Lessons from the House of the Potter

One of the great metaphors used throughout Scripture is that of the potter and the clay. It is a picture taken from one of the basic and common scenes of the Bible world – a potter forming a vessel on the potter’s wheel.

I. “Go down to the Potter’s house” – Read Jeremiah 18:1-6The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying:2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.”3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah and told him to “Go down to the potter’s house”.  It was at the potter’s house that Jeremiah would receive a vital message concerning God’s people, Israel.  . While the first and final application is to the nation of Israel, there is a practical application for us today as God’s children.


Why is this an appropriate image of ourselves & God? What did this simple event teach Jeremiah about God & His people?

A.  We are the clay. In Genesis 2:7 we read that Adam was ‘formed … of the dust of the ground” and “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Scientists have noted that the chemical constituents of the human body do, in fact, compare with the chemistry of clay. Physically we are dirt, formed by God for His purposes.

1.  Dr. M. R. DeHaan, in his book “The Chemistry of the Blood,” states, “By his body Adam was allied with the earth. Chemically the body of man differs not a particle from the earth out of which he was taken.”

2. Genesis 3:19 – 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

3. Paul refers to Christians as “earthen vessels” in 2 Cor. 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the Excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” The NIV says “jars of clay.” We are certainly “jars of clay” formed by the master Potter for His use. Isaiah 64:8“O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

4. Just as the clay on the potter’s wheel, we are without power to purpose or form ourselves into a useful vessel. This same Jeremiah said earlier: Jer 10:23 – 23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

5.  And yet unlike, the image of the powerless clay, God calls on us to chose. We must decide to cooperate with the Maker in order to become what He purposes for us.

6.  In fact, the use of the illustration in Jer. 18 is a call to repent or respond to God’s work. Jer 18:6-10 – 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

7.  We Can Resist God’s Work – There is a real sense in which God limited His own power to accomplish His purpose for us by giving us free-will. The Psalmist said of Israel, “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert. Yet again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel (Psa. 78:40-41). God could not do with them what He desired because of their rebellion.

a. In Isa. 29 God rebuked Israel because they arrogantly defied God and acted as though God had not created them -as though they were in control of their own lives. – Isaiah 29:16 “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

b. It is unthinkable that “clay” should have such an attitude toward the Potter. But we do exactly that. 

1. But those who resist God’s work in their lives never become what He designed for them to be. We are incapable of producing our own happiness or fulfillment. Solomon had all the human resources one could gather at his disposal, yet he found a void he could not fill – “grasping after the wind”

2.  What does it tell you about people when you see so many different religions? That we are open-minded and tolerant bunch? Or does it point to the human inability to satisfy our own longings. We should see a bunch of happy, fulfilled people in such a free, tolerant society. But it is not a lack of freedom that keeps us from being happy, it is a lack of truth .To many God is clay and we are the potters. We are free to mold God into whatever shape we desire. We seek an imaginary god who will tolerate our inadequacies without requiring change. (Homosexuality, adultery, greed, etc.). But it is the sin that brings the unhappiness. The True Potter knows that it is the clay that must change its shape.

II.  God is the Potter. God’s most celebrated and obvious feat is creation. The God we serve made everything. It is only in this truth that we can understand who we are and the purpose of our lives. God’s creative work is both physical and spiritual. God designs to remake us into a new spiritual creation.

  • Paul declared that God is “able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20)  God has a great advantage over man in the work of molding lives for the better.
    • He Knows What is Best for Us. – We think that we know what we need. But He truly knows our needs. Sometimes we need just the opposite of what we seek. (“Thank God for unanswered prayers”).
    • He Sees the Finished Product. – We are hindered by our inability to see the end of the process.
    • He has the power to truly change lives. The gospel has the ability to transform people.

A.  The Principle Point:  God is Sovereign: The principle of this entire figure is that of the sovereignty of God and the need for man’s unquestioning submission thereto. If you and I ever hope to reach our potential in life, we must be willing to bend and respond to the hands and will of the Potter. Through out the entire process the Potter is looking for submissiveness.

B.  The Power of the Potter. He  has absolute right over the clay.  Romans 9:20,21 – 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? 1 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” His power is unlimited. The raw clay has no power. There is nothing within the clay that enables it to realize its potential.

1. But despite the sovereignty of God you and I have been created by God with the power to choose and to elect. We have the privilege of cooperating with the Master Potter. Our power is in our willingness to be molded by Him.  Our wills are ours, we know not how, Our wills are ours to make them Thine. –  Tennyson

C.  The Purpose of the Potter. We are not told what the potter’s purpose is, only that he has a purpose. It says he “wrought a work on the wheels. “ The potter is doing something. He is not fooling with the clay, he is not playing with it, he is not amusing himself. It is work. It is serious and there is purpose in it.

1.  In the midst of the pressures and disciplines of life, we need to remember that God is not toying with us. In His mind there is a purpose. We can know some about His purpose through His word. Eph. 1:11-12 – 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

D.  The Character of the Potter. At the house of the Potter Jeremiah would learn about the character of the Potter. Even though the clay would mar in His hands, He would desire to remake the vessel rather than destroy it. God is not willing that any should perish. He does not delight in the destruction of the wicked.

1.  The most compelling aspect of God’s character is His undying love for us. Even when we turn against Him He is ready to forgive and made it possible for us to start again. Isaiah prophetically describes Jesus, the coming Messiah as one who will break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. (Isa. 43). He will not fail or be discouraged; He will open blind eyes, and bring those who sit in darkness from the Prison house.

2.  It is interesting that the potter’s field is last mentioned in Scripture in connection with our Lord. The blood money Judas received was eventually used to buy a potter’s field. Matthew 27:7-8 – 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

a.  The potter’s field was the field or yard outside the potter’s house where the caly was gathered and the wreckage was cast. The death of Jesus bought a field full of mistakes in order to remake each and every piece. It was all as it seemed good to the Potter.

Conclusion: How are you responding to the hands of the Potter. He is trying to form you into a vessel of honor. Paul prayed that God would complete the work He had begun in them Philippians 1:6 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;-  God is working to make us what He desires us to be. One that depicts the purpose and character of the Potter himself. But you must yield to His hand.


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