consist of a rather substantial amount of earth!

Most of you can picture a 55 gallon drum from your childhood days.

Pretty big!

Preacher Bagwell, what's your point today?

When the Lord God, our Heavenly Potter, begins to work on each of us, His clay, He is not building some small little thing!

No sir!

He is up to something great!

Spiritually speaking, each of us is larger than he or she thinks!

Why else would such a big word be used in describing the building material for such a common and menial object, a fragile earthen pot!

Dear Brother or Sister in Christ, you consist of a lot more clay than you think!

God has great plans for you!

He is fashioning of you a trophy, a trophy of grace!

Apparently a big one too!

Yes, Jesus knows your potential!

Just as he saw something special in Jacob ... and Peter ... and Paul, so He sees something great in your life too!

Stay on that wheel!

Yield to His pressure and plan!

You will some day be eternally glad you did!

After all, you are one of God's big projects!

He has no small ones!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

I AM SO THANKFUL FOR THE POTTER. I MEAN OUR HEAVENLY POTTER, OUR CREATOR AND REDEEMER!

 

 

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