Jeremiah 18:1-2 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.
Jeremiah went to the potter’s house, and found him working at his wheel. The pot between his hands was marred, so he started over and shaped it as he pleased. Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does? . . . Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand (Jeremiah 18:6), said God.
I took a pottery class in high school, where I learned to knead the clay to make it soft, and to throw it down to make it pliable. Then I spun it on the wheel, removed a stone, and started over more than once. After it was glazed, and fired in a kiln, I had a piece of art.
It is not easy for clay to become porcelain, or for us to become like Christ. But if we yield to our Maker, he will shape us into something good. It is amazing what God can do with a simple lump of clay. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8), wrote Isaiah.
Jeremiah 23:24 Do not I fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
To go from one end of the universe to the other, even at the speed of light, takes billions of years. But even if the universe was ten times larger, it could not contain God. The God of our imagination is always smaller than the God who exists, and even our greatest thought of God is nothing compared to reality. God is so great that he cannot be contained, and there is nowhere that he is not present. Regardless how far you may feel from God, he is always closer than you think.
Jeremiah 26:2 Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.
Jeremiah may have been tempted to leave out the hardest parts of God’s message. Preachers are human, after all, and they want to please their listeners. But the desire to please people must never overrule the command to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—so help us God.
The word of God includes law and gospel, threats and promises, blessings and curses. There are words of grace, mercy and prosperity as well as wrath, judgment and hardship. Preachers miss the mark whenever they focus on the positive at the expense of the negative, or on the negative at the expense of the positive.
People need the whole word of God, not just the parts that please them, or displease them. When Paul finished his work in Ephesus he could say with a clear conscience, I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God (Acts 20:27). God’s word to Jeremiah applies to preachers everywhere. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.
Jeremiah 28:10-11 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and he said before all the people, This is what the Lord says: In the same way I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.
Jeremiah wore a yoke to show it was time for God’s people to serve the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:1-7). The false prophet Hananiah embarrassed Jeremiah by removing the yoke and breaking it in front of everyone. Then he boldly predicted that Babylon’s power would be broken within two years. It was an impressive confrontation that Hananiah seemed to win.
Jeremiah 28:15-17 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore this is what the Lord says: I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord. In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.
Hananiah was a false prophet who died prematurely for preaching a false message in God’s name. Not all religious disputes are settled this clearly, but this raises the issue of false religious claims. Other religions disagree with Christianity, and many who claim to be Christians preach a different gospel (Galatians 1:6), wrote Paul. With so much confusion, it is tempting to say nothing at all.
At times this may be wise, but we are also encouraged to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (Jude 1:3), wrote Jude. We should study God’s word so we can speak it faithfully whenever it is appropriate.
God told the prophet Jeremiah not to back down from false prophets who only spoke their dreams. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain? declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:28). False religious claims will endure until the Lord returns. Until then, God’s people should know the truth, and speak it, even if the whole world disagrees with them.
Reflection and Review
How does God mold his people?
Why are preachers tempted to compromise God’s word?
Why are there so many false religions?