(God says He can change His mind)
Over 30 times in Jeremiah a chapter begins with something similar to “The Lord spoke to me about such and such or said…” Jeremiah was in constant contact with the Lord [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18].
In chapter 18 we find God telling Jeremiah that he is no longer satisfied with the Israel-Judah of His original design and is going to remake them. Remake them into what is a later chapter.
Verse 1: “And the Lord told…” Jeremiah is about to get a visual lesson at a clay potter’s shop. There will be people there, in the streets and commercial center. Jeremiah is instructed to go there, observe the potter at work, and then speak to those around him when God puts the words in his mouth. In the same sentence (v2) Jeremiah may have been in a dream state as God tells him to RISE UP, arise,… The ERV leaves out the word “rise” but such a word indicates he is to get up. We know that in the working and waking hours craftsmen make their wares to sell in the afternoon markets. This is not of real important but we can glean from this that Jeremiah may have been hearing the Lord in a dream; i.e. in the spirit [John 4:24].
When Jeremiah “rises up” and gets there, the potter is busy. The potter however is in a sort of dilemma. He is not in the process of making what he originally planned with the lump of clay but is remolding it to something different. Why? V4 says: (ERV) “He was making a pot from clay. But there was something wrong with the pot.” Before going any further, this chapter is about God re-creating his chosen people of Israel-Judah into something other than his original plans… “But there was something wrong with the pot.” The potter was remaking the original pot into something still of value but different from his original design. But to remake or remold the clay, he had to first lay hands on it, clump it back into a heap, and then begin again.
- The Potter represents God
- The clay represents Israel-Judah
Verse 5: At this point Jeremiah gets the analogy of the clay, the potter and Israel. Note that it is NOT just Judah to which God is speaking through Jeremiah. How do we know (yada)? V6: “O House of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD…” (ESV). HOUSE OF ISRAEL? The ten northern Tribes of Israel were dispersed by the Assyrians into the neighboring lands far and near 120 years earlier. However, God still holds them as His chosen and His people. He isn’t pleased with them so chapter 18 explains what God plans. He is going to reshape them but using the same lump of clay. This will take many years and up to End Time. We will discuss this further in later chapters in this Jeremiah study.
Verses 7-10 God is declaring once again His total sovereignty over man. He can break us up, cast us out, reshape us or keep us under His thumb. It all depends on the attitude and heart of the kingdom, nation or people to which he is making this declaration; even America. Congress cannot prevent it and neither can some Circuit Court or federal judge. The promise, as we have discussed so often in our bible blogs once again fits the “If you_____, then I will _____.” God tells Jeremiah that if the people of any (v7) nation or kingdom repent, I, God can change my mind. God is not arbitrary in that He is unrelenting or merciless. However, we once again glean from this passage that God includes ANY group of peoples; not just Judah. But it goes both ways. A given people must continue (v10) or return from their evil ways of rejecting God. He will “relent of the good he intended for them” if they don’t. Be careful America. We were once a Christian nation but former President Obama set the record quite straight when in his ignorance declared America to “not just be a Christian nation (anymore)” (emphasis mine).
In this given situation the CEV translation is good: “…but [if or when] its people start disobeying me and doing evil, then I will change my mind and not help them at all” (18:10). In a sense God is still offering Judah-Israel the chance to be redeemed; no 70 year bondage in Babylon but only if…! In carefully reading this passage we can also reason that God’s original plan for man is good, not bad. We still have chapters 19-52 to discuss so it doesn’t end here. However verse 12 tells us the Judeans refuse the offer. How blatant can one be? Proverbs 12:1 tells us “he who loves correction loves knowledge; but whoever hates correction is stupid.”
By using a correlation with the snowcapped mountains of Lebanon and the waters that flow from these mountains in verse 14, God renounces his protection of the people of Judah; the one’s he now identifies as “this people.” God recognizes all the Tribes of Israel as arrogant and self-centered. As he did with the Pharaoh of the time of Moses, he turns them over to their own ways without his intervention, protection or influence. He does not bring the disaster as some teach. He allows it to happen. Babylon is already on a military roll through the Middle East conquering even their former masters the Assyrians. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, is identified as God’s servant in Jeremiah 27:6. This isn’t what it might seem to be at first read. We will discuss this in greater detail when we get to chapter 27. If you can’t wait, go to our study of the Book of Daniel. It is explained in one of these articles.
“For they have forgotten me…” (v15). A better translation of the word “for” in this verse would be “because.” “Forgotten” or epilanthanomai in the Greek, one of the longest Greek words used in scripture, means, to “put out of mind; totally neglect as opposed to reject.” God is not even a consideration by the peoples of Judah at this time. To put this in modern terms, absence does not breed a stronger bond; it breeds total forgetfulness. At this time in history, Judaism is no longer a way of life with God Jehovah, but it is a religion. We can see from this passage why 600 years later the Scribes, Priests, and Pharisees had no recognition of their Messiah Jesus when he was born in Bethlehem.
In verses 16 and 17 we get the purpose of the practice of modern day shunning or excommunication; a severing of all ties with an individual or group ostracized. (V17; ESV) Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.” The Jewish Publication Society Bible (JPS) puts it differently. They say that God will look upon THEIR backside instead of their faces. Think about this difference.
At this point in chapter 18 Jeremiah shifts gears. He points out to God that his own people are planning ways to remove themselves from the words of Jeremiah. They do it, initially, by declaring the Law of Moses and the insight of the Levite priests to be of a greater value than these words from Jeremiah. They are declared words, not prophecies. Besides, during this time and in previous chapters Jeremiah mentions that there are others who declare themselves prophets with words contrary to what Jeremiah says; i.e. the tickling of their ears. Recall in chapter 7 of Jeremiah these people declare they have the Temple. They forget that it is God not the Temple that is their protection.
There is a saying that goes something like this: “No good deed shall go unpunished.” In essence this is what Jeremiah points out to God in verse 20. “I have been good to the people of Judah but now they are paying me back with evil…” (ERV). The ERV adds that not only are his fellow countrymen plotting to wage a war of tongues (debate) with Jeremiah but they plan to kill him. However, Jeremiah has the divine protection of God (Jeremiah 1:17, 18). By this time and as expounded upon in later chapters, Jeremiah is asking God to pour out His wrath. “Let their children starve and let women lose their husbands” he says to God in verse 21.
If we look closely at what Jeremiah is asking of God, he is asking for judgment upon his own people due to their total rejection of the message he delivered to them from God. Not only do the Judeans reject the message, but plot to kill the messenger. How might we see this in light of today? We are the messenger but is there a limit to our rejection? Is there a point of no return? Might there be a time we “shake the soil from our feet as we leave a place that has rejected God, the message and the messenger? [Matthew 10:12; Luke 10:10-11] Read these passages and judge for yourself.