God has shown Himself faithful and let us take heart this day. Let us set ourselves to being faithful to the Lord in this coming year.
This morning I want to share a few thoughts about clay in the Potter’s hand.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and 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 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. Jeremiah 18:1-4
This is a well-known portion where the Lord sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house. … as it seemed good to him. Have you realised what God has intended for you? Is your daily morning prayer, ‘Lord, what is best for You today?’ We are prone to strive for the best for ourselves. Have you surrendered your life to Him? Are you on the Potter’s wheel? Have you decided that your life is on the Potter’s wheel? Your life is not your own, but it is held by the Master, by God Almighty. Child, have you realised that your life is not your own? Have you ever prayed and said, ‘Lord, my future is in Your hands, not in mine or my parents’, but in Your hands.’
I read recently about CT Studd who lived during a wonderful era when God found young men and women who bowed to His call. He was perhaps the best cricket bowler of his time. With his two brothers, they were the finest cricketers England could offer. But his heart was touched when people came from the mission field, from countries that served strange gods, and asked, ‘Where are the missionaries, the young men who will stand in the gap for the Lord?’
In China, it was not easy but CT Studd yearned for the day when he would be able to converse with the Chinese and tell them in their own language about the Saviour. He wrote to his mother and said, ‘Mom, I regret the time I spent on cricket. I regret seeking to achieve heights in the world. I cannot explain the joy and peace I now feel. I have never experienced such joy – the joy of bringing the Gospel to lost souls. If only I had started earlier. If only my heart was touched at a younger age.’
In this text, the Lord also speaks about nations and kingdoms that need to heed His call, lest they lose His blessing, lest evil comes upon them because of their unwillingness to surrender to God.
At that time CT Studd inherited £29 000. He prayed over this inheritance. He didn’t make it his own. He thought of his co-workers on the mission field. He gave £5000 each to George Muller, the Moody Bible Institute, the Salvation Army in India, and to George Holland’s work with England’s poor. He then gave £1 000 to 4 or 5 others. When he had about £2 600 left, he gave it to his wife because she was willing to share her life with him. What did the wife say? ‘No, I cannot accept this. Give it to others. They need it.’
They sought to shape their lives according to what seemed best to the Lord. God can form your life the best. Have you placed yourself as a lump of clay onto God’s wheel? Maybe you were once willing and you prayed, ‘Lord, I put myself onto the Potter’s wheel. I will be in Your hands.’ But you do not have a heart like Studd to support those who further the cause of Jesus, who want the nations and kingdoms to receive a blessing from God. You may be filled with fault finding and criticism. ‘I wouldn’t do it like that. He could have spent it in a much better way!’ Reconsider your criticism. Is it worth anything? What do you gain through criticism? You have turned your back on the very calling you felt. You are busy with something, which you might call ‘another part of God’s vineyard’ but is God in that vineyard or is it a vineyard of your own making? You may have sought recognition but people did not recognise you and all your efforts, all your denying yourself. You spent yourself yet people did not acknowledge you and thank you. You took your eyes off the Saviour and off God who bought you at a price, and you have built for yourself an empire, your own life, over which you have control. You decide the way things should go and you ensure that you do not make the mistakes others have made. How disappointed the Lord must be if you somehow jump out of His hands and form yourself into something which is your understanding of what God’s will is for you.
The word came to Jeremiah. The Lord found a Jeremiah. At the beginning Jeremiah said that he was too young to speak. Who would listen to him? Read how God instructed Him and said that He would be with him. God repeatedly spoke to Jeremiah because the Lord wanted to speak to His nation and bring them back from their idolatry.
So, this is the word that came from the Lord: arise and go down to the potter’s house. The prophets of the Lord, the ministers of the Lord must deny themselves. Often God’s way is one of humility; of ‘going down’. Without putting on that robe of humility, we will not receive God’s blessing in 2024.
So I went down to the potter's house…in German it refers to the potter’s workshop. It is wonderful that prophets are willing to go down to the workshop. Every Sunday should be God’s workshop where He works on our hearts and minds. ‘Lord, if I go into a service may it be Your workshop, not mine, Yours Lord, because You want to speak to me,’ should be our prayer. A car that does not run smoothly needs to go to the workshop. Sometimes you need to pay a great price for that repair. Sometimes you need panel beating and a hammer. The car must be worked on so that it functions, and its purpose is fulfilled. How wonderful if God can bring His message and speak to us in His workshop.
Jeremiah did what the word of God instructed him and when he got there he saw the potter at his wheel. The clay is just a lump. Do you realise that you are just a lump if you are not in the hands of the potter? Do you realise you will just be a lump in 2024 if you don’t submit to the hands and fingers of the Master? And as he was working and shaping the clay, suddenly it malformed. The potter was able to start afresh and form it into another shape. God is gracious, He can form us again if we are marred in His hands.
It happens so easily that we take our own road and speak our own words, and God is unable to glorify Himself. God thought that He would send you into a situation and you would be the one to speak the right words, but you failed. Someone borrows your car and drives it roughly. He does not have a feeling for a vehicle like you do. He slams into a pothole and bursts a tyre. You do not find the words the Lord gave you to help that person because you were filled with your own anger and bitterness. You tell that person how you feel about it, not how God feels about it.
The Lord may give you friends but suddenly they speak about things you had not thought they would speak about. You hear the Lord telling you to correct them and tell them that this is not how a friend should talk or this is not what Jesus instructed us to do. You remain silent and this subject grows. You heard it but you did not correct it.
Remember that young boy of 14 years old who heard and listened to what other schoolboys said at break after the Biology lesson. One night he woke up and the Lord said to him, ‘With that thing in your heart, you cannot enter heaven, you will have to go to the other place.’ He took a torch and wrote that thing down and decided that he would expose it first thing in the morning.
While his father was still in bed, he knocked on the door and his father said he should enter. He said to his father, ‘Pappa, the Lord spoke to me last night.’ His father wondered what God had said to his first-born son. He said, ‘God called me by my name and said to me, with this thing in your heart, you will not enter heaven.’ He told his father the details of what had happened at school and how his interest was awakened through that talk. His father prayed that the Lord would forgive him. Then the boy threw himself onto his dad’s chest and said, ‘Pappa, it is gone!’ Isn’t it wonderful to experience that you are in God’s hands? That was a lesson to us and if you have not heard it, may it be a lesson to you. Two weeks thereafter he was killed in an accident.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “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 are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Jeremiah 18:5-10
Our lives, families and nations can be blessed if we allow the Lord to take our lives - this clay - and mould it. If you resist, or you have a better idea, you choose the consequences of disobedience and resisting God.
On New Year’s Day in 1929 the University of California played Georgia Tech in a football match. Roy Riegels got the ball after an opponent’s fumble and ran 65 yards in the wrong direction. He probably thought he was running in the right direction. One of his own teammates tackled him just before the wrong goal line. He could have burst out furiously and said, ‘What are you doing? I was heading for the goal and now you have spoiled it all.’ But thank God for teammates who can tackle us and pull us to the ground and tell us that we are heading for the wrong goal! It goes against our own feelings. Sometimes you need to be pulled to the ground to get down to earth again. Later, Roy thanked his teammate and recognised him as his best friend. From that day he got a new name, Wrong Way Riegels. Years afterwards whenever he was introduced, people would exclaim, ‘I know you! You’re the one who ran in the wrong direction in that match.’
We have all once gone the wrong way. There may be memories that haunt us. Memories of sin wake us up at night. If only I could forget, if only I could begin again. There may be thoughts that you have had, and you wish that you would never have allowed that thought entrance into your mind. It is never too late to begin again. Take this into your pocket for the coming year. Make it dear to you: God’s forgiveness is the door to a new beginning. I am sure many of us have said, ‘Lord, I am going into the New Year, having sought Your forgiveness.’
‘The counsel of the unfailing Lord I seek in preference to my own judgement or the advice of friends,’ wrote Charles Spurgeon. The counsel of the infallible God - shall we take that counsel with us into the new year? Take the word of God to counsel you? Listen to the Lord’s messengers who are sent to you. They are true messengers of God who seek to counsel you according to God’s will, not according to their own evaluation of the situation.
‘I put myself into His hand for guidance. I know not the way that I shall choose. The Lord shall choose mine inheritance for me.’ Charles Spurgeon
What a wonderful picture of devoting ourselves to the Lord’s wheel, to that Potter who knows how to form our lives as nobody else. May the Lord be merciful to me, that my heart will long for what these men of God have said. ‘Oh Lord, write it on my heart. Form me according to Your Hands – not according to my wish or my desires.’
Conclusion Jabulani Dube
Clay is something I am familiar with. You really must work hard on clay and you must seek until you get a good piece of clay. As herd boys we would look around for a good piece of clay and when we got hold of it, we had to work to make it soft and get rid of bits and pieces of stone. Only then could it be shaped into something. After you had made your object, you showed it to someone else and they made suggestions on how to form it in a better way. We have been formed by God in this revival.
As I look back on this year, I see what God has done for us. He has formed us by speaking to us through services. Yes, we are indeed like this clay. Allow God to work in your life and there where you have not yet been helped, God can form and re-shape you.
If you want to make a tool you will put a piece of iron in the fire until it is red hot and then you will hit it with a hammer, shape it and grind it to make it sharp until it is usable. If you want to be a vessel used of God, you need to allow God to do that with you as well, to shape you in that red hot fire. If you are still overcome by different sins in your life, you should allow God to deal with you and those sins and make with you what He wants. Then God will say, that is now a vessel I can use. I have shaped it, dealt with it and now I can use it. A clay pot is shaped and fired in the oven. Gold must go through the fire to be purified too. Allow God to work in your life, deal with you and mould you, like that clay and then you will see what God can do with you. Any useful object, whether a wooden spoon or whatever, must be worked on to get rid of all the rough spots until it is useful.
The one who brought the message said that we should heed those who preach to us. The people opposed Jeremiah and eventually they wanted to get rid of him by throwing him in a pit. They did not like his messages which came from God. There are many who lose out on God speaking because they find fault with the preacher. ‘Today it is a woman speaking, I’m not going to listen.’ ‘Or this one… I won’t listen to him.’ God still needs to work on you. Someone saw Jeremiah being thrown into the pit and he reported it to the king. They said that he should be removed from the hole. The nation had grown tired of Jeremiah’s messages and opposed them. Have you grown tired of God’s messages that you hear each Sunday? Jeremiah was taken out of the pit and that is when he said that the heart of man is evil and wicked, who can understand it? God saw me from afar and had mercy on me. We were far away in our mire and God said he would reach forth His hand and lift us out of the pit.
Adam fell into a deep sleep when God took a rib from his side and formed Eve. Young girl, it is not for you to say who you will marry. Young man don’t say I like that one’s figure. If you are on that level where you want to choose this one or that one, you are spiritually deranged. If that spirit enters you, it is evil. Allow yourself to be in the Potter’s hand.
We must examine our lives. Has God been able to shape me as He wants? Why do these sins still rule my life? You cannot just take a lump of raw clay and shape it, it must be worked on and softened. Has God been able to do that in your life? Why do you still get irritated? Where is Jesus when that happens? When you commit your sin, do you say that Jesus should leave for a moment. I agree with David when he said, ‘Oh Lord, create within me a pure heart, and please do not remove your Holy Spirit from me.’ Maybe the Lord has left you long ago. You are like an empty paraffin tank. Examine yourself. What was it like when you received the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit into your life and how is it today?
In 1964 someone took a service. He used a little bottle with water in it which he showed us. He asked whether it was drinkable, and we agreed that it was. He shook the bottle and it became dirty. He asked us again if we would drink it and we said we would not. At the bottom of this bottle was still dirt which muddied the water when the bottle was shaken. So, if I step on someone’s toes and he gets upset, there is still dirt lurking somewhere in the heart.
Has God been able to form you as He wants to? If Jesus has been able to work in your life and mould you as that clay, you will be able to testify - I once lived like that, but now I live like this. You must discern for yourself, as you enter this new year. Are you entering with a new life, or are you taking things from your old life with you into the new year? A person ought to cry out for themself to God, ‘Oh God, have mercy on me, I still get upset, irritated, have bad dreams, am immoral – please help me God.’