But the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand; so he made it over, reworking it and making it into another pot that seemed good to him.Then I went down to the potter’s house, and saw that he was working at the wheel.
The Bible and the history of people of faith give us a rich record of God’s not giving up on us when we fail. Abraham was a coward who twice lied about his wife’s identity to protect himself, but God transformed him into the father of our faith. Jacob was a deceiver who lied over and over again, but God touched him and made him the father of twelve tribes. Peter denied Jesus, but a few days after the Resurrection, Jesus met him to reaffirm his acceptance and Peter became the leader of the early church. The last of men and women who started over is almost endless.
Jeremiah gives us an image of God as the potter and us as the clay. God works diligently to form us and transform us into useful, beautiful vessels, but sometimes things don’t work out. It’s not the potter’s fault; a flaw in the clay causes the problem. But God doesn’t wad us up into a clay ball and flung us away. He lovingly starts over, eliminating the flaw and adding the elements of the Spirit, the accountability of friends, and the guidance of the Word to start shaping us again.
The process of producing a beautiful pot isn’t fast. The potter takes time, carefully crafting the clay into shape for its intended use. In the same way, when God starts over with us, we may not become instantly useful. It takes time and the skill of the Potter to shape us. Sooner or later, though, we’ll be useful again.
The God who made you can make you over.
I think most of us have found ourselves going the wrong way, lost, turned around, or taking the scenic route. Whenever we find ourselves in that situation we have two choices. We can keep going pretending that we know where we’re going and hope somehow we’ll still end up at our desired destiny. We can also turn around and go back to the place we made the wrong turn and start over. Sometimes our attempt to fix our problems doesn’t work. One time I was in Beckley, West Virginia and missed my turn. To try to fix my mistake I decided that I could make three right turns and end up back where I needed to be. But that day it didn’t work. I found myself getting farther and farther from my destination. My only recourse was to turn around and backtrack. On another occasion I was in a city and could see my destination from where I was sitting at the stoplight. The only issue was that it was down the street to the left and the one-way street went right. On another occasion while driving on the interstate I missed my exit and drove about twenty miles before I found another exit so I could go back to my missed exit.
These kinds of things, while frustrating and perhaps embarrassing are easy to fix. But what about when we find ourselves going the wrong way on the path of life? What about when we’ve made a mess of things? What about when our decisions were poor and the outcome of them isn’t pleasant? We all know that a split second decision can change our lives forever. When we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things do we choose to add to the situation? I know those who after experiencing a difficult time in life choose to drown their sorrows in alcohol or substance abuse, thinking somehow if they can numb their minds, it will all go away. Instead they usually become intoxicated and add more to their problems rather than working toward a resolution. Others fill their lives with business, become slaves to their careers, try to buy happiness with more money or things. They may seek out friends or companions hoping that as long as they’re staying busy they won’t have to think about it all.
Some have thrown in the white flag of surrender and think that there is no way that life can ever change for the better so they just settle for things the way they are. Even more sad are those trapped in sin who have the idea that God has no time or place for them. They even use the phrase, “eat and drink and party for tomorrow we die” as justification to not think about eternity. In their minds they are doomed anyway so why not at least enjoy this life as much as possible.
But God steps onto the highway of life and holds up a big sign that says, “U Turns allowed.” Right beside that sign is another that says “This way.” And for those who may still be confused, Jesus has a sign hung on Him that says, Follow me.” No matter how far down the wrong path we go, we will always find God there waiting to give us an opportunity to turn around.
The Bible uses a word that unfortunately has been given a dark, almost judgmental meaning- repent. Repent means to turn around or to turn from. And it’s not just that we turn from our sins or wrongs- we turn to something; we turn to God. When we do so we find mercy, grace, forgiveness, and restoration. Our text today describes how the potter takes the same clay that is marred and remakes it again into a beautiful, useful vessel. God take messed up human beings, who are going the wrong way, being involved in destructive behavior, playing on the wrong team, and living futile lives and turns them around, transforms their behavior into something that builds up every part of them, signs the adoption papers making them part of His family and gives their lives meaning and fullness.
Even if you have to backtrack a long way and maybe it will take some time for you to see your God-planed future, it’s never too late to start and the sooner you see that you are going the wrong way, the sooner you will find the place to turn around. The sooner you realize that you need a spiritual makeover, the sooner you will see what God can do with someone like you. You may think that there’s not enough good in you for God to work with but remember He spoke to nothing and creation happened. If He can do that, He can speak to you and you will become His masterpiece. Nothing is impossible with God.
The Bible and the world are filled with stories of those that God found in their sins and despair and turned them around and they became incredible examples of God’s grace and power. You can be one of those stories.
Dr. John Thompson