Big Question: Can’t God do with you (Israel) what the potter does with the clay? [The Potter and the Clay: YOU Be Reshaped or Be Shattered; YOU are always personally responsible to repent; Divine sovereignty vs. personal freedom; God’s immutable plan vs. man’s (apparent) freedom of choice]
“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’” (Jer 18:6). “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster (ra’ah) for you and devising a plan against you. So turn (shub) from your evil (ra’ah) ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions’” (Jer 18:11). “But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil (ra’ah) hearts’” (Jer 18:12).
- Wet Clay (Jeremiah 18): Repentance is still possible.
- Dry Clay (Jeremiah 19): The time of repentance is past.
- Response (Jeremiah 20): “Let’s beat him up good and shut him up!”
Jeremiah 18‒20 is Jeremiah’s most famous sermon. It is perhaps the greatest text in the Bible to help us understand one of life’s deepest mysteries—the tension that exists between di______ sov_________ and pe_______ res____________, between God’s prov________ pur______ (ete_____ and imm________) and man’s (apparent) fr______ of ch_____. Reconciling this pol_____ and par______ at both an intellectual and an experiential level is one of our greatest and most difficult challenges in life. This sermon is more visual (actions, illustrations) than verbal. Even a child can understand it. And yet theologians are still plumbing the depths of its truth. It is pro________ sim____ and sim____ pro_______. (divine sovereignty, personal responsibility, providential purposes (eternal, immutable), freedom of choice, polarity, paradox, profoundly simple, simply profound)
When God threatens judgment, even when it sounds final and irreversible, it is really an in________ to re_____ (shub) so that disaster (ra’ah) may be av_____ (18:7-11). (Key: invitation, repent, averted)
- The Potter has a p___. He has a pur____ for the vessel he is making. Jeremiah knew his pur____ (1:5). Do you know yours?
- The Potter has a p______. The vessel wasn’t turning out as he had hoped. What’s the difference between clay and humans?
- The Potter has a q_______. Can I do with you as the potter has done (18:6)? (Key: plan, purpose, problem, question)
- What is the point of Jeremiah’s most famous sermon (18:1-11)? How did the people respond (18:12, 18; 20:1-2)? At what point(s) does a person harden into a shape that is irredeemable (19:1, 10)? How do you understand the difficulty of reconciling the dichotomy, polarity and tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility?
- What will God do with his unrepentant people (19:1-9)? How did Jeremiah demonstrate this (19:10-15)?
- Read Jeremiah’s fifth and sixth confession/lament/complaint (18:19-23; 20:7-18). Jeremiah sounds angry, disappointed, confused, depressed at God in 20:7-18. Do you express yourself to God like Jeremiah? How does his complaint sound to you? Review Jeremiah’s first four confessions/complaints and God’s response: 11:18-24; 12:1-6; 15:10, 15-20; 17:14-18.
- What is God’s purpose for your life? Is that purpose being realized? Why or why not?