“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.” (Jeremiah 18:1-3)
The story is told in Jeremiah. The Lord instructed the prophet to go to the potter’s house and observe the potter at work. An interesting phrase is used in Jeremiah’s account of the reason God gave the instruction: “…I will cause thee to hear my words.”
Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances of life that cause us to intensely listen for the voice of God. Intentionally and intently we allow the other voices and noises of life to fade and wait to hear from Him. There are other times that the noise of the circumstance drowns out everything else and God must “cause” us to listen.
Sometimes He must give us illustrated lessons, such as He did here with Jeremiah. When God wants to teach you faithfulness, He will take you through something to give you the opportunity to learn its definition. There is a vast difference between knowing something and learning it. You can know something in your head, but it is only when you “learn your lesson” that it becomes a part of your heart. When you bring knowing to learning, you bring the lesson into the living level of your personal experience. God doesn’t want us just to know; He wants us to learn.
God takes us through life experiences that turn words into lessons learned. The word of the Lord to Jeremiah was to go to the potter’s house. When Jeremiah got there, he saw something. What he saw became a word from the Lord to Him. Often it depends on what you are looking for whether you will hear the word of the Lord.
“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.”
At first glance, this probably seemed quite ordinary to the old prophet. I have personally visited in the mid-east and have watched potters working the clay in the old-time way. I’ve seen them carefully form a vase then perceive some flaw with their fingertips that I as a casual observer could not detect. The next thing I knew the clay was crushed on the wheel, and the potter began again his painstaking work.
The prophet was lamenting about Israel and their situation. Arise, Jeremiah, and go face reality. God said, “Let me show you the root of the problem” and took him to watch again something he had no doubt been seeing since he was just a boy. It was something so basic and primary. A potter. A wheel. Clay.
It is dangerous to get away from the basics of God, to forget in the froth and foam of life, what is real. The real issues of life are not on the peripheral edges of things.Sometimes it is necessary for God to take us back to the basics. What Jeremiah was about to learn was that sometimes God works in circles.
Have you ever gotten caught in one of God’s eddies? Israel marched around the same mountain for forty years until they learned what God wanted them to learn. It was a difference between knowing and learning. Once it was learned God released them – once the old Egyptian flesh died and was buried, He set them free from their trek around the mountain. Have you ever felt like you were marching round and round your own mountain? I could give guided tours!
It’s monotonous. And it is very, very dangerous. It is easy to get disillusioned with the routine, the sameness of it, and try to make something happen. Spiritual vertigo can be destructive. Most of our walking with God is routine. It is not spectacular. It is not fireworks and awe-inspiring displays. It is the slow steady burn of a single flame. The power of routine is what saved Daniel. He prayed every day. He didn’t pray more in crisis; he didn’t pray less in ease. His prayer neither sped up nor slowed down the process.
In a strikingly familiar passage, the Prophet wrote, “They that wait upon the Lord…” (Isaiah 40:31)…shall do what? Notice the “progression” in that passage is reverse of what we ordinarily think. He said “mount up with wings as eagles” then “run and not be weary” then “walk and not faint.” We want to start walking, then accelerate to a run, then take wing and fly. God says, “No, that’s not My way. You may start off flying, then you’ll come down to running, but most of the time you’ll be walking.” It’s consecrated plodding. One foot in front of the other. That’s not to say there will not be those high-flying, ecstatic experiences. It is just that they are the exception not the rule. Where you finally end up is in the very basic skill of walking with God.
Each generation must experience God for themselves. God has no grandchildren. Our children can inherit our organizations, our finances, our buildings. They cannot inherit our experience with God. The foundational structure of the Kingdom remains firm and must be learned by each succeeding generation, as they embark upon building a structure for their generation.
God started out as a potter in the Garden of Eden. He formed man out of clay. He knows more about the pottery business and the pottery process than anyone. He commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house for the purpose of learning a lesson. So Jeremiah went. He watched the potter put the clay on the wheel. He watched as the potter molded it and shaped it into some type of vessel. Then he watched as the vessel was marred and the potter had to start the process over again.
The wheel was willing. The potter was willing. But the power to become was in whether or not the clay would yield to what the master potter had in mind. When the vessel was marred, it was not the fault of the wheel. It was doing what it was supposed to be doing. We cannot blame the potter. The potter is experienced and highly skilled. He knows what he is doing. The power was in the clay.
The difference between mud and a vase is the clay. From mud ball to vessel of usefulness, the power is in the clay whether to yield to the design that is in the Master’s mind. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you…to give you an expected end.” One translation says, “…a bright future and hope…”
God did not just fling you out in the nebulous of life and forget you. He has a plan for you. He has a will for your life. He doesn’t play divine games of hide-and-seek. We are not pawns on some cosmic sacred chess board.
Too often we think the will of God is an elusive thing. I personally believe that He wants to make His will known to us sometimes even more desperately than we claim to be seeking to know His will.
God will always give you the best if you leave the choice to Him. What we must do is bring our human mind and its frailties into submission to the mind of God. The divine mind and the human mind bring the flesh, the clay, under control. “Not my will, but thine be done” is the prayer of a surrendered mind, heart, and will. It is the cry of moldable clay. It is the power cry of human surrender to divine intervention.