Jeremiah 21:1-10

21 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”

But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’

“Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
(Jeremiah 21:1-10 NIV)

Chapters 21 – 23 are a new section in Jeremiah’s writings.  This section deals with the kings and prophets of Jeremiah’s day.  Chapter 21 also indicates a break in the timeline from Chapter 20.  Remember from our introduction to the book of Jeremiah that the writings are not chronological.  The book of Jeremiah is rather a series of biographical and autobiographical stories about the work of the Lord in Judah and Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s years of ministry.

While we don’t know the exact timeframe of Chapter 20, we do know the date of Chapter 21.  Jeremiah explicitly calls out the reign of King Zedekiah and the final overthrow of Jerusalem.  Historians identify this timeframe to be in the spring of 588 BC.

Some twenty years has likely passed from the end of chapter 20 to the beginning of chapter 21.  King Josiah, the great reformer, has died, and there has been a long list of kings that occupied the throne since then.  The current King Zedekiah finds himself trapped in Jerusalem, surrounded by the Babylonian armies.

King Zedekiah sends Pashhur (same name, but a different person than the one in Chapter 20) and Zephaniah to see Jeremiah.  The king is hoping for a favorable word from the Lord.  The king remembers what the Lord did to the Assyrians many years ago, wiping out 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 18-19).  He is thinking, “Hey, God did this for our nation back then, what will He do for us today?” (verse 2)

When the king’s two representatives find Jeremiah, they quickly learn that the message from the Lord is precisely the opposite of what the king was expecting.  In verses 3 – 7, the Lord says He will fight against Jerusalem instead of for her.  The Lord repeats the outcome spelled out in previous chapters: the inhabitants of Jerusalem will die by the sword, plague, or famine; the remnant of survivors will be carried off into exile in Babylon.

In verses 8 – 10, Jeremiah gives a message to the king that he is to share with all the people of Jerusalem:  Choose life in exile or death in Jerusalem.  There are only two choices.  Notice that there is not a third option of repentance.  The Lord has extended that offer many times, and the people have either ignored or refused the offer many times.  The opportunity for repentance has come and gone.  The only option now is judgment for their sin.  This choice was not a new revelation to the people of Jerusalem – they knew their options from the days of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

King Zedekiah fully expected Jeremiah to be loyal to God and country, and bring good news to the situation at hand.  Jeremiah’s loyalty was to God alone, and when the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and he passed the words on to the two representatives and the king, they could easily take Jeremiah’s prophecy as high treason against his country.  In fact, treason had taken place – not by Jeremiah, but by the nation of Judah in abandoning the Lord and worshipping other gods.

May we chose life via loyalty to the Lord only and walk with Him all the days of our life.


Jeremiah 20:7-18

You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
    you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
    everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
    proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
    insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.
10 I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!
    Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!”
All my friends
    are waiting for me to slip, saying,
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
    then we will prevail over him
    and take our revenge on him.”

11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
    so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
    their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
    and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord!
    Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
    from the hands of the wicked.

14 Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
    who made him very glad, saying,
    “A child is born to you—a son!”
16 May that man be like the towns
    the Lord overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
    a battle cry at noon.
17 For he did not kill me in the womb,
    with my mother as my grave,
    her womb enlarged forever.
18 Why did I ever come out of the womb
    to see trouble and sorrow
    and to end my days in shame?
(Jeremiah 20:7-18 NIV)

In our last passage, the Lord directed Jeremiah to proceed directly from the Valley of Ben Hinnom to the Lord’s Temple to repeat the same message of God’s judgment of destruction to all the people in the Temple.  The Temple official Pashhur arrested Jeremiah and put him in the stocks.  When Pashhur frees Jeremiah the next morning, Jeremiah calls out God’s curses on him and all his friends.

In today’s text, Jeremiah painfully laments his public humiliation and cries out to the Lord.  Jeremiah also remembers his calling and the Lord’s promise of protection.

In verse 7, Jeremiah begins with a very shocking accusation against the Lord.  The word “deceived” is very particular in Hebrew, and means “seduced.”  Jeremiah previously thought of his relationship with the Lord to be something akin to a marriage.  Instead, Jeremiah now feels more like a lover that the Lord has seduced then left behind.  And if the pain of that loss is not enough, Jeremiah experiences the ridicule of everyone else knowing about the seduction and publicly mocking him for foolishly falling for the temptation.

In verse 8, Jeremiah laments both the message the Lord has given him as well the delivery method the Lord had required.  The words “speak”, “cry out” and “proclaiming” indicate a loud and aggressive delivery method.  And with the delay in fulfillment of any of these predictions, Jeremiah becomes nothing more than an overbearing annoyance to everyone.  Jeremiah blames his problems on the Lord.

In verse 9, Jeremiah decides that the best course of action would simply be to be quiet and leave his prophetic post.  But when he does, Jeremiah finds that God’s words inside him are like a fire burning their way out.  He cannot be silent.

In verse 10, Jeremiah laments his friends and fellow priests ridiculing him and his message.  The phrase “terror on every side” (Hebrew, “Magor-missabib”) is such a common phrase from Jeremiah that it becomes his nickname.  The villagers would likely say to one another, “There goes grumpy old Magor-missabib again.  I wonder who he will dump his doom and gloom on today?”  Jeremiah’s message was at the point where his fellow priests and friends were looking to trap him so they could get rid of him.

Jeremiah expresses his trust in the Lord and victory over his detractors in verses 11 – 13.  He knows that justice will prevail and that one day he will be vindicated.

In verses 14 – 18, Jeremiah curses the day he was born.  This lament is not a literal curse but rather a general bemoaning of the hurt and separation he is experiencing.  Our tender-hearted hero is feeling the full force of rejection from his unbelieving peers.  In a small way, Jeremiah was going through a tiny taste of what Jesus experienced on the cross.

We might ask ourselves why Chapter 20 ends on such a down note.  When the psalmists expressed their hurts and laments about their situations, they concluded by acknowledging the Lord’s hand of protection and promise and inviting the Lord to provide justice.  Why didn’t Jeremiah stop after verse 13?

The simple answer is that verses 14 – 18 provide a transition from Jeremiah’s personal strife to the nation of Judah’s corporate struggle in chapters 21 – 24.  What Jeremiah felt as one individual would soon be the entire country’s experience.

May we, when faced with insurmountable opposition, allow ourselves to feel the depth of our pain and not bury it.

And like Jeremiah, may we turn to our Advocate, Protector, and Provider for our salvation.

God’s comforting words to His people long ago are still available to us through Christ:

For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.
(Isaiah 41:13 NIV)


Jeremiah 19:14 – 20:6

14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Lord’s temple and said to all the people, 15 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”

20 When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. The next day, when Pashhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord’s name for you is not Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”
(Jeremiah 19:14 – 20:6 NIV)

From yesterday’s passage, the Lord instructed 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.  The Lord then instructed Jeremiah to shatter the pot on the ground, thus showing that Judah was spiritually beyond repair, just like the pot was physically beyond restoration.

In today’s text, the Lord directs Jeremiah to proceed directly from the Valley of Ben Hinnom to the Lord’s Temple to repeat the same message of God’s judgment of destruction upon His people.  This time, the message was not limited to the leaders Jeremiah took with him to the Valley of Ben Hinnom; the message was to all the people in the Temple.

While there is a chapter break between 19:15 and 20:1, there is no break in the chronology of events.  When Jeremiah preaches his message in the Lord’s Temple, the priest in charge of security immediately has Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and thrown in the stocks.

It is important to note the “why” of Jeremiah’s arrest.  Having come from the Valley of Ben Hinnom (renamed the Valley of Slaughter by the Lord), he most likely would have been considered “ceremonially unclean” because of the nature of the place (death).  By God’s command, if you were ceremonially unclean, you were not allowed into the Lord’s Temple.  You would be required to go through a ceremonial cleansing before being allowed back into the Lord’s temple.

Instead of the Lord’s reason for Jeremiah’s expulsion from the Temple, the priest Pashhur has Jeremiah arrested for his message (which ironically came from the Lord).  The religious leaders have crossed a new line, and Jeremiah’s fears are coming true.  Jeremiah had been paying the price socially and psychologically for preaching the Lord’s messages; now he is paying the price physically for his faithfulness to the Lord.

In verse 2, Pashhur puts Jeremiah in stocks.  The Hebrew word is unclear; this could refer to a small cell near the gate to the city, or it could refer to a restraint device in the open near the city gate.  In either case, Jeremiah was physically harmed (beaten), then forced into a restraining device that caused physical discomfort because of the position of his body.  Likely symptoms were muscle cramping and being forced to stand or kneel in a back-breaking position to breathe.  In addition to the physical trauma, Jeremiah also suffered public humiliation, as the location of his restraint was near the main traffic way in and out of the city for all to see and hurl their abuse.

When the priest releases Jeremiah the following morning, Jeremiah curses the priest for his actions by giving him a new name and telling of his fate.  The arresting official will be arrested; instead of being restrained overnight, Pashhur will be exiled to Babylon for the remainder of his days and will die in exile.  Instead of being the one handing out justice, Pashhur will see justice brought upon all his friends and his nation, and there will be nothing that he can do to stop the terrible chain of events.

May we remember that Jeremiah’s suffering for his faithfulness to the Lord was a foreshadowing of the suffering Christ suffered on our behalf at the hands of His captors.

May we remember that as we follow Christ, we will encounter trials and suffering like Jeremiah. We may not feel the rod of physical punishment on our backs, but we might experience the loss of friendships and the abusive words of others.

May we remember Jesus’ words:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 NIV, Jesus speaking)


Jeremiah 19:1-13

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 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you, 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.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. 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. 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.

“‘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. 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. 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.


Jeremiah 18:18-23

18 They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.”

19 Listen to me, Lord;
    hear what my accusers are saying!
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
    Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember that I stood before you
    and spoke in their behalf
    to turn your wrath away from them.
21 So give their children over to famine;
    hand them over to the power of the sword.
Let their wives be made childless and widows;
    let their men be put to death,
    their young men slain by the sword in battle.
22 Let a cry be heard from their houses
    when you suddenly bring invaders against them,
for they have dug a pit to capture me
    and have hidden snares for my feet.
23 But you, Lord, know
    all their plots to kill me.
Do not forgive their crimes
    or blot out their sins from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
    deal with them in the time of your anger.
(Jeremiah 18:18-23 NIV)

In the previous two passages, the Lord told Jeremiah to observe the symbolic act of the potter remaking a pot and then use the illustration to preach repentance to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  The Lord also instructed Jeremiah to warn the people of impending doom if they did not repent.

In today’s passage, the people respond to the Lord’s message by plotting to do away with the messenger rather than heeding the message from the Lord.  The majority of today’s text is Jeremiah’s lament over his situation.

Verse 18 covers the three roles the people of Judah observed Jeremiah fulfilling:

  • Priest
  • Sage
  • Prophet

The evaluation of each function goes with the enumeration of the role:

  • “Do we have enough priests to teach us God’s Law?  Yes, we do.”
  • “Do we have enough sages (wise men) to counsel us?  Yes, we do.”
  • “Do we have enough prophets to hear from God?  Yes, we do.”

So what is the conclusion and will of the people?  “We have enough priests, sages, and prophets without Jeremiah.  He is a thorn in our flesh – let’s get rid of him and his annoying messages of gloom and doom.”

After recounting the plot (which the Lord, in His sovereignty, knew before Jeremiah became aware of it) in verse 18, Jeremiah launches into his lament.  In verse 19, Jeremiah defends himself against his accusers, as if this were a court case of “the people vs. Jeremiah the prophet“.

In verse 20, Jeremiah reminds the Lord that he stood in the gap and prayed for the people (similar to how Moses had stood before the Lord and pleaded for the Lord not to destroy the ancient Israelites).  Now the very ones Jeremiah had prayed for were turned against him and sought his life.

In verses 21 – 23, Jeremiah calls out the curses he wishes the Lord would bring down upon the people.  These curses against the people that Jeremiah was requesting were all from previous messages that the Lord had pronounced against Judah and Jerusalem.  The difference is that Jeremiah makes them personal, as a call for vengeance for the pain and anguish that he was suffering at the hand of his fellow citizens.

While Jeremiah was feeling the deep pain of rejection and betrayal by his country (and even his family, as we have seen in earlier passages), he was not walking in the promise that the Lord had proclaimed at the beginning of his calling.

As with Jeremiah’s previous lament (17:14-18), the Lord provides no direct reply.  Similar to the last lament, the Lord gives Jeremiah the next assignment at the beginning of Chapter 19.

Jeremiah’s only saving grace from this intense rage is found at the beginning of verse 23: “But you, Lord, know…”.  Jeremiah reminded himself that the Lord knew all this and identified with all his raw emotions and hurts.

And so it is with us.  When a situation comes along to upset our current path, to disrupt our comfort and convenience, to bring an injustice against us, our reaction is often like Jeremiah’s.  We want justice to prevail, for the Lord to intervene, and the sooner, the better.

However, when we are in the wrong, when we are the ones committing the injustice or the sin, our plea is for God’s mercy and a withholding of the punishment we deserve.

May we remember that the Lord is “a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15).

May we remember that the Lord applies His compassion, grace, love, and faithfulness to all, seeking that all would repent and turn to Him.  Before we were followers of Christ, we were counted among His enemies, in need of His saving grace and love.

May we remember to extend this same grace to others as we have found in Christ – even those who may have betrayed us or used to be our friends and are now against us.


Jeremiah 18:13-17

13 Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“Inquire among the nations:
    Who has ever heard anything like this?
A most horrible thing has been done
    by Virgin Israel.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon
    ever vanish from its rocky slopes?
Do its cool waters from distant sources
    ever stop flowing?
15 Yet my people have forgotten me;
    they burn incense to worthless idols,
which made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient paths.
They made them walk in byways,
    on roads not built up.
16 Their land will be an object of horror
    and of lasting scorn;
all who pass by will be appalled
    and will shake their heads.
17 Like a wind from the east,
    I will scatter them before their enemies;
I will show them my back and not my face
    in the day of their disaster.”
(Jeremiah 18:13-17 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, we saw the Lord use a symbolic act of a potter forming and reforming a lump of clay into a pot.   The Lord used that real-life illustration to remind HIs people that He can shape the nations into anything He wishes.  The Lord calls for His people to repent and avoid the impending disaster because of their idolatry and sin.  The residents of Judah and Jerusalem reject the Lord’s call and continue their way.

In today’s text, we see the Lord responding to the people rejecting Him.  Verse 13 starts with the word “Therefore”, showing connection back to the previous statement (in this case, verse 12).

As I study this passage, there seems to be a one-word summary that jumps out for each verse.  I will list the verse and the one-word summary, then provide a few thoughts to elaborate and bring further depth.

Verse 13 – Horrible.  The Lord describes the nation Israel as a virgin that has willfully and knowingly chosen to play the harlot.  She was to be completely loyal to her betrothed (the Lord) but was brazenly unfaithful instead.  The nation’s choice was not an accident – this was a dreadful decision with horrible consequences.

Verse 14 – Unnatural.  The Lord compares and contrasts Israel’s unfaithfulness to His character and love for His people.  God uses His creation and nature as His evidence.  The snows of Lebanon and the cold water from the constant underground springs in a dry and arid land were witnesses to God’s love, provision, and faithfulness to His own.

Verse 15 – Betrayal.  As part of their unfaithfulness, the people knowingly sacrificed to other gods besides the Lord.  This idol worship was an open act of apostasy, the defection and betrayal of their previous loyalty to their betrothed and beloved, the Lord.

Verse 16 – Hypocracy.  Even the foreigners from the surrounding nations knew that each nation had their god.  These passers-by might not know or respect the God of Israel and Judah as the One True God, but they knew enough not to worship another nation’s god instead of their own.  The outsiders could only shake their heads in amazement and give a small whistle or hiss to exclaim what they were witnessing:  “What were the people of Israel thinking?”

Verse 17 – Turn.  Because of the nation’s willful sin and unwillingness to return to the Lord, everything was the opposite of what it should be.  The sirocco, that hot, dry wind coming off the desert that the Lord used to protect His people from the enemies approaching by sea (Psalm 48:7) would now be turned against God’s enemies within (the nation of Israel).  Just as the people had turned their backs on the Lord,  He was now going to turn His back on them in the day of their disaster.

It’s hard to look in the mirror and see ourselves objectively, isn’t it?  We either hide behind our masks to project the image we want others to see, or we avoid looking in the mirror altogether, so we don’t have to deal with the reality of who we are.

The amazing thing about the Lord is that He sees the real me, and loves me unconditionally.  God provides the Bible as our mirror, to help us see ourselves as we are.

Before we come to Christ, the Lord shows us the ugliness of our sin against the perfect reflection of Himself, holy and without sin, defect, or blemish.

After we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God shows us the beauty and acceptance of who we are, not because of anything we have done, but because of Christ’s payment for our sins through His death, burial, and resurrection.

May we approach the Lord in humility, look in the mirror of His Word to see ourselves as He sees us.

May we have the clarity to accept what we observe in His Word (either the “before” or “after” picture described above), the integrity to accept what He shows us and the desire to allow Him to change us from the inside out to be more like Him.


Jeremiah 18:1-12

18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’”
(Jeremiah 18:1-12 NIV)

As we begin chapter 18, the Lord uses an everyday illustration to provide a message to His people.  The Lord sends Jeremiah to the local potter to observe.  Out of that observation the Lord brings His message to Jeremiah.

In Jeremiah’s day, clay objects were ordinary.  Some were for distinctive use, some ornamental only, and others for common everyday use.  In all cases, they were breakable and in constant demand.

As Jeremiah observed the potter, he noticed that the potter was both a craftsman and an artist, as he understood the properties of the clay and for what it was best suited.  In fact, Jeremiah observed the potter starting over several times to find the correct use of the clay.

Verses 5 – 10 are the Lord’s words to Jeremiah.   The Lord is the potter, and the nations are the clay.  The Lord is the one who decides what to do with each lump of clay, whether it will be used for everyday use or set aside for specific purposes.

In verses 11 – 12, the Lord gives a particular message to the people of Judah and Jerusalem and forewarns Jeremiah what their answer will be.

The illustration of the potter and the clay appears multiple times throughout the Scriptures.  In Genesis 2:7 Moses used the word “formed” to describe the process God used to create Adam.  And what did God use to make Adam?  The dust of the ground (and water, of course, since our bodies are roughly 2/3 water).  Hmmm – sounds like the recipe for clay, doesn’t it?

Isaiah, the Apostle Paul, and others use the potter and clay illustrations to show the relationship between the two.  In all cases, the potter is the one who decides what to make of the clay.  Likewise, the Lord is saying that the nations exist to serve Him, not for Him to serve the nations.  The same goes for us as individuals.

Sometimes batches of clay can be easily molded into the potter’s desired shapes and uses.  Other lumps of clay are resistant to forming, and will not hold a shape in the potter’s hand.  In some cases, the clay can be formed into bricks that can be used on the outside of a building.  Other clay can be formed into bricks that can stand the heat of a fire and are used to line the inside of a furnace, chimney, fireplace, or oven.

May we be lumps of clay that are easily moldable in the Master’s hands, to be used for His glory and His purposes.