“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:
“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” (Jeremiah 18:1-4)
The image of God as a potter making and remaking creation is steeped in history. And it has many applications. I could try to list and describe them all, but it would NOT be an exhaustive list. And rather than trying, I will let you beloved reader make your own connections.
“Then the word of the Lord came to me:
Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” (Verses 5 to 10)
I appreciate these verses in a new way, having been reading much lately in the RCL about prophets minor and major having God doom the chosen and called people, letting them be taken into slavery, putting them to death, abandoning them, and then mourning when they turn from God. It does not make for a view of God this is stable, immovable, and unchanging however. It almost sounds like a capricious God, which is not the view we get from Jesus and his life on earth. But then, this is Jeremiah’s report of what he said he heard from God.
“Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem:
Thus says the Lord:
Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.” (Verse 11)
I am firmly, absolutely, positively – mostly – convinced that what we hear of God from/through the prophets is their perspective and interpretation of the events of their day and how God is a part of it. I think worse than a capricious God is a God that is not involved at all in humanity. We KNOW that God is involved in and with humanity because of Christ. And if what Christ revealed about the God that sent him contrasts and contradicts what others (human others) have said about God, each of us in our own hearts needs to reconcile that. That process is called faith and believe. Each of us, regardless of how knowledgeable and skilled we are in faith, theology and other religious/spiritual pursuits, understands and looks to God through our own lens. That we share common lens and views is a gift of the Spirit. Some day, when this world has passed, we will know completely. Until then we struggle and trust that the God we believe in holds our best good in the Divine Hand. Selah!