For example, Jeremiah Chapter 18 begins the famous prophecy of the potter’s clay. But the implication of the potter’s clay to a disobedient Israel is not known until Chapter 19, which also diverges to relating the hard work of the prophet, telling hard truths to the people, and putting himself at risk.
Then Chapter 20 reports such brutal abuse of the prophet by the local authorities that Jeremiah expresses great regret for having been born and utters serious anger toward God. And Chapter 21 makes us rethink the recent wildfires in the wine country of California.
It is hard to follow what is going on.
But by rearranging the story according to the Cycle, God’s intent through Jeremiah becomes crystal clear. Try looking at it this way:
- Command: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words”…”Thus says the Lord: Execute justice in the morning and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed, lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it" (18:2; 21:11-12,ESV).
- Temptation: “O Lord, you have deceived me…For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (20:7a-8).
- Disobedience: “Now Pashhur the priest…heard Jeremiah prophesying these things…Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin gate of the house of the Lord” (20:1a, 1c, 2).
- Disunity: “…King Zedekiah sent him [Jeremiah] to Pashhur…and Zephaniah the priest…saying, ‘Inquire of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us’” (21:1b-2).
- Warning: “…when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, ‘The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. For thus says the Lord: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on’” (20:3).
- Judgment: “The houses of Jerusalem – all the houses on whose roofs…drink [wine] offerings have been poured out to other gods…I have set my face against this city…the king of Babylon…shall burn it with fire" (19:13; 21:10).
- Repentance: “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning what I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it” (18:7-8).
- Never-ending love of God: “’Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death…he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war” (21:8-9).
- Restoration: “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…’can I not do with you what the potter has done?...Behold, like clay in a potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (18:4,6).
The prophet profits by delivering the message that the spoiled clay jar known as Israel will be smashed by God, but a remnant of the clay, God’s people, will be remolded by the potter’s hands into the church of Jesus Christ.
And the remnant from which Jesus will eventually rise (the root of Jesse) will not include the king, the false prophets, the sleazy priests, or those who choose (later) to defect to Egypt.
It will include the prophet!