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Oct 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 18-19 – 10/15/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion.                       The Lord is with you!

What do you see? It’s one thing to look at the news to see what’s going on, but is that all there is to really seeing?  If we just see what’s happening today, or we just see what someone else is showing us, we will probably have a response that is incomplete or undeveloped.  Learning how to see as well as what to see is important.  Brian McLaren has a podcast series about this, and he says that  from judgments made unconsciously to complacency in systemic evil, we must learn how we see before we can see well.

The LORD asked Jeremiah several times “What do you see?”   And then God showed him what he saw and how he was going to act.  My thoughts are that well, it’s good to look where you’re stepping (through land mines for example), and we must also have a larger perspective and a higher perspective.  We all carry a worldview, the stories we’ve been told and the stories we tell ourselves.  We see in the world by what we carry in our hearts.

Every way that we work on our personal healing and wholeness, every freedom from addiction, every new perspective, every history lesson, scripture passages, every experience that’s beyond our small, protected life will enlarge our viewing platform, our worldview.  Can you picture what we would see while standing on a 12 x 12 tile on the forest floor and then our view on a large and high platform well above the trees?

The LORD spoke to another prophet named Ezekiel,  “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.”   Let us not be called a rebellious house, nor so quick to see, that we take an incomplete or immature action. Let’s focus on improving our view and then we’ll see better what to say or do.

Maybe we can take some time this week to let God ask us “What do you see?” and to listen to his view.  Maybe, instead of arguing or trying to convince someone of our viewpoint, we can simply begin with, “How do you see this?” 

Pray with me, will you?

Father, You are the El-Roi, the God who sees.  See us, Lord.  See our predicaments and our prejudices.  Grant us salve to anoint our eyes, that we may see with wisdom and compassion.  Come into our world, both our inner and outer experiences and make us well. Breathe on us; revive us.  Deal with evil that has found its way in us.  For the sake of the Christ.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: We’re going to make two trips to the Pottery Shack this morning

The messages God had for his people required illustration
– there’s an interesting angle to using pottery to reveal a truth
• archaeologists depend on clay pots for vital information regarding ancient cultures
◦ even broken pieces of clay vessels have stories to tell
• excavations dig up more clay artifacts than any other object
◦ clay doesn’t decay over time and can withstand water and heat
– clay fragments provide the most reliable way to date a site
• the clay composition, shape, and exterior decoration,
◦ tell us about the people who made them, and whether they were used for:
◦ cooking, holding oil or water, if they were lamps, or for storage of other things
• of course, God had another story to tell through clay

At the potter’s house Jeremiah learned about shaping clay
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. Jeremiah 18:1-2

God told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s shop, then explained,
– that “there,” in this unlikely place, God would speak to him
• some artists give us impression they see more than we see
◦ we walked the same path but missed what inspired them
◦ artists may not see more than we see, but see differently
◦ they may notice more – we just weren’t paying attention
• prophets were given eyes to see ordinary objects differently
◦ a branch of almond tree, a boiling caldron, a basket of figs
◦ with “vision,” those objects became windows into the mind of God

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 hands, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter Jeremiah 18:3-4
– this is the critical point of the illustration
• “potter” in Hebrew is yatsar – to form, shape, or fashion (what the potter does and what the potter is)
◦ it can refer to potters but also sculptors who made idols
yatsar describes the way God made Adam
then the LORD God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7)
◦ this is very “hands-on” – very personal
◦ this is essentially what Jeremiah learned at the potter’s house

This same analogy of God as potter appears in Isaiah’s prophecies
. . . thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel . . . .
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made” (Isa. 43:1 and 7)
Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you from the womb (Isa. 44:2)
– sometimes the message is negative
Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it,
“What are you making?”
or “Your work has no handles”? (Isa. 45:9)
• this same analogy became the heart of Israel’s hope
But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. . . .
Behold, please look, we are all your people (Isa. 64:8)
– as Jeremiah watched the potter, the vessel was “spoiled”
• if you’ve ever worked with clay you know it is an easy medium to mess up
◦ the wall of a bowl becomes too thin on one side, lopsided and imbalanced
• the Hebrew word translated “spoiled” also means ruined or corrupted
◦ it is what humankind had done to the world before God destroyed it with flood
– so the potter reworked the clay, making it into something else
as it seemed good to the potter to do
• that’s the exclusive right that potters have over the clay
• it’s their project – it has to conform to their specifications

How the lesson is applied to the nation of Judah
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 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. Now therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping a disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will everyone act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.'” Jeremiah 18:5-12

God has a purpose for everything that exists
– in all creation, the only things that can resist God’s purpose,
• are humans and human institutions (nations, religions, corporations, etc.)
◦ the fate of an enterprise can change at any time
◦ it all depends on whether it’s in line with God’s design
• so this message is a warning for Judah and Jerusalem
◦ in verse 11:
shaping is yatsar again; that is, forming or molding
devising is an extension of the root word plan (I am planning a plan)
◦ there is hope for the the house of Israel, if they turn back
– their response, however is, “It’s hopeless! We have our own plan”

Judah’s resistance to Jeremiah was fortified by a false confidence
Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words” Jeremiah 18:18
Israel’s religion had three primary pillars:
• the law – divine counsel – the word of the LORD
– those pillars were mediated by three sources:
• law by the priests, counsel by the wise, the word by the prophets
– the people were relying on these three pillars
• the problem was they had lost their direct connection with all three
◦ all that remained was the tradition! and it was empty
◦ they had the container, but not the contents
• I’m afraid this describes too many Christians
they have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (1 Tim. 3:5)
◦ they hang onto the formal trappings,
◦ but they have no contact with the energy of the life of God

Jeremiah has a second field trip in chapter 19
Thus says the LORD, “Go, buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the the kings of Judah have known . . . .
“Then you shall break the jar in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended'” Jeremiah 19:1-4, 10-11

Jeremiah is sent to the potter again, this time to purchase a clay jar
– there is no reshaping a clay pot once it’s been fired
• at the end of this chapter, Jeremiah is sent to temple with a last word
Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the LORD’s house and said to all the people: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words Jeremiah 19:14-15
• why was this second revelation in pottery necessary?
◦ because time had run out for Judah – the situation had changed
◦ the clay could not be re-shaped – it could only be smashed to pieces

There are at least two ways we can respond these stories

And both ways involve surrender
– that’s the essential message of the potter and clay
• God wants us to embrace his plan
◦ we’re meant to be the soft clay molded by his hands
• but there are two different ways to surrender
– I’m going to use one of my privileges as a senior citizen
• “Back in my day” it was common to be wrestled to ground
◦ or to have your arm twisted behind your back
◦ and to be held in discomfort or pain until you cried, “uncle!”
• that is one way to surrender to God;
◦ that is, to read these chapters and feel backed into a corner
◦ God may accept that from a weak or stubborn person, but it’s not what he wants

The second way to surrender is discover the mystery of it
– that it is not only the fulfillment of my life’s truest purpose,
• but is how God’s presence comes to me in every moment of every day
• I was introduced to this way of surrender, by an 18th century author, Jean-Pierre De Caussade
◦ the translation of his work that I recommend is
The Sacrament of the Present Moment, by Kitty Muggeridge
– the lesson is, God’s will comes to us all the time, everywhere
• if we consciously surrender to him in everything, he works out his will in our lives
◦ to draw us to himself, meet our needs, deepen our spirit,
◦ and use us in exactly the ways we were created to serve him
De Caussade, “The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation.”
In other words, we may have no idea of the fullness of what is happening in the present moment. The important work may be going on in our spirit or in the kingdom of God as it surrounds us. That part is hidden from us. So it does not matter that if surrendering to God in any particular moment makes no sense to us.
• God’s kingdom is coming to us in each moment, regardless of our here and now situation
◦ we could be doing our chores, sitting in traffic, or chatting with a neighbor
◦ we could have a headache, be having a bad day, or swatting at a fly
It simply does not matter
our challenge is to surrender, and in surrender turn our hearts and minds toward God

As we consciously surrender to God in everything, we are made more aware of his presence
– we don’t have to see finished product of what we become
• we don’t have to know the purpose of each moment
◦ because it’s not us working out our own great design
◦ it’s simply us being faithful to God and faithful to who we are as his workmanship

Conclusion: God’s complaint all through Jeremiah is that his people do not listen to his voice (e.g., Jer. 18:10)

When do we make time to do this? To listen to God?
This is the essence of contemplative prayer
But God does not hide from us the rest of the day – or week
Our experience of God is not limited to times we set aside for prayer
But encompasses our entire life

Try surrender this week, and see if it opens up a new dimension for you

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