Hello faithful readers! With today’s post, you are 2/3 of the way through the Bible. Keep it up!!
Our reading today begins with the famous “Potter and the Clay” episode in Jeremiah’s ministry. God sends him to the house of a potter (18:2) where Jeremiah sees him working (v. 3). The pot is ruined, so the potter changed it and remade it into something else, and it pleased the potter (v. 4). God then compares Himself to the potter (vv. 6-10). God has every right, if it is pleasing to Him, to take a people that is under His condemnation and, upon their repentance, save them (vv. 7-8). By the same token, God has every right, if it is pleasing to Him, to take a people that He has saved, if they forsake Him, to forsake them (vv. 9-10).
Now here is the question: is God calling Judah to repentance, or is He telling them He has forsaken them? In verse 11, it appears to be both. God knows that they will not repent (v. 12). The indictment of the “horrible thing” of their worship of false gods as repayment to God for His grace (vv. 13-16) and His pronouncement of judgment against them (v. 17) shows that Judah, God’s physical people, are in the metaphor the pot that was destroyed. It spoiled itself, so God destroyed it. The other vessel is God’s spiritual people. He will make them into His true people.
In verse 18, we see that the people decide to ignore this prophecy of Jeremiah. So Jeremiah prays to God again along the same lines of 17:14-18. Jeremiah has obeyed God and received persecution for it (v. 20). So he prays that God would punish his enemies (vv. 21-22). Verse 23 is asking God to do what He already said He would in the metaphor of the potter and the clay.
In chapter 19, God calls Jeremiah to another act prophecy. He is to buy a potter’s jar, and take the leaders of Judah to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (19:1-2). This is where people would burn their children as an offering to Molech (see 7:31, 2 Chr 28:3). It is also where God said the dead of Judah would be buried because there would be no room elsewhere (7:32). It is a place of idolatry and judgment. So Jeremiah pronounces judgment (v. 3) because the people have forsaken YHWH and worshiped other gods (vv. 4-5). God again tells them what He said in 7:32-33 (vv. 6-7). The horrifying prediction of verse 9 comes true (we know from extra-Biblical writings). This is part of the curse God promised for disobedience (Deut 28:52-53).
Jeremiah is then told to break the jar (v. 10). In verse 11, we see the symbolism and the tie in to chapter 18. The remade potter’s vessel of 18:4 is not God’s physical people (Judah), because the vessel that God is breaking will never be mended. God will do this to Judah for their idolatry (vv. 12-13). Jeremiah tells them that this is ultimately because they refused to hear God’s warnings and repent (v. 15).
In chapter 20 we see some of the persecution of Jeremiah. One of the priests that Jeremiah brings out to the Hinnom (see 19:1) beats and arrests Jeremiah for what he said and did (20:1-2). When he is released the next day, Jeremiah prophesies against him (v. 3) He will see the brutality of the Babylonian attack, the utter destruction of Judah, and he will go into captivity (vv. 4-6). He and all those who believed his false claims of peace will die in Babylon.
In the following lament, we see the emotional distress of Jeremiah. God uses real people to carry out His will – people of weakness with real feelings. Jeremiah very directly accuses God of lying to him (v. 7). He is an object of scorn among the people. His prophecies have become a reproach to him (v. 8), yet he would not be happy if he did not prophesy God’s words (v. 9). He feels that God has put him in a no-win situation! Jeremiah knows that the people are against him (v. 10) but that God is with him (v. 11), so he praises God for His salvation (v. 13).
Then, after praising God, Jeremiah says he wishes he was never born (vv. 14-15 – see 15:10), even cursing the man that brought the news of his birth to his father (v. 16)! Jeremiah wishes he had died in utero (see Job 10:18-19) – even by abortion (v. 17)! – because his life has been so full of suffering (v. 18). We see here the great emotional distress of the prophet. How foolish are our thoughts when we are suffering greatly (see Ps 137:9)!