The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and 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. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
When I read these verses I had a thought that immediately came to mind. So I wrote down the chapter and verse numbers and the simple thought that came with it.
Jeremiah was talking about how Israel had strayed from good to do evil. They are the spoiled vessels of clay mentioned above. If Israel was to relent from their evil ways, God would relent on the consequences they were suffering for their actions. God would rework the spoiled vessel into a good vessel. You can read about this in verses five through ten.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?” declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
I found another lesson in the first four verses of Jeremiah 18, and this is what I wrote to myself after reading them: “The potter was making the best of a bad situation.”
If you truly want to make or do something, something honest and righteous, you can’t just give up when it doesn’t go as planned. You could say he planned for Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I did checking on the origins of Murphy’s Law. One site says that it originated in 1949. Another site said the concept dates back to 1866 and is credited to the mathematician, Augustus DeMorgan. I say it’s always been around and here is a parable from the book of Jeremiah which dates back to 650 – 750 BC.
The potter couldn’t simply give up when the vessel he was making collapsed or was not being processed as planned. This was their livelihood and how they survived. It was how they put food on the table, a roof over their head, and clothing on their backs. To simply discard that which did not go to plan meant a waste of resources they could not afford throw away.
This is how it is with the gift of life that God has given each one of us. Disasters and things not going to plan will visit everyone throughout their lives. Failure is more common than success. And just like the potter, we cannot afford to just give up and discard that which has been given to us.
Robert Burns wrote the much quoted and adapted lines in his poem “To a Mouse”.
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Here is the translation to modern English.
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Israel went awry and yet God gave them the ability to come back and prosper. And so does God with us. Through righteousness, honest and hard work any spoiled vessel can be made good.
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