In Good HandsJuly 13, 2012 - 5:00 am
“He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel’.” — Jeremiah 18:6
Many of the messages given to Jeremiah came in the form of metaphors. For example, in the beginning of chapter 18, God tells Jeremiah to go to a potter’s home. There, Jeremiah watches how the potter works with the clay at his wheel. As the potter is forming a pot, he notices that the pot is not looking like he wants it to. So he destroys the one he is working with and creates a new pot.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and with this imagery fresh in his mind, Jeremiah is able to understand what God means when He says, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”
The imagery of clay in the hands of a potter is so powerful that it has become part of the liturgy of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – along with similar metaphors, such as silver in the hands of a silver smith and glass in the hands of the glass blower. In all of the imagery, we see a substance, malleable and fragile, in the hands of its maker.
On the one hand, it is terrifying to realize how vulnerable we really are. Our Creator can build us up, or destroy us. Anything can change on a dime. But on the other hand, it is comforting to know that if we are at the mercy of someone’s hands, it is none other than the hands of God.
Sometimes the potter does have to destroy his pot. But he only does so in order to make it new again — and better. Through this object lesson, God is telling Jeremiah that although the Jewish people are about to go into a horrible exile, and even though many will be slaughtered and the Temple destroyed, it’s all for the purpose of rebuilding!
Jeremiah needed to know and understand that the destruction he was predicting was not the end of the story. It is the beginning of a new one. With that understanding, Jeremiah would be able to rebuke the people, but also comfort them once his dire predictions came true.
There are times in our lives when we feel nothing less than shattered, like a broken piece of pottery. Where is our Maker? How will we become whole again? We must remember the image of the potter from the book of Jeremiah. Sometimes, the Almighty will bring us down. But never forget, friends, that it is only in order to build us up once more – better, wiser, and definitely stronger.
No matter what shape we are at the moment, we are always in good hands!