Meaning of “The potter and the clay” according to the bible

The potter and the clay
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To talk about what “the potter and the clay” means, we must analyze the depth of these terms within the Bible, where the Lord shaped the life of the prophet Jeremiah in a surprising way, who suffered much anguish. This can remind us or make us realize that in the same way, it can transform our lives.

Meaning of “The potter and the clay”

This parable teaches us through the life of the prophet Jeremiah how God can shape our lives like clay. During the first part of the ministry of this biblical character in Jerusalem.

The Lord asked him to go visit the house of a potter, in which he realized how he worked, turning a wheel with his foot while with his hands he made sure to shape a piece of wet clay located in a raised wheel.

Pottery is a very old activity, and Jeremiah visualized the potter, who had discovered in the pot that he was making an imperfection, and he was surprised that the potter unmade the pot and began to shape it again. This can be seen in the following passage from the Bible:

“And I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was working at the wheel. And the clay pot that he made spoiled in his hand; and he returned and made another vessel for it, as he thought best to make it” (Jeremiah 18:3-4).

This prophet Jeremiah went through very hard times with the iniquity of Israel, but despite this, he recognized the hands full of kindness and skill of Master Potter, who molded his character and transformed it into a beautiful work of art.

The events of his life teach us the need to place our whole lives in the hands of the Lord, where true peace and pure love lie. His word encourages us to leave everything under God’s control: “Can I not make of you like this potter, O house of Israel?” (Jeremiah 18:6).

“The potter and the clay” in the life of the believer

The prophet Jeremiah was called by the Lord as a young man: “…to whatever I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you shall say” (Jeremiah 1:7). 

However, you had doubts “… I do not know how to speak, because I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6), but the Lord knew that he was capable of carrying out the purpose he had for him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… I gave you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Likewise, God knows each one of his children and has selected us to be in a certain place on earth, in addition to molding us using callings to serve either at home or in the Church. Therefore, we must leave fear behind as Jeremiah did and trust fully in God, who has a specific purpose for us.

The teaching of “The potter and the clay” shows us that we are like clay and our life can be transformed into a beautiful utensil. We can be the ideal vessel to be filled by the Holy Spirit, who reproves and encourages us in times of great difficulty.

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In this sense, the determining factor in the shaping of Jeremiah’s life was his flexibility, since he was always willing to submit to God’s commandments, to be flexible by freely and repeatedly choosing to do God’s will instead of his own.

In this way, one of the attributes that are displayed in the teaching of this parable is humility, obedience, faith, and being free from pride, since through these qualities we can be molded in the image and likeness of Christ.

On one occasion, the Lord asked Jeremiah to buy an earthen pot, break it before the leaders of the people, and then boldly prophesy: ​​“…Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Thus will I break these people and this city, like one who breaks an earthen pot, which can no longer be restored” (Jeremiah 19:11).

Therefore, in order for this character to carry out this mandate to make such a bold denunciation of the government leaders, he had to do the will of God and obey with courage and even put aside his own life and safety. As can be seen in the following quote:

“Thus saith the Lord: Go and buy an earthen vessel from the potter, and take with you from the elders of the people, and from the elders of the priests; and you shall go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is at the entrance of the eastern gate, and there you shall proclaim the words that I will speak to you.

You shall therefore say: Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, so that everyone who hears its ears will tingle” (Jeremiah 19:1–15).

In this way, the word of God became a life lesson, where he was commanded to put on a ribbon and straps and place them around his neck in front of King Zedekiah and the diplomatic corps of Jerusalem. Which must have been something very strange, since Jeremiah was exposed to these men who had a lot of influence and power. 

This prophet had the courage to tell them that if they did not willingly bow down and serve the king of Babylon, the Lord would destroy them. This can be seen in the following passage:

“And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, my servant, and even the beasts of the field I have given him to serve him. And all the nations will serve him, his son, and his son’s son until the time of their own land also comes, and many nations and great kings reduce it to servitude.

And to the nation and to the kingdom that does not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and that does not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with sword and famine and pestilence, says the Lord, until I finish it. I by his hand” (Jeremiah 27:6-8).

In this sense, this prophet was quite malleable to carry out his God-given mission, no matter the circumstances in which he found himself, risking his own life and exposing himself to public ridicule since the unbelievers saw him as something absurd. So in our daily life, we ​​must be equally moldable and let ourselves be transformed just like the clay in order to fulfill our purpose here on earth.

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How can we overcome afflictions?

Jeremiah was a biblical character who could evidence many afflictions. In fact, God himself indicated to him when he called him that the princes, kings and priests, and the people in general, would fight against him. But the Lord promised him: “And they will fight against you, but they will not overcome you; for I am with you, saith the Lord, to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).

Jeremiah had to go through many situations of great difficulty, among which it can be mentioned when Pashur, who was the priest in charge of achieving order in the temple precinct, heard the noise that Jeremiah made when he broke the clay pot and prophesied before the people, he ordered that they imprison him, beat him and put him in the stocks.

The next day he ordered Jeremiah to be brought to him, but Jeremiah fearlessly repeated the words of the Lord about the impending destruction, adding: “And you, Pashhur, and all the inhabitants of your house will go captive” (Jeremiah 20:6).

When the Babylonian army was in Jerusalem, Jeremiah announced to King Zedekiah and his people the word of the Lord that they must surrender, and this upset many officials, who used Jeremiah’s attempt to leave the city as a subterfuge to imprison him and accuse him of treason.

This can be seen in the word: “And Jeremiah said: False; I do not go to the Chaldeans. But he did not listen to him, but Irias seized Jeremiah and brought him before the princes. And the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and flogged him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe because they had made it a prison” (Jeremiah 37:14–15).

Another tragic event that this prophet had to face was when he was thrown into a cistern that served as a dungeon so that he would starve to death there.

Over time, the sediments accumulated at the bottom of the cistern, where Jeremías sank.

This can be seen in the following biblical passage: “Then they took Jeremiah and had him thrown into the cistern of Malquías son of Hamelec, who was in the courtyard of the prison; and they bound Jeremiah with ropes. And in the cistern, there was no water, but mud and Jeremiah sank in the mud” (Jeremiah 38:6).

In this sense, this prophet had to go through many calamities, and many times he felt afflicted but a Christian servant named Ebed-melech, who was an Ethiopian servant of the king, gave him the necessary courage to be able to overcome adversity, otherwise, Jeremiah would have died, as can be seen in his word:

“And the Ethiopian Ebed-melech said to Jeremiah: Now put those old rags and threadbare and tattered clothes, under the armpits, under the ropes. And Jeremiah did so. In this way, they took Jeremiah out with ropes and raised him up from the cistern, and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison” (see Jeremiah 38:12–13).

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Once the Babylonian king took possession of Jerusalem, Jeremiah decided to stay with his people in the city, in order to continue proclaiming the word of the Lord, although he felt much rejection. 

This important prophet died in Egypt sometime after the last request to his people to accept the Lord, as evidenced in the holy scriptures:

 “And Jeremiah said to all the people, and to all the women: Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: You and your wives spoke with your mouths, and with your hands you executed it, saying: We will actually fulfill our vows that we made, to offer incense to the queen of heaven and pour libations to her; confirm your vows to the truth, and put your vows to work” (Jeremiah 44:24-25).

All the tests that the prophet Jeremiah had to go through showing us the way in which a person is molded by God and just as the potter shapes the clay and turns it into a beautiful vessel, in the same way, the Lord wants to mold us. his image and likeness so that we may be worthy to enter his kingdom.

However, in order to be molded, we will have to go through unfavorable and very painful situations many times, but we must have the conviction that God is not going to give us a test that we cannot overcome. Everything is in the trust and faith that we can have in the midst of the storm.

The principles present in the parable of “The potter and the clay”

This parable is based on the teaching left to us by the mission of the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim the word of God and warn his people of the consequences of their disobedience. 

Just as clay is molded, the life of this biblical character was molded by the Lord, making him go through very hard tests that caused him much suffering. 

But God was always by his side, and never abandoned him in his purpose. Within this teaching we can find different very important principles for every believer:

  • The authoritarian domain of the domination of the potter (God) is exercised over the clay that represents the people of God.
  • In the mind of God, there is a plan that He wants to carry out, and that no one can change.
  • The extraordinary creativity of the potter (God) to make something wonderful.
  • In the love, patience, and mercy of the Lord, he works around the weaknesses of man in order to transform the clay into a beautiful vessel.
  • The clay must be placed correctly, in the center of the potter’s wheel, in the same way, that God must be the center of our lives, our highest priority.
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