The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.”
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was making something on the wheels. When the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, “House of Israel, can’t I do with you as this potter?” says Yahweh. “Behold, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, house of Israel. At the instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them. At the instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they not obey my voice, then I will repent of the good with which I said I would benefit them.
This is something that we can understand quite easily because we are all made in God’s image. We all know what it’s like to decide to make something and then choose to make something different instead. Perhaps you were making a craft of some kind. Perhaps you were creating a recipe. When something didn’t go quite the way you expected, you probably changed your mind and made something else. In the software world, this is definitely true. We may start out making what we think is the perfect piece of software, only later to find out that there’s something better or more realistic that we end up making instead.
God reminds Israel and us, that He is in charge of His creations. He can always change His mind if He wants to. In this passage, God is talking about nations. God is the creator of nations, just as a potter is the creator of his pottery. There’s a big difference in the way that God changes His mind, though. God is never wrong about things and can always see the future perfectly. God changes nations based on how they respond. When they do wrong, then He may stop the blessings that He had planned for them. When they do right, He may restore the blessings that He had planned to remove. It’s really quite simple. God expects nations to obey and if they don’t, things will change.
An important thing for us to understand about this is that nations do have a responsibility to obey. In a sense, we can say that culture is important to God. If the culture of a nation turns against God and His word, then punishment results. If culture changes back to obedience, then things get better. Culture is a subject that the church should involve itself in, because God Himself obviously does. Another thing we learn is that God is always in complete control. Clay doesn’t have much to say about things other than to respond to God’s hand. If an imperfection is found in the clay, God will be the one to decide what happens next, not the clay. We don’t have to worry about mankind running away with the show. God’s hand is always on it and nothing will happen that He doesn’t ultimately control.