07 Jeremiah 18:1-17 Who does God think He is?

by | Nov 9, 2016 | 01 Podcasts, Jeremiah

One of the most common complaints today is that the God of the Bible doesn’t seem to be very “fair.” We come from different backgrounds, we have different accents and we have different gifts and opportunities. Some people face repeated tragedies and setbacks while others sail through life easily.   We look at that and ask, “Is God fair?”

Historical Setting

Jeremiah began his ministry as the dominant world power, the Assyrians, descended into civil war.  As the Assyrians began to lose their power,  Babylon and Egypt sought to occupy the power vacuum that the Assyrians would leave.  In the midst of this political turmoil the Lord calls Jeremiah.  His job is to predict and warn of the coming Babylonian invasion and the restoration that would follow the exile.


  • 18:1-4 – Illustration: The Lord gives Jeremiah an illustration. A visual picture to help him understand the point that God will make.
  • 18:5-10 – Explanation: The Lord explains that illustration and tells Jeremiah the principle or truth that He is trying to communicate.
  • 18:11-17 – Application: The Lord explains how this principle applies to the people of Jeremiah’s day.

Illustration 18:1-4

1The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying,  2″Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.”  3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.  4But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. –  Jeremiah 18:1-4
  • God asks Jeremiah to visit a potter’s shop and watch the potter work.
  • Pottery was one of their most critical pieces of technology.
  • Every village had a potter’s house.  A potter at work would be very familiar to them.
  • God uses common imagery to communicate His truth.
  • 18:4 tells us that Jeremiah saw the potter start over because the vessel he was making was spoiled. Pliable clay can be fashioned into a desired shape but unpliable clay has be used for something else.

Explanation 18:5-10

5Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,  6″Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7″At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it;  8if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.  9″Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it;  10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. –  Jeremiah 18:5-10
  • If you stop reading at 18:6, it is easy to make the wrong comparison.
  • 18:7-10 concern God responding to His people and adjusting His plans as His people change their behavior.
  • A lump of clay doesn’t change it’s behavior.  A potter doesn’t have to respond to His clay because his clay can’t decide to change repent.
  • But God’s people are individuals who make decisions. They respond to their creator. And their creator responds to them.
  • Good relationships are more than fair. They are responsive and dynamic and giving.
  • Grace is getting what you do not deserve.  Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.
  • The Lord could treat His people just like the potter treats the clay. That would be fair. But God is more than fair. He relates to us as individuals, changing and responding and teaching and adapting as each situation requires.
  • See also John 21:15-23 and Matthew 20:1-15.

Application 18:11-17

11″So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”‘  12″But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’  13″Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Ask now among the nations, Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel Has done a most appalling thing.  14’Does the snow of Lebanon forsake the rock of the open country? Or is the cold flowing water from a foreign land ever snatched away? 15’For My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods And they have stumbled from their ways, From the ancient paths, To walk in bypaths, Not on a highway,  16To make their land a desolation, An object of perpetual hissing; Everyone who passes by it will be astonished And shake his head.  17’Like an east wind I will scatter them Before the enemy; I will show them My back and not My face In the day of their calamity.'”  – Jeremiah 18:11-17
  • The Lord warns that He is preparing a disaster for His people. He gives them a chance to repent. But they do not change.
  • If the snow on the mountains of Lebanon were to leave the mountain, it would no longer be the snow of Lebanon. It would be just snow.
  • What makes the Lord’s people His people is there relationship with the Lord.
  • Snow never leaves the mountain, but God’s people have forgotten Him.
  • In response, God will remove them from the land, so they can learn their identity comes from being His people, not from living on the land.
  • Like the potter, He is remaking His people.

Six truths to remember

1) Whatever trial, tribulation or tragedy or change I am facing is not unique.
2) God, like the potter, has every right to take me through the trials, darkness and uncertainty.
3) I can be utterly and completely secure in the hands of the Lord.
4) Trials, tragedies, troubles and tribulations always come to an end.
5) In good times and in bad, I can always strive to understand the Bible and its message.
6) When I am in the midst of a trial, I must place no greater burden upon myself than to do the best I can with the resources I available at the time.

For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.

Next: 08 Jeremiah 20:7-18 Why is life so hard?

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Series: Questions Jeremiah Answered

Resources: Jeremiah Resources

Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible.

Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.