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At the Potter’s House April 8, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 18-19.

Summary: In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to visit the house of a potter. There, He draws the following analogy: just as the potter is sovereign over his clay, so He is sovereign over His people. Thus, He exhorts them to repent of their sins – lest He destroy their nation. He also expresses His amazement at their irrational behavior, as they have forsaken Him – who dwells in their midst – to worship gods of distant lands.

Yet the people of Judah reject Jeremiah’s exhortation, and they plot to discredit him. Jeremiah responds by asking God to thoroughly punish them.

God subsequently commands Jeremiah to purchase a clay jar and bring it – along with some of the elders and priests – to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. There, he proclaims a message of judgment on the people of Judah: since they have committed acts of child sacrifice in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and worshiped idols in Jerusalem, He will fill that valley – and Jerusalem – with their dead bodies. Jeremiah then returns to Jerusalem and proclaims that message of judgment in the temple.

Thoughts: In verses 14 and 15 of chapter 18, God decries the idiocy of His people in their rejection of Him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

God highlights the sin of the people with the following comparison: When one can draw water in one’s own field, how foolish it would be to travel a long way looking for water. And if water does not spring up nearby but flows from a distant pure and cold stream, who will not be satisfied with such water?

This passage spurred me to ponder modern-day applications of God’s argument. One thought is that this may be related to Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-32, which highlights the irrationality of mankind in rejecting God. In particular, we have two compelling reasons to believe in His existence:

  • the surrounding creation
  • our inner conscience

yet we still choose to reject Him. This could be construed as an irrational response to God; why would we reject Him when He has revealed Himself so abundantly to us? Yet Satan works powerfully to muddle our comprehension of God by presenting competing explanations for the surrounding creation and devising daily distractions. We must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we seek to respond in a rational manner to the Person and work of God.

In verses 19-23 of chapter 18, Jeremiah entreats God to punish those who would discredit him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 21:

Jeremiah then should not have uttered these curses, although they were fully deserved. But it must be observed that he was moved by the Holy Spirit to become so indignant against his enemies…the prophet does not say anything rashly here but obediently proclaims what the Holy Spirit dictated, as his faithful instrument.

We have seen in Jeremiah 8:4-9:26 that Jeremiah wrestled with the scope of God’s punishment of his compatriots. In light of his struggles, how did Jeremiah inveigh against his compatriots in this passage? Perhaps Jeremiah identified so closely with God – as His prophet – that he viewed any attempts to discredit him as attempts to discredit God Himself; clearly, anyone who dared to discredit God Himself merited His punishment. As modern-day believers, though, we must exercise caution when attempting to apply this passage today; if non-believers attempt to discredit us, we must be confident that we are truly acting on God’s behalf before asking Him to judge them.

In chapter 19, we see that Jeremiah led a group of elders and priests outside Jerusalem to the Valley of Ben Hinnom – where he smashed a clay jar and condemned their acts of idolatry and child sacrifice. Now I wonder: why those elders and priests follow Jeremiah to the Valley of Ben Hinnom? Had Jeremiah not acquired a negative reputation among his compatriots at that point? Did those elders and priests assume that Jeremiah wanted to apologize for all of his dire prophecies? Were they fueled by a sense of curiosity as to what He would say?

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