“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to tho potter to make it.”
This is the word of the Lord. Coming through the prophet makes it not a whit less the word of God. At sundry times and in divers manners God, in time past, spake unto the fathers by the prophets, but the word thus spoken was of God none the less, even though it fell from the lips of fallible men. Worms of the dust were called and ordained of God to prophesy in his name, and their limitations as men, and sinful men at that, in no way affected the infallible inspiration that gripped them. God’s using at sinful man lo convey his message to sinful men in no way detracts from the authority and truth of the word. God in such cases accompanies the word with such spiritual demonstration and conviction to the hearts intended for it that they cannot gainsay it nor refute the ordination of the One by whom it is sent. Herein is a man’s ministry proved, in that his message (gift) makes room for itself in hearts themselves gifted with insight and un derstanding. One’s feelings regarding his own ministry can never be the final test by which to judge the nature and usefulness of that ministry. It is quite certain that had Jeremiah gone according to his own feelings and judgment he never would have been a prophet. He tried to prevail upon the Lord to let him off, but found that when God sets his hand to a thing there is no turning back. If one is called to preach or prophesy he will be given a message to deliver, and, his delivery of that message is proof of his calling, regardless of: what his own thought in the matter may be. Jeremiah’s ministry made him exceedingly unpopular with the people, for what he said was anything but smooth to the ears it fell upon. Jeremiah was in Judah, and the tribe of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were his auditors, though the whole nation of Israel was involved in his predictions. Jeremiah preached prior to the Babylonian captivity. After Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive “all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour,” leaving none, “save the poorest sort of the people of the land,” Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem with these “poorest sort,” this “remnant,” another proof that God in his people’s extremity, leaves “not himself without witness.” The sign of the potter’s house was given of the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah to Judah and Israel before the transpiring of the Babylonian captivity. Its primary signification is to that event and to the restoration following after seventy years in Babylon. The Almighty emphasizes his right in this eighteenth chapter of Jeremiah to do with his people and with the nations of the earth as it pleases him ; to make and to mar, to renew and to spoil, to cast down and to raise up, to kill and to make alive. They are as clay in the hand of the potter, and he their Potter. The command of the Lord to Jeremiah involved three things: “arise,” “go,” “hear.” Some people think if a man is called to preach he can preach any time or all the time, just whenever he is of a mind to make an appointment or when others make an appointment for him. Our appointments amount to nothing except “if the Lord will.” Although a servant of God may have preached live hundred sermons, yet for his live hundred first he will need quickening (“arise”), sending (“go”), understanding (“hear ”), the same as for the first sermon he ever preached. Preaching is one thing in which man never becomes expert, self- sufficient. He is no more able to “eat of the sinew which shrank” at the last than at the first. So Jeremiah, though a prophet for many years, and though he had already delivered many messages to this national people, still for this particular message, as well as for each previous one, as well as for each subsequent one, he needed to be stirred with spiritual life, to he told, “Arise.” The very power and spirit of the arising of the Lord, the power of the resurrection, is in the preaching of the gospel. If it is the gospel preached Jesus is in it, and Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” When one is called to preach, is hidden “arise,” he is not left to seek his own work, to how out his own path, to go as he lists, but is directed (“go”) not promiscuously, but to a definite place. In this instance, with Jeremiah, it was “the potter’s house.” In what is said above we do not mean to be understood as saying; that Jeremiah was a gospel preacher. His standing was legal, his position under the law, but certainly the gospel was veiled in his predictions. The fullness of his utterances looked forward to the “regeneration,” the dispensation of the gospel. Not only, then, must the servant of God be called, qualified and sent by the Spirit of the Lord, but for each message he brings must be made to “hear,” to understand He cannot store up the hearings, the understandings, of the past to do him for to-day. This lesson of the potter’s house must, in its own order and time, be given the prophet. It was the very thing needed by that people then, not sooner nor later. Thus the prophet could not have had it sooner nor later. He might perhaps have talked about it upon occasions afterward, but never again did he tell the thing itself as he told it then. We may talk about sermons we have preached, or tried to, but no servant of God ever succeeded in preaching the same sermon twice. Recalling the words of a sermon is not preaching it over. There is a power in every true gospel sermon that evades all recollection. So the Lord told Jeremiah “arise,” “go,” “hear,” and he “went” and “beheld.” The potter’s house: one of several in that eastern country where the potters engaged in their work, the making of vessels out of clay. The clay, when dug, was trodden by men’s feet, so as to form a paste (Isaiah xli. 25), then placed by the potter on the wheel beside which he sat, and shaped by him with his hands; after this it was smoothed, coated with a glaze, and burnt in a furnace. In this sign of the potter’s house the only part of manufacture called attention to is the making of the vessel on the wheels, therefore that is the only feature of the work of pottery that will engage us in this article. These potters’ houses in those days very likely were the scene of many marrings and spoilings, as well as of many finished productions of art and beauty. Doubtless many broken shreds lay scattered around, as well as many completed Vessels, of honor and dishonor, in finished array Jeremiah beheld the potter making a vessel on his wheels, and the vessel he wrought was marred in the hand of the potter as Jeremiah watched. He further beheld that the potter took. this same marred clay (not other clay) and made it again another vessel, a satisfactory one. After seeing all this Jeremiah heard God’s declaration that he (God) had a perfect right to do with Judah and with Israel and with the nations as it pleased him; to do with mortals as this potter had done with clay. After all, what is man in the hand of the Almighty but clay in the hand of the potter? “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” Dare man reply against God, or summon him to appear before the bar of human reason? “Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” God Almighty is the great Better, and we but the clay in his hands. This material world, the universe and all it contains, is the house of the great Potter, and the cycle of the centuries, the succession of ages, the march of dispensations, are the wheels upon which are being wrought a wonderful work: the salvation of the elect and the declaration of tho Potter’s glory and honor and power. In this work there is a marring and at making again, both taking place “in,” not out, of the potter’s hand. The vessel did not slip or fall out of the potter’s hand and then mar, but spoiled while in the hand of the potter. The clay was just as much in the potter’s hand when it marred as it was afterward when renewed to his liking. This all primarily applies, as the context reads, to Judah and Israel, God’s national people legally. Israel had been chosen of the Lord from among all the nations of the earth, while still in the loins of Abraham. To Abraham, by promise, was given Isaac whom he (Abraham) received as from the dead, not according to nature, but contrary thereto, from the deadness of Sarah’s womb. To Isaac was born Jacob; to Jacob, the twelve patriarchs; to the twelve patriarchs, the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel, God brought-out of Egypt, and led them about by the hand of Moses forty years through the wilderness. Moses dead upon Mt. Nebo, Joshua was placed at their head and led them through Jordan to the promised land of Canaan. Here the Lord went before then; in battle, subdued their enemies and eventually gave them rest and peace. Naturally one would think Israel would endeavor to make some adequate return unto the Lord for all his goodness and kindness toward them, but they did not; instead they went-a-whoring after sensual things and devilish, after the ways and gods of the Gentiles. This first. vessel, national Israel, marred in the making. It brought forth “wild grapes,” the fruit of the flesh, not of the Spirit. The history of national Israel proved the failure of the flesh to attain godliness, its inability to live at all right in the sight of God, or to serve him acceptably. It was demonstrated that God could not he reached nor his favor procured through the deeds of the law, through burnt offerings, ceremonies, forms, feasts nor fasts. But, bear in mind, this failure, this marring of the first vessel, national Israel, was no accident, no mere happen-so. It all transpired with the vessel still in the hand of the Potter. In all of it God’s purpose and design were being accomplished. The utter failure of Adam must in all its enormity be revealed before the success of Christ can be at all appreciated. After the depravity and wretchedness of the natural man are fully displayed in the elect nation of the old covenant, the Jews, in the new covenant, the gospel, is brought to light a people fashioned after God’s own heart, a spiritual people, who, out of’ the fullness of the Godhead in Christ Jesus, receive grace for grace. They realize very well that God cannot be served in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit. Therefore in this gracious dispensation of this gospel day is given them grace that they serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear. God is a Spirit, and has begotten unto himself a spiritual people, who wore ship him in spirit and in truth. This new vessel pleases the Potter. It is so because Christ is in them, and Christ is the only man that ever did please God as a man. But this new vessel is fashioned out of the same clay that was marred in the first instance. It is the sinner that is saved, not some ethereal part of him, and it is the redeemed sinner that, by grace, serves God acceptably’ in Christ Jesus. “Except a man be horn again,” Jesus said. The vessel marred in the first instance is fashioned again an acceptable vessel, and both the marring; and the acceptability are in His hands; both accomplished his purpose and predestined plan. Adam, the first man, was formed of dust, a vessel of clay. He fell in transgression. It was not accident that he did so. “Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the worlds” Adam was one of God’s Works, so God must have known all about him when he made him. Nothing that Adam subsequently did but was known unto God beforehand. Therefore Adam’s transgression, his sin, death, ruin, and that of all his posterity, was in the hand of the Potter; all comprehended in the infinite plan, purpose, knowledge and wisdom of Almighty God, and this same vessel marred in the first instance, was made again another vessel, and in it there was no failure. In Christ there is no failure, he pleases the Potter in an he does and says. This second vessel was formed in the womb of the virgin, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in him. “And We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; full of grace and truth.” Every one of the elect is first in Aden], then in Christ; first marred, then made “accepted in the beloved;” first lost, then saved; first a. sinner, then a saint. One part of their lives is as much in the hand of the Potter as any other. They are sown in corruption (Adam), raised in incorruption (Christ); sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also hear the image of the heavenly.”
Written at the request of sister M R. Lewshe of Trenton, N. J.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 22
November 15, 1914