Jeremiah 18

The Word Made Fresh

1This is the word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah:

2“Go down to the potter’s house. You will hear my words there.” 3I went and found the potter working at his wheel, 4but the clay bowl he was making became misshapen in his hands, and he reworked it into another shape that he thought was a good alternative.

5Then the LORD’s word came to me. 6“Can’t I do with you what this potter has done? You families of Israel are in my hands like clay in the potter’s hands. 7I might tell a nation or a kingdom that I will pluck them up and break them and destroy them, 8but if they turn from their evil, I will change my mind about the disaster I intended for them. 9Or, I might tell a nation or a kingdom that I will build it up and strengthen it, 10but if I see that they engage in wickedness and pay no attention to my voice, I will change my mind about supporting them. 11So, tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem that the LORD says this: ‘Look – I am a potter shaping something terrible against you and making a plan against you. Turn away now! All of you turn away from your evil ways and make amends for your behavior and your actions.’

12“But then, if they say, ‘It’s no use! We’ll follow our own plans, and each of us will do whatever we want regardless of how stubborn we are or how evil our desires.’ 13Then the LORD declares this: Ask among the other nations who has ever heard of anything like this? Virgin Israel has done a terrible thing. 14Does the snow of Lebanon ever leave its fields? Do the waters of the mountains ever stop running in spite of the cold? 15But my people have forgotten me. They make offerings to their delusions and have stumbled in their ways. Their ways have led them off the highway into byways. 16Their land has become a permanent horror to be hissed at. Everyone passing by is terrified and shakes their heads. 17Then like the west wind I will scatter them before their enemies. And on their day of destruction, I will show my back to them, but not my face.”

18Then the people said, “Let’s plot against Jeremiah. We have priests to instruct us and wise ones to counsel us and prophets to speak to us. We’ll bring charges against him and ignore what he is saying.”

19Help me, LORD! Listen to what my enemies are saying!
20Is evil the wage given to the good?
They have dug my grave!
Remember how I came to you to speak on their behalf,
and how I begged you to turn away from your anger?
21So let their children suffer from famine,
and throw them out to face the power of the sword.
Let their wives be childless and widowed.
Let their men die from the plague,
and their young men be killed by the sword in battle.
22May a cry be heard from their homes
when you bring their enemies to invade them.
After all, they have dug a pit and laid traps for me!
23But you know about all their plots to do away with me, LORD.
Don’t forgive their wickedness,
don’t close your eyes to their sinfulness,
but allow them to be tripped up in your sight
and deal with them in your anger.


1-11: God gives Jeremiah an object lesson by sending him to watch a potter at work, telling him that God is like a potter, and Judah is like a lump of clay. God has in mind how Judah is going to be shaped but shaped for destruction. But if they collapse like the clay in the potter’s hands — that is, if their wicked nature collapses and they change their ways and repent of their wickedness — God will shape them into a new design, one that seems good to the LORD.

12-17: But the people will not listen. God made them a covenant people, but they have behaved in a way that is not in keeping with God’s purpose for them, like a mountain stream run dry. The practice of pagan worship (“they make offerings to their delusions”) is lifted up as the primary cause for God’s having rejected them.

18: We are allowed to listen in on the people’s reaction to Jeremiah’s pronouncements.

19-23: An interesting twist in the plot has occurred. Jeremiah, so determined to defend the people before God and beg for mercy, learns of their plans to have him arrested. His reaction is completely normal, and completely surprising. He tells God to go ahead and unload on them.


Imagine you are the potter and the bowl being shaped is your life. Can you see yourself as God sees you? Does the “shape” of your life need to be revisited?