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Israel, Clay In The Potter's Hands part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 2, 2022 1:00 am

Israel, Clay In The Potter's Hands part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 2, 2022 1:00 am

Many people think they’re masters of their own destiny. But God sees His people as clay on a potter’s wheel. Since He’s the potter, He controls their destiny. In this message, we’re going to capture four images from God’s metaphor of the potter’s house. Let’s learn to see ourselves accurately—as vessels God shapes according to His purposes.  

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many people think they're the masters of their own destiny, but God sees His people as clay on a potter's wheel.

And since He's the potter, He controls their destiny. Today, learning to see ourselves as vessels, God can make and remake as He chooses. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Today, we continue a series on The Church in Babylon, Unleashing the Power of a Spirit-Filled Witness. Pastor Lutzer, will today's lesson be from Jeremiah chapter 18? Dave, I absolutely love this passage of Scripture. And I love it because it shows so clearly that indeed, as you have pointed out, God is the potter. And we're living in a day and age when people think that they, of all things, are the potter, and they can shape themselves into any vessel that they want. Well, this message is a tremendous reminder that God ultimately is in charge, and you and I have the privilege and the responsibility to let Him work in our lives.

And it's to His glory, but it's also to our benefit. I've written a book entitled The Church in Babylon, Heeding the Call to be a Light in the Darkness. Now, this book deals with many issues that the Church is facing today. Of course, I can't list them all, but it's interesting that the last chapter has to do with those elements in the Church that can survive in Babylon.

How must we think about Church in an age when it seems as if oftentimes we are bumping up against the culture that is increasingly hostile to us? The book is entitled The Church in Babylon. Here's what you can do. Go to

That's, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again at the end of this message. For now, I want you to listen, but I also want you to think about this question, how do we live in a nation that has lost its way? Today as I speak, if I pause in the middle of a sentence or after a sentence, it might not be because I've lost my place. The last 10 sermons I preached, I preached through an interpreter. And when you preach through an interpreter, you always have time to think of what the next sentence is going to be. I like preaching through an interpreter actually.

Less stress, more time to think, and so forth. And short, direct sentences. I loved it, speaking through an interpreter. But today, I will not have an interpreter, and I think that God is going to keep me on track all the way. The question is this, wither America, what is happening in the United States of America that is of importance? As we see various dominoes coming down one after another, what are the great lessons that we learn from the situation in Israel and Judah?

If ever there was a message that you really need to hear, it's the one particularly the next message, when I'm going to describe for you exactly what happened. How the Babylonians came down, how Jerusalem was destroyed, the suffering that the people went through, all of which is going to be relevant to where we are in the United States. It's not that I think that the United States is Israel, but sometimes my breath is taken away when I think of what God is willing to do to a nation that abandons him. But today, we're going to be in the 18th chapter of the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah chapter 18. The title of the series is The Church in Babylon Unleashing the Power of a Spirit-Filled Witness.

You say, well, you haven't spent a lot of time so far talking about the Spirit-filled witness. Well, eventually in this series, we will when we talk about the land of Judah being inhabited then by Babylonians, and they, the folks of Judah, are in Babylon, and we're going to talk about their witness in a pagan culture. But in the 18th chapter of Jeremiah, God sends Jeremiah on a field trip and says, what I want you to do is to go down to the potter's house because I have a message for Israel, and the best way to illustrate it is for you to go there and watch a potter at work. I'm going to pick it up, actually, in verse 2 of the 18th chapter.

So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel, and the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me, O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done, declares the Lord? Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so you are in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will pluck it up and break it down and destroy it, that nation concerning which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent from the disaster. But if the opposite happens, well then, verse 9, God will judge.

And notice this. I'm skipping to verse 11, the middle of the verse. I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. God saying that to his people? I'm devising a plan against you and shaping disaster against you? Wow, takes your breath away.

God hates sin. Well, now what we're going to do is I want you to bring your cameras. Don't take out your cell phones and take a picture right now, but pretend that you have your cell phone camera or another camera. Everybody has cameras today, because we're going down to the potter's house with Jeremiah, and we're going to take four pictures that I want you to visualize in your mind. Picture number one is the potter, who in this analogy, of course, is God.

And how does the potter work? He works purposefully. He has in his mind the image of a vessel he wants to make. Maybe it is a vessel for water. It may be a flower pot.

It may be a water pot. But he has in his mind its size and its shape, and he begins to work with a purpose. Now not only does he work purposefully, he works very patiently.

He's not going to substitute beauty for speed. So he takes his time, and there he is. He is shaping this vessel as it seems good to him. He's working authoritatively. In other words, the vessel has no right to say to the potter, don't make me like that.

Make me like this. He is working with authority because he knows exactly what he has in mind. He is, after all, the potter. Let's look at the second feature and take a second picture very quickly, and that is the wheel. It says there in the last part of verse three, he was sitting at the wheel. Now what is the wheel? Well, we're going to relate this passage to ourselves, but also to Israel. Its first interpretation has to do with Israel, but I think it applies to us as well.

What is the wheel that God uses to shape us into the vessel that he desires? Well, first of all, it's circumstances. It's promotions. It is demotions. It is the hardships of life. It is sickness. It is discouragement. All of that gets poured into our lives because God says I have something in mind that I am shaping that only difficult circumstances will bring about.

I want you to be a special shape, a special vessel of honor, and that can't happen in your life as long as everything goes well. So he uses circumstances. He uses other people. He uses people with their injustice, with their intolerance, perhaps, in the sense that they are judgmental of us.

He uses pain that others bring upon us. And the point to be made is that the pot has no right to say to the potter, you can't use that. Paul says in Romans chapter 9, he says, can it be that the thing that is formed, namely the pot, can say to the potter, why have you made me this way? He says, does not the potter have even power over the clay to make a vessel unto honor and one unto dishonor? Isn't the potter the one that is in charge?

And the answer is yes. In fact, the potter can even use the devil as he did in the case of Job, who experienced all of this grief because God gave Satan the right and the power to be able to destroy his family and children. Or as in the case of Peter, where Jesus said, Simon, Simon, Satan has desire to have you, that he might sift you as wheat. And I've prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

You see, because the potter is sovereign, he can use whatever he likes. Now, in the case of Israel, God was using Jeremiah as the wheel. Jeremiah's message of judgment. Jeremiah's message that says, repent, repent, hear, O Israel, turn from your sin and repent.

And he was using Ezekiel and other prophets who lived during this period of time. God says, this is the wheel. I'm shaping you into a certain vessel.

And you can't be the vessel that I want you to be unless you listen to me and you obey me and you turn to me. Alright, that's the second picture that we've taken. We've taken a picture of the potter.

And by the way, when you go to Israel today, you can actually go into a potter's house and watch them work. We've taken a picture of the potter. We've taken a picture of the wheel. Now what we need to do is to look at the first vessel. Your Bibles are open and you'll notice it says there in verse four, and the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand and he reworked it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Vessel number one. Here is the potter. He is at work and suddenly he notices that the clay is lumpy. And because the clay is lumpy, the vessel loses its symmetry. And once you begin to try to straighten it out, no matter what instruments you use as it spins on the wheel, you discover that it is not going to be what you had in mind.

It is not going to be an ideal pot at all. And so the potter notices that it was spoiled. I think the King James, if I remember correctly, says that it was marred in the hands of the potter. I love that word, marred.

Lumpy, lack of symmetry, perhaps within it even some ingredients that have caused it to be that way. And so the first vessel is spoiled in the potter's hands. Now what we need to do as theologians, and every Christian is a theologian, you can't get saved unless you know some doctrine about Jesus and the whole doctrine of sin and how you need to believe in him. But we have to back off just a moment, catch our breath and ask ourselves this question. Does God, the Father, sometimes fail when he's making a vessel?

Clearly this potter was making a vessel that didn't turn out to be what he had in mind. Does God fail? Today it seems as if we have hundreds of students here from the Moody Bible Institute. I suggest that you ask your professors that tomorrow morning, whether or not God fails. The fact is this, that, and this is the time when I wish this wasn't just a sermon.

A classroom would be ideal where we could talk back and forth and clarify. But this has to be a sermon. You can't talk back to me out loud right now.

You can in your mind, but not directly. But let me say this, that when it comes to God's eternal purposes, his invisible eternal purposes, God of course never fails. God always achieves his purpose. Our God is in the heavens.

He can do whatever he pleases and does do whatever he pleases. God never, never fails in his eternal purpose. And the reason for that, and I know that some of you apparently were going to clap.

I'll give you that opportunity maybe a little later on. The reason for that is because God, even in his sovereignty, has in mind something for the vessels of destruction of all things. Paul makes that clear in the ninth chapter of Romans. I tell you, this is going to be a tough message that for some of you, you may turn away. But for others, it's going to be the means of deliverance.

So hang on with me. The fact is that God even uses marred vessels, spoiled vessels, for his eternal purposes. So God never fails in his eternal purpose.

But if you look at it narrowly, and you look at that through a very narrow lens, it certainly appears to us as if God has one thing in mind, and it doesn't turn out to be the way in which God intended it. And so the first vessel is actually spoiled and marred in the hands of the potter. Now there's a fourth picture that we have to take today. And the fourth picture is the next vessel that the potter makes. You'll notice it says that, and the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hands. I'm still in verse four. And he reworked it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to do.

It is the fourth picture. It is the other vessel. Now you and I might, if we are working with this lump of clay, and it was lumpy, and it lacked symmetry, and it resisted what we were trying to do, and that of course is the impression here, that Israel was clearly resisting what God intended to do, we'd probably say to ourselves, well let me take that lump of clay, and let me simply throw it away against the wall. Eventually it will become hardened, and it'll be entirely useless, and let me take a brand new lump and make a vessel that I think is going to turn out much better.

You and I would do that. But I find it interesting in the text that this particular man, this particular potter, doesn't do that. He takes the lump of clay, and the Bible says he remakes it. That is, he takes it and he crushes it. And he starts over again, as it were, so that he can finally make it into the vessel that really will be a blessing to him, a vessel unto honor, and one that is for his use, so that it can become a flower pot, a water pot, rather than a crackpot.

I thought I'd throw that in to just see if you were totally with me here. Now when he reshapes it, aren't you glad that God uses the same piece of clay? In the case of Israel, God says, I'm going to reshape you. It won't be that same generation of Israelites. It'll be another generation of Israelites. But we believe that a day is coming when God is even going to reshape Israel, and Israel will still recognize its Messiah. And eventually that nation, to which it is referred here, you'll notice the Bible applies this. Verse 5, verse 6, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as the potter does, declares the Lord. God is going to remake the nation.

The nation is going to recognize that Jesus is Messiah, and God is going to get glory from the vessel that will please him. But in our case, you see, what God does is he remakes the vessel, he begins with the raw material, and then when we come to know him as Savior, what does he do? What does a potter do after he has shaped the clay and it's the proper size? What the potter does is he puts it into a kiln. That is a furnace, a blast furnace. I don't know how many degrees it takes, but of course it is glazed and then it is, or afterwards it is glazed, it is in this oven that bakes that vessel. And I can imagine that if that vessel could talk, it would say, no, no, no, no, it's too hot.

But the potter keeps his hand on the thermostat, and he knows what is best for that vessel, and he turns up the heat because he's after something, he's after a very special vessel, and it can't be all that it can be unless it is put into the furnace. Yesterday Rebecca read to me a blog of someone who's going through a very hard time. It's somebody whose child is actually dying of cancer. And this woman spilled out her heart to God with, she said, I'm angry with God and she just wrote everything out. And you know, I don't judge her. And I'll tell you why, because all of us have felt that way. You know, when you read the Psalms, someday I'm going to preach on this. Someday I'm going to preach on the need for many people to forgive God. Not that he personally needs forgiveness, but we had better take care of some issues that we have with God. But we've all felt this way. David felt this way in the Psalms. I'll point that out when I preach on it someday, where David said things like I'm giving my complaint to God. God, where are you when I need you? Why is it that you give me always night and never day? And on and on and on he goes. God can handle your doubts. He can even handle your anger.

At the end of the day, though, I have no doubt that this woman will pass the test. But now when the heat is on, she's screaming like many of us have screamed and say, why and no, God. And by the way, when I was in Brazil, had a few moments, I wrote down 11 or 12 questions I'd like to ask God someday. God is even more mysterious to me in many ways. The older I get than when I was younger, when I thought I had him figured out, I have officially given up trying to figure God out because you see of the mystery.

I mean, why do young people die and good people die and and the evil live long lives? I mean, there's so many things about God we don't understand, but he says, trust me, I'll put you in the furnace and I will make you into the vessel that I desire. And when the kiln had done its work, when the furnace had done its work, the other vessel was exactly, exactly what the potter wanted.

And so there is the remade vessel. My friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. It's very important for us to realize that the message that you have just been listening to is not just for individuals, it is for the whole church. God has thrown the whole church into the fire, so to speak. But what is very comforting is the fact that God says, even if you don't understand my ways, I will be with you to the end. Meanwhile, how do we live in the midst of this fire, so to speak? I've written a book entitled The Church in Babylon. This book deals with all kinds of issues that we are facing today for which we need biblical answers, whether or not it has to do with issues regarding technology or immigration, false gospels.

We are living at a time when we have to think through what our stance should be. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you can do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. As a matter of fact, you can call right away. I'll give you that information once again.

Ask for the book The Church in Babylon, Heeding the Call to be a Light in the Darkness, where we will think together about how to live in the midst of our culture. You can go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Next time on Running to Win, getting a right view of ourselves and a right view of God.

Then life can begin to make sense. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-28 10:15:05 / 2023-05-28 10:23:39 / 9

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