An outstanding businessman came to us and said, “My life is a complete wreck. I have spent so much this past year on psychiatrists—they cannot patch me up. I’m too far gone to save. The only hope for me is if God would remake me.”
Our minds immediately flew to Jeremiah, the 18th chapter, and the wonderful story of the potter’s house.
Jeremiah says, “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:3-4).
Then Jeremiah went on to quote God as saying, “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:6).
Here is a vivid picture of life painted by the Prophet Jeremiah. He portrays God as the divine potter and man as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.
What an accurate portrayal of people! We, like that vessel, were made of earth. The Bible says, “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
Three points stand out boldly in the parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.
First, He made it
Man, in his pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that he is self-created. He would wrest himself from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!” He would devise all sorts of theories to convince himself that he came into being independent of Almighty God. But despite all his claims of self-creation, the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.
The Bible says that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him” (Genesis 1:26-27).
And, notice, God did not make man haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made him in His own image and likeness: a creature with which He could commune and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.
That heart of yours, which, despite its evil and waywardness, in its serious moments cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion with the divine Potter.
That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.
Thousands of people admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community to live in have not brought about the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that man was created in the image of God and can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until he comes back to God.
You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior. If there is no will, there can be no true love.
God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved. As we all know, man failed. Curiosity, lust and pride caused man to turn his back on all the golden promise of Eden and to ply his way to the forbidden tree with its peculiar beguiling.
Second, God’s vessel became marred
That paradise of peace was turned into a prison of confusion. The sun sank over the fringe of Eden and the gloom of despair and loneliness settled down upon the world. Man, who a few hours previously had basked in the glorious light of Eden, now hid in the shadows of a haunted forest and the sword of his conscience cut deeply into his soul. “The vessel had become marred in the hands of the Potter.” Man had become a sinner, a transgressor, a disobedient child of creation. He was immediately classified as an alien from God and even as an enemy.
The wreckage of sin’s devastation can be seen strewn along the shores of time. History is full of it. Cain, vanishing into a forest of condemnation, with his innocent brother’s blood crying from the ground; the faithless people of Noah’s generation, slipping into the relentless flood of God’s judgment; the sufferings of a wicked Pharaoh, as he wantonly defied God’s plea of mercy; Samson, who once knew the presence of God’s Spirit, blindly and remorsefully turning the mill of his enemies; King Saul, consumed with envy, falling on the edge of his own sword; Jezebel, defiant and unbelieving, cast from the window of her palace for the dogs to eat; David, broken and shattered with sorrow brought on by his own imagination.
It seemed that God’s plan had failed—that Satan, who coveted God’s throne, had outwitted the Most High, and that the whole human experiment had ended ingloriously. But the Potter was not thwarted by the marring of His vessel. Immediately, in love and mercy, He put His plan into action to restore the marred vessel to a vessel of honor. Even in the judgment He pronounced was a hidden promise of hope. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The seed of the woman was to be the Son of God who would fatally bruise Satan’s head and restore ruined man to God. So, although the story of Genesis contains tragedy, it also holds out radiant hope and a golden promise of restoration.
The fall—the marring of man—had proved one thing: man’s righteousness had utterly failed. God gave him liberty and he abused it. God gave him strength and he dissipated it. God gave him privilege and he squandered it. This vessel that God had created broke at the point of man’s responsibility and became utterly marred.
Every day a million scenes like the one in Eden are reenacted. Men trade their divine rights for a pittance of pleasure, their favor with God for the tawdry things of this world. Each day a thousand sons of Adam slip away into the shadows of their spiritual Eden. But now as then, God in patience and tenderness seeks to restore and redeem His marred vessels.
Through Christ, a way has been opened to God, but now as then, we must approach Him in the manner which He has prescribed, and not our own.
Third, He made it again into another vessel
My first impulse was to use the word mended for this point, but it doesn’t fit the picture or the parable. The Book of Jeremiah doesn’t say the Potter mended the vessel; it says, “He made it again into another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make.”
Our ruin was complete, but our redemption is even more complete. We were utterly marred; we are made completely new in Christ. We were utterly lost; we are saved through Him to the uttermost. Salvation is not a patching up of the old man—it is a new creation. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The emphasis today, in many circles, is on patching up the old nature. They see in it some degree of righteousness remaining; some hope apart from a divine miracle; some way of skirting the doctrine of the new birth. “Think good thoughts; do good deeds; be the person you ought to be!” But human nature in its unredeemed state is helpless to think good thoughts, to do good deeds, to measure up to God’s requirements.
The Bible says, “You were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:12-14).
A gospel that appeals to our reason or righteousness will always be popular, for people like to feel that we can circumvent the cross of Christ. The cross left no footing for man to stand upon. It put the responsibility of man’s redemption upon Christ. Had not man failed? And was he not and is he not continuing to fail? Hasn’t history proved that “there is none righteous, no, not one”? (Romans 3:10).
The cross comes with its mighty power to bring low as well as to exalt, for it exalts none but those whom first it humbles. It calls the pious worshiper to come down out of his ivory tower and to take his place at the cross with the outcast and the vile. It tells the earnest seeker and the anxious inquirer that by their own efforts they are made not one whit better until they put their hope fully in Him who was slain. It tells the sincere evangelical, whose mind is a treasury of orthodox doctrines, that he must stand beside the drunkard and harlot and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
I realize that these are hard sayings, but the Bible says that the cross is an offense to the righteousness of man. The cross says that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). It decrees that every person, marred by sin, must be remade.
It is more than pardon, for forgiveness cancels the old wrong but leaves a man where he is morally. It is even more than justification, for justification makes a man judicially worthy in the sight of God. The cross means life. The theme of the New Testament is life, eternal life. “In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
So the heavenly Potter, through a process that unfolded through the centuries, “made it again into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make.”
But the will of man remains intact. The first man used his will to choose death. You must use your will to choose life! Every provision has been made. Every promise is yours, but it will not be forced upon you. God invites, but you must come. The Bible says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.