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?”
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.