In the day that the LORD[a] God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground,[b] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? Says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
The Miracle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls
(Contributed by Dr. Larry Petton)
In 1947, Muhammad adh-Dhib, a twelve-year-old Arab boy, made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. While looking for a lost goat in Qumran, near the Dead Sea, he threw a stone into a cave and heard the sound of shattering pottery. Curious about the noise, he entered the cave and found a collection of large clay jars containing carefully wrapped leather manuscripts. What this boy stumbled upon was an ancient collection of handwritten copies of the Old Testament that dated as far back as far as the third century BC. Scholars determined the age of the scrolls by carefully examining:
• the type of pottery the manuscripts were housed in
• the weave and pattern of the manuscript cloths
• the form of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek characters
• the spelling of the words
• several hundred coins found with the scrolls—they were minted between 135 BC and AD 68
Archaeologists spent years searching the surrounding caves. By the time they were done, some 220 copies of Old Testament books had been found. These included nineteen copies of the Book of Isaiah, twenty-five copies of Deuteronomy, and thirty copies of the Psalms. When the search ended, the only Old Testament book that wasn’t found was a copy of the Book of Esther. But it is mentioned in some of the other Dead Sea Scrolls, so we know the Jews at Qumran were familiar with it and probably had it. Many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed today in climate-controlled vaults in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.- (Precept Austin)
When archaeologists are going through historical sites, pottery is one of the primary means by which a site is dated, culture and people are identified, and trade is established. Pottery was vital in Biblical time, it was used for food and water storage as well as for cooking and serving food. Metal was used in biblical times as well as wood, animal skin and basket containers. Potter was the most popular container because it was made of material that could be found in the ground: clay, water and at times a little bit of sand. When these simple ingredients were combined correctly and then fired it became incredibly strong. It’s amazing how many pots we have today that are thousands of years old. In fact many of the things we know from ancient Greek culture and beliefs comes from their surviving pottery.
Potter was made using a variety of methods. At Biblical archeological sites they have found remains of potter’s wheels, kilns and potter’s tools. A potter could sit and form something by hand or they could use a throwing wheel. This style of wheel is called a double wheel or kick wheel. The potter would sit on a bench and spin and turn the base of the wheel with their feet and on the upper portion the top would spin and the potter would mold the clay in their hands. Similar models are still used today.
I remember using a wheel like this in my ceramics class in Jr. High, they use similar throwing wheels today just two blocks down at Tierra del Sol. This is what the Biblical audience would have pictured when hearing this text. The image of a potter hunched over the wheel as his or her legs kick steadily at the wheel; the whole body was committed to the making and shaping of clay. As it spun the potter would use art and skill and their hands to work the clay and slowly a form would emerge from the clay. And the potter would become incredibly dirty in the process.
The clay was kneed using their feet and during the forming process a mixture of water and clay would run over their hands and arms. Many of us are probably thinking of that mesmerizing scene with Patrick Swazi and Demi Moore in Ghost. Which is a good example I suppose because it is very intimate. The potter’s fingerprints become embedded in the piece of pottery. Making pottery is a deliberate and intentional act and each piece is unique. Which is why it is used to explain God’s relationship to us and us to God.
Once the piece was finished, it was left to dry for several days and then placed in a kiln where there was fire and great heat which made it strong. The potter’s house and workshop were often at the edge of town or right outside of town because of all of the smoke that would come billowing out of the kiln, this is why our text today talks about Jeremiah going down to the potter’s house. So not only would the potter become covered in clay they would also be covered in soot often, one had to really care about what they were doing to be willing to invest so much in it.
Many Christians cherish this verse and song, “You are the potter and I am the clay. Mold me and make me this is what I pray.” We know that God shaped us when we born, but being shaped and molded by God is work that is meant to continue on throughout this lifetime. What does this look like as an adult? To be molded and shaped by God? I want to share a stick with you by the skit guys entitled God’s Chisel Remastered.
There are these two guys and they are called “The Skit Guys” and one of their most popular skits is called “G-d’s Chisel.” And in it a man prays to G-d and asks G-d to help mold him to be more like Christ. And then G-d appears. And the guy is a bit surprised at first and sort of questions if this person is really G-d. He asked him what Lamentations 56 says, and G-d points out that there are only 5 chapters in Lamentations, that it’s a really short book because he was, well tired of Lamenting. And then G-d answers a one of the man’s questions with a question and the man decided that this must really be G-d. And G-d is there with a hammer and chisel and explains that he is there to help shape the man- to answer his prayer. And that the first thing he is going to work on is chipping away the man’s anger. Stating, “I created the emotion but you use it in the wrong way. (Chipping away) You compare yourself to others instead of me…you’re lazy but you try to fool everybody by trying to look really really busy….
And each time he chips away the man sort of grimaces and eventually the man being shaped by G-d, sort of calls a time out. And comes up with excuses. And G-d points out that the man doesn’t seem to really be willing to give up control and let G-d chisel. And he asks, are you ready for me to chisel this (sin) out of your life?…You have listened to too many voices for far too long that were not from me and you have totally bought into the lie haven’t you? You think you’re junk don’t you?…I don’t take time to make junk.”…”G-d doesn’t make junk, you are G-d’s masterpiece.”
Being chiseled into a masterpiece or shaped and molded like clay into a masterpiece is not a comfortable experience for the one being molded and shaped- but it is worth it. Some of the most painful changes are where some of the most amazing transformations take place. For example, going to rehab can be one of the hardest and most important things a person can do. Edwain Friendman author of Failure of Never and Generation to Generation writes, “There is no way out of a chronic condition unless one is willing to go through an acute, temporarily more painful, phase,” (Failure of Never, 60). If we truly want to be molded and shaped by God, it is going to involve letting things go that we hold and cling; sins that we rely heavily on. Letting things go and being transformed in ways out of our comfort zone in order to better resemble God.
Sometimes we expect ourselves to be perfect or others to be perfect, this is not a realistic expectation. We are works in progress, which is why we have to have grace for ourselves and for each other. And no one, no one, no one is beyond being shaped and molded and transformed by God. Did you notice in our verse it says, “So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” The first time around God the potter wasn’t satisfied. So did God quit? No God went to work on it again. Even if we become broken by our sin or the sins of the world God doesn’t quit.
The Japanese have a beautiful tradition called kintsugi (kin-sue-gee) Which means golden joinery or to join with gold. So pottery and bowls that have become broken or damaged should not be cast aside or thrown away but repaired and given more care. All of us are kin-sue-gee, everyone here has been shaped and reshaped and repaired by the potters hand. The damage is not hidden but emphasize the beauty and skill of the creator. And instead of being ashamed of this, it gives us continual reason to give thanks and point to and praise God for God’s faithfulness and commitment to us. To point to and name the goodness and faithfulness of the potter.
Thanks be to God.