19 This is what the Lord says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter.Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you, 3 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.
7 “‘In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. 8 I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. 9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.’
10 “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, 11 and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room.12 This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the Lord. I will make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth—all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’”
(Jeremiah 19:1-13 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, we heard Jeremiah’s lament over the leaders’ conspiracy to silence him. Jeremiah complained loudly to the Lord and asked for God to judge them harshly. At the end of his lament and complaining, Jeremiah acknowledged that the Lord already knew and understood his plight – this was not a new revelation to God Almighty.
In today’s text, we see the Lord’s response to Jeremiah. The Lord did not respond to Jeremiah’s complaint; He had previously reassured Jeremiah that He would watch over Jeremiah’s life and ministry. So what was the Lord’s response? To assign Jeremiah the next task.
Continuing with the potter and pot theme, the Lord instructs Jeremiah to buy a pot from the potter, gather up the leaders, and go to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. This purchase and use of the pot was to be another symbolic act carried out in front of the Jewish people to illustrate God’s judgment.
If you’ll remember from Jeremiah 7:30-34, the Valley of Ben Hinnom was a gruesome place. In fact, the Lord had renamed it “The Valley of Slaughter”. Because of the idolatry and murder of innocent children sacrificed to the pagan gods, the Lord declared judgment on their sinful ways.
In verses 7 – 9, the Lord repeats the previous judgment on the people: death by war, famine, and unburied bodies as food for the wild birds and animals. In this section, the Lord adds another horror: because of their food supply being cut off, the survivors will resort to cannibalism to survive. Their picture of defilement is complete – on the outside, represented by the Valley of Slaughter, and on the inside, by cannibalism.
Verses 10 – 13 complete the visual image of the nation’s fate: Jeremiah smashes the clay water pot and declares it beyond repair, just like the people of Judah. The entire country has become defiled and unholy, just like the Valley of Slaughter.
While we are no longer under Jewish dietary laws, defilement is still something we need to watch. In Matthew 15:1-20, the Pharisees complained to Jesus that His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. Jesus reminded them that it was not what went into a person’s mouth that made them unclean, but rather, what came out of their mouth.
May we be ever diligent with our thoughts, which become words, and our words, which become our actions.
May our thoughts, words, and actions not be defiled, but rather be pleasing to the Lord.