Clay in the Potter’s Hand in 2020 – Part 2

 In Spiritual Awakening

DG Blog #30


Jeremiah was at a turning point in his calling as a prophet. He had been preaching repentance, but it became clearer to him that his nation was doomed. Judgment day was upon them because of an invasion from Babylon. He must have wondered if God was done with his people. So God said to Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house. I’ll give you a word there.”

As Jeremiah watched the potter at the spinning wheel, a problem occurred. Something was wrong with the pot being shaped. Maybe a bubble or a lump hadn’t been kneaded out. Maybe it was too thin on one side and it just collapsed. Or maybe the shape wasn’t what the potter wanted. Clay is not entirely predictable. The pot was marred, and so the potter had to collapse it into a lump again. So what came next? Would the potter throw the lump of clay to the ground? Would he give up and go home? No, the potter threw the clay back on the wheel and formed it into another pot, shaping it, as it seemed best to him.

In the potter’s patience, Jeremiah witnessed the grace of God. Israel had not become the people God had intended to make for himself. They had become marred and corrupt. God was bringing an instrument of destruction upon Jerusalem. But that didn’t mean he was throwing his people away. His judgment didn’t mean he had given up on them. It meant he would shape them into something different—a new creation.

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” God is not saying, “I can destroy you.” God is saying, “I can remake you. I can transform you—even if it takes a calamity to change you.” This applies to us, as well. We are marred, we are messed up, but we are still in the hands of the potter who is shaping us according to his eternal purposes.

When God spoke to Jeremiah through his visit to the potter’s house, the prophet understood it, not as a personal word for himself, but as a word for the “house” of Israel. This can apply to the church today—God’s house. Just as God reshaped his marred people under the Old Covenant, he is reshaping the church today under the New Covenant.

These are times of tremendous change in our culture, but we would rather hunker in the bunker and ignore it. Theories in “family systems” tell us that every family—every church—reaches a certain balance called “homeostasis”[1] where everyone becomes comfortable with whatever trouble is present. Someone gets used to dad being drunk. Someone gets accustomed to mom being angry. It’s normal “at our house” when no one talks at dinner. And even though the situation is bad, many are content with the status quo rather than to deal with change. If dad gets sober, it messes everything up. If mom forgives dad, it stresses out the kids. In any system—family or church—the first reaction to any type of change is anxiety. It’s human nature, and the only humans who like change are babies with wet diapers.

But what about dysfunction in the church? Are the leaders going to change it, or will God use the historical forces of culture to change us? Just as God used the Babylonians to take the Jews out of their state of homeostasis and to reshape them in an unfamiliar world into the vessel he wanted them to be, God is allowing the postmodern, critical-theory culture, and globalism—along with the bad things happening around us—to challenge the church to be shaped into the vessel he wants it to be in the twenty-first century.

This doesn’t make calamities or historical forces good. The Babylonians who defeated the Jews weren’t good guys. But God showed Jeremiah this analogy to indicate what the Babylonians were doing to the Jews—i.e., demolishing the dysfunction to recreate something on a deeper level in the eternal purposes of God. Babylon was the tool in God’s hands to take marred, corrupt vessel of Judah that was collapsing on the wheel from idolatry and fold it back into a lump of clay to start over.

We look at the situation in our country today and lament like Jeremiah. We see our culture and our democracy collapsing around us. We worry about what is happening to our schools, to the job market, to our neighborhoods and cities. And, we see the church failing in her ability to affect societal changes. Maybe because we are too much like the culture and there is no distinction between the church and the world. So now, in 2020, we are in unfamiliar territory. We want more than anything to stop the madness and change. Let things be stable again. Better yet, let it go back to the way things were when we were in our comfortable cave of dysfunction, oblivious to how marred we were before 2020 hit.

My thought is we may never see the world return to the way it once was when there was higher, moral ground. This is new ground now, though not acceptable ground. God knows this and is saying to us, “Go down to the potter’s house and discern the message of the clay on the wheel.” Consider the possibility that the church (vessel) we once knew is collapsed and folded clay today in the potter’s hand. What may feel like failure or judgment to us, is God working to reshape a vessel that was marred and incomplete. God is shaping his church, as it seems best to him.

Grace and Peace!

[1] A tendency to compensate for disrupting changes within a social group or person, in order to maintain an emotional, stable balance or unchanging system.

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