Tag Archives: Jeremiah 18

Broken Down and Built Up Again

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.
Jeremiah 18:1-4 (NIV)

Life is a series of screw ups. Let’s face it. I like to project an image of having it all together. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that there’s some acceptable level of life perfection out there (that everyone else seemingly has) while I quietly haplessly flail my appendages behind a series  of nicely painted stage flats. I’ve come to the conclusion along the journey that the real illusion is thinking that any one is any different than me. God’s Message is perfectly clear (in several different places) on this count:

  • No temptation has seized you except what is common to all
  • There’s no one righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”
  • All have sinned and fall short.”
  • Whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

I’ve always loved the word picture God gave Jeremiah in today’s chapter. He tells Jeremiah to throw on his sandals because he was going on field trip. They end up at the house of the local potter who was working at his wheel. If you’ve ever tried your hand at a potter’s wheel you know how tricky it is. It looks so deceptively easy, but one slight miscue and the whole pot falls apart in your hands and you’re starting again from scratch.

I had a friend one time who was walking with me through a terribly difficult stretch of my life journey. I went through a litany of all the things that had gone wrong in my life, the mistakes I’d made, the consequences I was facing, and the stresses that felt as if they were tearing me apart. My friend smiled at me warmly and quietly observed that my life was breaking down, being “deconstructed” so that God could remake it like a Potter reworking the marred mess of clay in His hands.

It’s a good thing to have wise companions walking alongside you on your journey.

I find myself so drawn to this notion of the “one-and-done” transformation, the miraculous touch leading to a perfect ending, or God suddenly drawing my number in the Life lottery and suddenly everything is as it should be.

I’ve come to observe that the truth is a lot earthier, more substantive and repetitive. The word picture of the Potter and the clay is not a “once in a lifetime” deal. Rather, I find that life is a constant process of being broken down and rebuilt. My job is to allow Living Water to make me more pliable in the Potter’s hand, to release myself to the steady flow of the wheel spinning, to allow myself to be molded at the Potter’s touch; To stop resisting, even when life breaks me down again and the process starts all over.

Have a good week, friends. Here’s to being pliable.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 31

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am ignored as if I were dead,
    as if I were a broken pot.
 I have heard the many rumors about me….
Psalm 31:12-13a (NLT)

I went through a divorce several years ago. Like most people who go through a divorce I never thought I’d end up there. It has been the single most difficult stretch of my journey.

People react in silly ways to divorce. I find this to be especially true in the church where I learned that one friend believes I “put my soul in jeopardy” by getting a divorce as if Jesus’ grace and forgiveness ends at the entrance to divorce court. A year or so ago I discovered that a leader in my church was uncomfortable having me involved in a particular role because of the scarlet letter “D” on my life’s resume’. Then there are the friends who have quietly chosen to walk away from their relationship with me. Like the song writer of today’s psalm, I’ve heard rumors through the years of what “they” say, and I have sometimes been made to feel like a broken pot.

I know I can’t control what others say and think. I know that it’s human nature for people to cast quick judgment. I know that God is the only judge with whom I need be concerned and I am being honest when I say that most of the time I could care less what other people say or think they know about me. Yet, it is equally true to admit that there are times when I really don’t like being made to feel like a broken, useless pot.

When I read the lyrics above, my mind went immediately to Jeremiah 18 when God told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. As Jeremiah watched, the potter took a marred pot and fashioned it into something new and useful. The central theme of God’s Message is that He takes broken, discarded and left for dead people and redeems them – fashioning them into something completely new and filling them with Life.

If you heard rumor that I am a divorced, broken and useless pot then I must inform you that what you’ve heard is completely true…

…you just haven’t heard the whole story.

Chapter-a-Day Ezra 6

Norelco 3 band transistor radio
Image by holdit via Flickr

With great joy they celebrated the Feast of Unraised Bread for seven days. God had plunged them into a sea of joy; he had changed the mind of the king of Assyria to back them in rebuilding The Temple of God, the God of IsraelEzra 6:22 (MSG)

When I was a kid, my dad always had the radio on. It was as a kid that I learned to appreciate an old radio news man and commentator named Paul Harvey. In the morning and at noon, Harvey would offer his own special take on the day’s news. In the afternoon, however, that distinctive voice pouring out of the radio would share a unique biographical story with a twist at the end that revealed the mysterious person he was talking about. Harvey called it The Rest of the Story, and I always listened intently to see if I could figure out the identity of the mysterious figure he was talking about.

I thought about The Rest of the Story as I read today’s chapter. At the beginning of 2011, we were journeying through the book of Jeremiah’s prophesies and the “weeping” prophet was warning the people of Jerusalem that they’d better straighten up or God was going to send the King of Babylon to take them into exile. In Jeremiah 18 I pulled out this verse for our chapter-a-day:

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (MSG)

Almost a year has passed. And now, at the end of 2011, we read “the rest of the story.” The people refused to listen to Jeremiah so God, the Potter, crushed the marred pot he’d been working on. The Babylonians swept into Jerusalem and flattened the city, along with Solomon’s temple, like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel. The people of Israel were taken into exile where they languished for many years.

Then, miraculously, a new king emerges who sends a remnent of Israelites back to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the city and the temple. The Potter is back at work, redeeming the lump of clay which had been broken, and making it into something new for His purpose. The people are plunged into a sea of joy as they begin again their worship in the new temple in Jerusalem.

As I look back over the years, I see how God is writing “The Rest of the Story” in my own life. Broken and marred, I have (on multiple occasions, actually) felt life falling in like the walls of that clay pot on the Potter’s wheel. Though it felt like some kind of tragic end in the moment, God was no more finished with me than He was finished with the Israelites stuck in exile. God is a God of redemption. God is a God of hope.

He’s not finished with me yet.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 18

Grarncarz w Rabce / Potter in Rabka
Image via Wikipedia

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (MSG)

I recently spoke to a person who found themself on the road to crazy. Broken, feeling very much alone, and with their life scattered in so many pieces around their feet after it all fell apart in a tragic explosion of circumstance. There they stood holding on to a compass, but the needle was spinning uncontrollably in every direction. They couldn’t, in the moment, see the road out.

Consider yourself blessed if you never find yourself on the road to crazy. Consider yourself blessed if you do. I’ve been there. The circumstances were somewhat different than my friend, but they always are. There are a million paths in and out that intertwine like a maze.

“I can’t see why God has me here,” my friend said.

You never do, in the moment. That’s why Jeremiah’s word picture is so critical to hold onto. God uses broken things. He makes new things out of old. But, the clay must be broken down into a lump before it can be fashioned into a new vessel that can be used for new purposes.

The road to crazy is the place where God allows us to be broken down into a shapeless lump. The road back from crazy is where he begins to build us into something new.

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