The pictures of God we find throughout scripture are varied, but most often, when we think about the Old Testament, we think of God as King, Ruler, or Judge. A God who sits somewhere far-off, removed from day-to-day life yet casting judgement upon life on earth.
And in the first seventeen chapters of Jeremiah, that seems to be the primary picture of God. God repeatedly tells Jeremiah that God is about to destroy the nation of Israel because they have repeatedly disobeyed and ignored God’s instructions. It’s a doom and gloom picture, and the only thing the prophet Jeremiah can do is weep for what is to come to the nation of Israel.
But then, in Jeremiah 18, God instructs Jeremiah to go to a house. And when Jeremiah enters the house, he finds a potter bent over the wheel, clay spattered from head to toe, his hands pressing and shaping the spinning clay, working to draw forth some work of art.
And God says to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
God as Potter is far different image than God as Judge.
When I was a camp counselor I had a cabin during our annual “Fine Arts Camp.” Each camper had chosen a form of art to learn and experience during the week, and several of my campers were in the pottery class.
And the thing I remember most, is that every day after class these girls would come racing back to the cabin hoping to claim the first shower. Because even after a relatively short class, they were covered from head to toe in water and clay.
Because pottery is a hands-on process. Every step of the process involves working directly and closely with the clay. A potter doesn’t just type a few things into a computer, then step away to allow a robot to do the work. Rather, the potter is intimately and actively involved in every step of the process.
And I’m struck by such a picture of God. In such an image we become a lump of clay being molded and formed by the skilled hands of a potter. And God becomes the artist, covered head to toe in the stuff of our making; forming and shaping us into a work of art.