Driving to the office these past few weeks, I have been fascinated by the piles of tiny clay lamps for sale on the roadside. They look very simple and ordinary—just mud. Remember, though, that clay is the basic building material of our own bodies! Those clay lamps reminded me of the lesson Jeremiah learned at the potter’s house in Jeremiah 18:1-6.
Clay is a mixture of common earth and silica. It is the presence of that silica which makes clay something more than common earth. So it is with the story of man. Man begins with dust: “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his mouth the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). It is that breath of God that made all the difference. There are some steps in which God prepares the basic elements that make up your personality. Let’s note some of them.
Clay, first of all, must be crushed. You, too, must be made pliable in the hands of God. The crushing process is not pleasant, but remember until the lumps have been removed, until you have been sifted, you are not suitable material for the potter’s skill. We often would like to hurry the potter along to get our vessel made but God demands a crushing first. Also, the potter can make no use of clay which is too moist. He squeezes out excess water. After the crushing and squeezing processes, the potter sets the clay aside to rest, hiding it away for a time so that it might acquire its true texture. This isolation process is always important. Don’t fret over moments spent alone with God. Let them temper you soul.
Once the clay is prepared, the potter can create. Then, and only then, does God take us in His hands for molding on the spinning wheel of life. It is fascinating to watch a pile of raw clay take shape in the potter’s hands. The wheel turns fast. Seemingly miraculously the pottery takes shape—tall vessels, short vessels, ones with narrow necks and spouts, others with a handle. Each piece is unique—a work of art. So it is with our lives. Each is a unique creation. The clay plays only a minor role in the process. We are just submissive to the Master Potter. Did not Christ Himself say, “Come, follow me, and I will MAKE you…” (Mark 1: 17).
Freshly created pottery is called green pottery. No matter how pretty it may look, it is entirely useless until it is fired. Every piece has to go into the furnace. It is the furnace of life that tempers us. Our faith too must be tried as by fire (1 Peter 1:7). Peter warns us: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial you are suffering, as though some strange thing had happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Beloved, your trial is preparing you to be a useful vessel for God,
The great revivalist, John Wesley, began his ministry as a missionary to America with a burden to reach the natives of Georgia. He returned to England a miserable failure—disheartened, discouraged, ready to give up. Out of that fiery trial, even out of that failure, John Wesley received a vision that sparked revival throughout the entire church world.
After the clay has been prepared, after the vessel has been formed, after the fire has made it strong, then the Master picks up the brush and beautifies the vessel with color. But God wanted Jeremiah to learn yet another lesson on his visit to the potter’s house. Sometimes a vessel is marred and must be remade. I have good news: God, the Master Potter, can pick up the pieces and remake your broken vessel. Regardless of your past sins or failures, the precious vessel of life can be transformed and refashioned through repentance and faith. In a single moment to time, the marred failures of a lifetime can be transformed.
Clay people? Earthen vessels? Created from dust and returning to that? Yes! But you can have the treasure of salvation in your vessel. I love the way Paul expresses it: “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7).