The Potter’s House (Jeremiah #8)

Text: Jeremiah 18-20

A sermon from the potter’s house

  • Jeremiah understands the principle (vss 1-10)
    • We’re only going to deal with Jeremiah’s first trip to the potter’s house in chapter 18 tonight. This time the LORD doesn’t send Jeremiah to preach, but to hear a message. 
    • Jeremiah watched the potter choose the clay. Jeremiah observed the potter’s tools: the potter’s wheel like the tables of stone, the water like the spirit of God, and the potter’s two hands to fashion the clay into a vessel.
    • He saw him “throw” it on the wheel. He watched him center the clay on the wheel and take water to make the clay moldable. Nothing can be done on the wheel until the clay is centered. Jeremiah watched the potter use his thumbs to begin to “open” the clay. As the potter applied pressure inside and outside of the opening, the vessel began to reach upward and grow taller. The potter dipped his hands in the water and continued to apply pressure and smooth the outside of the vessel. But as the vessel spins on the wheel, the wall began to fall apart. The lip of the vessel folded outward and the potter knew this lump would have to be remade.
    • As he watches the potter make and remake a vessel it becomes clear that God is the potter and the vessel is Israel.
    • About a hundred years before Jeremiah, Isaiah was a prophet in Jerusalem who warned, Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? (Isaiah 45:9) Then Isaiah said very directly, 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 preaches his sermon (vss 11-17)
    • Jeremiah preaches this illustration to the leadership in Israel and their response is the same as it would be to Stephen. They want to get rid of Jeremiah.
  • Jeremiah prays for justice
    • Jeremiah prayed as a mediator between sinners and God’s wrath in verse 20.
    • But their response was hatred and wrath and persecution. So Jeremiah prays that they’d be recompensed for what they thought to do.
    • And lest you think this is old testament, Paul was the one that said Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: For someone to understand they are doing good work for the LORD is not self-righteousness. And for them to know they are facing wicked opposition based on the good work they’re doing isn’t self-righteousness. It’s reality.  And then to pray against that wicked opposition so the word of God would be magnified, that isn’t wrong.

The potter’s vessel is broken

  • The LORD heard Jeremiah’s prayer and sent him back to the potter’s house to buy a vessel this time. The LORD sent him to gather some elders and go right outside the east gate with the vessel and said, I’ll tell you what to say when you get out there. Jeremiah and this entourage of curiously angry elders stop at the valley of Hinnom where child sacrifice was routinely practiced. Jeremiah rehearsed the potter and the clay illustration and preaches a bit. Then he recited the psalmist’s words, O Lord, thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel! And he raised the vessel over his head and CRASH!
  • Read 19:10-11.
  • It is all unmistakable what Jeremiah has said. In the place where you’ve shed innocent blood, in God’s holy mountain, the LORD will break you to pieces.
  • Then Jeremiah returns to the temple and preached according to 19:14-15.
    • What’s their problem? They will not hear.
    • Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice. Hearing, obeying, and being corrected, are all indications of listening to the shepherd’s voice.

The preacher is persecuted

  • Pashur was the son of the highest-ranking priest overseeing temple activities. Pashur heard Jeremiah’s anti-semitic sermon. He heard this unpatriotic sermon about how God is against the nation for their unwillingness to listen to Him. Pashur assaults Jeremiah in the temple and has him arrested.
  • That irate mania is the spirit of the unbelieving self-righteous soul. When someone like Jeremiah says directly to them, God is against you. You are not His favorite, you are His enemy because you won’t listen to Him. That self-righteous soul wells up with wrath that someone would have the audacity to tell them they are not God’s people. It is the same spirit that possessed the Pharisees.
  • But a day passes and Pashur cooled off so he had Jeremiah released from jail. Jeremiah’s response is to tell him that this act won’t absolve him from sin. Jeremiah says to Pashur he and his family and friends will be captured by Babylonians and they’ll die in Babylon. And everyone you lied to about their relationship with God will likewise die in Babylon because you deceived them.
  • Jeremiah’s only comfort in life becomes this: that God’s words would be justified in his life.
    • There’s been no greater influence on Jeremiah’s life than the words of God (vss 20:7-9).
    • The LORD is a refuge to the faithful, also called the righteous, also called the poor (vss 10-13). Jeremiah lives in wartime. His message is not patriotic. He doesn’t have people praying for him. It’s not like folks in Ukraine, living in wartime, but have friends and family and Christians around the world praying for them. Jeremiah has no friends and the things he has to say from God don’t make him any friends. He is alone, just he and the LORD.
    • Jeremiah wishes he wasn’t born if his purpose is to be a shame and reproach to his country and his peers. What happened to all that talk about I knew thee and formed thee in the womb and I have these plans for you? Jeremiah said I wish you didn’t have any plans for me LORD!
    • You and I need to understand that good people can carry burdens too big for a positive outlook. I’m not encouraging a martyr complex or “whoa is me” mentality, but good people, faithful people, can be burdened by things much bigger than your positive attitude will allow.
    • This is not how the story ends, but it is where this episode ends. And it makes the work and shepherding of the LORD Jesus Christ so much more valuable when he is made an example of righteous suffering. And the LORD explains the persecution and the reward for those who’ve had their faith tried.