Blogging the Bible 201 – Jeremiah 17-20 – Prophetic Pottery

Does God really change his plans as they unfold, or does it just seem that way to us? The image of the clay on the potter’s wheel suggests that God is indeed flexible, and though this seems to go against many of our more abstract ideas of what God ‘should’ be like, there have been enough instances of the same idea to make it seem like a part of the Old Testament picture.
The image of the potter shaping the clay suggests a very hands – on, involved God, and it’s one which lends itself well to meditation, reflecting on how God has shaped our lives, with what pressures and guidance, and into what we are being made.
YouTube has videos of potters at work, some designed for contemplation. If you haven’t done so before, watch one! It can be mesmerising as the raw clay is first smoothed and then raised. The skill of the potter includes knowing how pressure in one place causes change elsewhere: and one thing that strikes me is that it is more by pressing from the side than by pulling from above that the pot rises up.
Of course, there’s a danger in overinterpreting an image, and the point of the prophecy is at its heart a warning that while God’s promises are secure, there is more than one way for him to fulfil them.
That may lead to the second pottery image, of the broken pot as a sign of God’s judgement. To take one more risk of overusing the image, perhaps as we reflect on the potter’s hand on our lives we should be careful not to think that we are yet a finished product. When God’s plans change, or when we are subject to judgement, the clay can be reshaped but the fired pot is broken.
Let’s keep striving to see ourselves as God’s ‘work in progress’.

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