Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Leading Thought: The Potter's Wheel
Have you ever seen a potter? Few of you probably have. A potter is a person who makes all kinds of pots and dishes out of clay. Potters have a round table that is so made that it spins around its center. On the middle of this table, the potter places a lump of damp clay, and then, as the clay spins around and around, her or she shapes it by hand into whatever form is desired, the whirling motion making the form quite round. Any extra shapes that are not to go around, like the spout of a pitcher, the potter makes after the round part is finished. Then the pitcher, or vase, or whatever the vessel may be, is placed in an oven and baked and becomes hard as stone. The round table is called the potter's "wheel."
You will remember that Jeremiah was a prophet who lived during the rein of the last kings of Judah, and saw the Jews carried away to Babylon, but himself remained with the poor people whom the Babylonish king did not think worth carrying away.
This Jeremiah was told by the Word from the Lord to go to a potter's house, where he would hear the Lord's words. You will read the story in the chapter.
It may perhaps seem strange that he was told to do this thing. But there was a reason for it. The prophets in those days often did things, or witnessed things, that represented the state of the church. Some of the things they did were stranger than this visit of Jeremiah to the potter's house. For instance, this same Jeremiah was told to buy a girdle or belt and put it around his loins, and then he had to go to the Euphrates River and hide it in a hole. After many days, he was told to get the girdle again. He went and dug it out and found that it was "marred," or spoiled. Another prophet, Ezekiel, was once told to take a new razor and shave the hair of his head and his beard, and then divide all this hair into three parts, burning one of the three parts in the city, smiting another third part of it with the sword, and scattering the last third part to the winds, yet to bind a little of the hair in his skirt, and at last to throw it in the midst of the fire and burn it up.
I could tell you a number of stories of this kind from the prophets, showing that some of the things that they did looked almost like child's play. And yet every one of them represented something very serious and important, namely, the state of the church as it then was among the Jews.
You will not find it hard to understand what was represented by what Jeremiah saw in the potter's house; namely, that those who are not good, but evil, and who have changed truth into falsity, can nevertheless be reformed or made good by the Lord.
See how this was represented in the potter's house. A vessel was being made. What is a vessel or a pot? Something to hold things. We use vessels to hold water, or wine, or oil, or milk, or flour, or oat meal, or rice, etc.
So the Lord makes vessels to hold love, and kind wishes, and true thoughts. These vessels are people.
The vessel which the potter was making was marred or spoiled. Is a person ever spoiled as a vessel for the Lord's truth and good? Yes. When the person is false and evil, and therefore will not hold love, and kind wishes, and true thoughts.
But the potter returned and made another vessel, as it was right in the hand of the potter to make.
So the Lord will make us over, but only if we will do what the Lord said to Jeremiah, that is, if we will repent, and turn to the Lord, if we will have trust in Him and show our trust by living according to His commandments, and exercise charity. For the clay of which a pot or vessel is made corresponds to charity. And what is charity?
Charity is love for the neighbor. In other words, charity is to will well to others and from willing well to do well, that is, to be of use to others. Those who so love the neighbor, and keep the commandments in the second table of the decalogue, are those of whom the Lord can form vessels to receive real heavenly life from Him. They are the clay of the Divine Potter.