Jack Graham - Hope for Broken Lives
We wonder, with all the hurt and heartache and brokenness our world, is there hope? This is Jeremiah 18, a living illustration. We all typically like illustrations, whether they are great stories that come out of the Bible, or stories that we hear from pulpits or lessons that we learn, parables instruct us. This is a living illustration at the potter's house. Now making pottery is one of the oldest, most ancient arts, and it is virtually unchanged, this art of making pottery, unchanged from ancient times. If you went to a potting shed in the Middle East or even in this country today, if you would find a house of ceramics, you would discover that pottery is made virtually the same way as it has been done year after year, after generation after generation. A few minor changes, maybe some motorization and so on, but ultimately there is the clay and there is a wheel that is operated with a treadle, either motorized by your feet, and the potter puts the clay on the wheel and turns it and shapes and makes a vessel.
So God takes us to this vivid illustration in Jeremiah 18 to teach us some vital lessons at the potter's house. And what do we learn on our trip to the potter's shed? That is that failure is not final when you put your life in the master's hands. That's where we're going in this message today. That your failure, your brokenness is not final! It needs not to be final when you put your life in the Master's hand. This was originally spoken to a nation, the nation of Israel. And certainly it's a word for America today. As Jeremiah described the nation of Israel, we are facing disaster! We have political problems; we have moral problems; we are broken morally, spiritually, politically, financially! We are a broken people and only God can fix it! Only God can change the future of our nation!
And what is true for the nation is true for you and me! That we are on the potter's wheel. We, like the clay, are in the Master's hand. What do we learn there? Let's think for a few moments about the shaping of a person's life. Verse 3 tells us that the potter places the clay on the wheel. We don't have to wonder who is the potter because God tells us in verse 6 that He is the potter. "Can I not do with you, O Israel, as the potter does with the clay"?
The potter represents God. He is the divine Potter. And like the potter, God makes us and shapes us. He sovereignly breaks us and makes us into the persons that He desires us to be. God is the master workman, and He has a plan, a purpose in making every life. The Bible says "we are fearfully and wonderfully made". But the handprint of God is upon every life, the echo of God is in every soul. And His design, His desire is to make a beautiful vessel for His glory, for His use; valuable and beautiful and useful. You are valuable because you are loved by God! And your soul, your very being cries out to know the God who made you, who created you for Himself. You were made by Him and for Him!
Augustine of Hippo said, "O God, You have created us for Yourself, and we are restless until we find our rest in Thee". Well put, Augustine. We will never find happiness or hope in life in chasing pleasure or money or possessions or property! We'll not find it in drugs or alcohol or sex. These do not bring peace and promise that only God can give; the happiness that is expected. You know they say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and over again and expecting a different result. Sin is spiritual insanity because somehow we think that by more sin or by living my own life, my own way again and again and again, I will ultimately get a different result and be happy. The fact is God is for your happiness. He made you for His goodwill. The chief end of man is to know God, enjoy Him forever! You were made to know Him and the happiness and fulfillment and the forever life that He gives.
The reason that some of you don't have security and identity in your life is because you are living outside of a relationship with God who made you! God is the divine Potter! But what is the clay? Who is the clay? Well, of course, we be the clay. We are the clay. Now, that's not very flattering, is it, for me to stand before a very highly good looking, intelligent group like yourself and call you a congregation of clods! Clay! And clay is colorless. It's basically worthless in and of itself. It's just wet dirt. But when God gets His hands, when the divine potter gets His hand on the clay, and begins to shape it and make it and even break it and bend it, He makes something beautiful of our life.
You know the Bible says that we were made from the dust of the earth. It's often said at funerals that from dust to dust and ashes to ashes, that we are made from the dust of the ground. We return to the dust of the ground. A little boy heard that in Sunday school class and he went home and asked his mom about it. He said, "Mom, is it true? From dust to dust we are made and from dust to dust we shall return? Is that true"? She said, "Yes, son, it's true. That's what the Bible says". He said, "Well, you better go look under my bed then, mom, because there's somebody under there either coming or going"! You are clay but you're God's clay! You're His workmanship.
Now what is the wheel? If the potter, the divine Potter takes the clay and begins to work with it and, having created it, begins to caress it and move it and shape it, he then when it's just right, pliable enough, throws it on the wheel and the wheel spins it round and round! And there's a treadle at his feet that he is moving, like a peddle on a piano here. Just moving the treadle as he's moving the wheel! What is the wheel? The wheel represents the daily turn and twist of life directed by the Potter, turned by the hand and the feet of God. Life is on God's potter's wheel. James told us something like this when he said that life is like the cycle. He spoke of the cycle or the wheel of life.
And so when we, the clay, are tossed onto the wheel of life and we begin to turn, the master craftsman, the maker begins to shake up by turns and twists. Sometimes rapidly speeding up the wheel, sometimes slowing it down to an almost interminable level, the twists of life. Not fate, not the blind fate or chance of life but again the wheel of life directed by the divine Potter. We're not going just round and round and round and round in circles. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you are, according to Ephesians 2:10, "His workmanship created in Jesus Christ unto good works".
And as God turns the wheel of your life, He knows what He's doing. He is sovereign over all of those turns, in tragedy, in sorrow, in grief, in pain, He knows it all and He's working it, working it. And when you go through one of those times in life when the pressure is on, the hands of the potter seem to pushing too hard, when the potter's hands meet the tragedies of life and the tests of life, Romans 8:28 is still right where it's always been in the Bible! "For God is still working all things together for good"! He's working creatively, constructively, continually in His child He's working all things together for the good "to those who love the Lord", watch this "to those who love the Lord" and are fitting into His plans. Who are walking according to His plan and purposes in our lives.
The divine Potter is in charge and He's making something beautiful of your life. That's the shaping of a person's life. But then I want you to see at the potter's house, the spoiling of a person's life. Look at verse 4 again in chapter 18 of Jeremiah. "And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand". Spoiled! Marred. There is a defect that shows up! And you see the frown on the potter's face. And the wheel slows and his hands cease moving as he finds something in the clay that is resistant to the work of his hand. A stiffness, a brittleness, a resistance, an obstinate in the clay. Something maybe about the symmetry or the size or the shape. Something in the clay that becomes a problem.
Now what's the problem here? This clay that was spoiled, this vessel that was spoiled in the very hand of the one who made it. The problem is not in the potter or in the potter's hand, skilled and always successful. The problem is in the pot, it's in the vessel itself. Some of you who are listening to me today are resisting the work of God's hands in your life! You are struggling against His hands. Some secret in your life that is stiffening your resistance to God. Some impurity that is in your human clay, a brittleness, a bitterness. And God cannot do what He desires to do in the design of your life to bring about the beauty and glory of you, His vessel, because you're holding back, you're pushing Him away! Whether it be sorrow or whether it be circumstances.
Some blame the circumstances of their life for the problem in their clay. "God, if you had not made me". I've even heard as a pastor, I've heard over the years, people blame God. "God, why did you make me like this? Why am I like this"? And with raised fists, curse the name of God. You know there are some things in life you cannot change. There are some givens, invariables in life that you cannot change. I don't have a lot to say about some of the basic components of who I am and what I am like and my DNA and my genetic code and all the rest. These are given. But I want you to remember today that when God made you, He made you for His purpose. And if you will live in the potter's hands He will shape you and make you exactly the way He wants you to be.
As someone elegantly put it one time, when God made us, God don't make no junk! You are not a mistake! You are a miracle made by the Master's hand. Some blame their flaws and failures on the wheel itself, the circumstances of life. You don't understand. "If I had more education, if I'd been born in a better place, if I had a better opportunity, if I hadn't been sick, if I could get well". All the circumstances! And we rail at God because we're on the wheel in a place we don't enjoy. And yet all along He's using the turn of the wheel and the twists of the clay to make us into His image. There is rhyme and reason and logic in life when you yield to the touch of the Master's hand.
So we see a vessel shaped, we see a vessel spoiled, but thank God, there's something else. We see here, we learn here at the potter's house that we see the saving of a person's life... the saving of this vessel. Look at verse 4, chapter 18 again. "And the vessel he was making of clay spoiled in the potter's hand" And what did he do? Did he throw it away? No! He reworked it into another vessel. Some say he mended it. No, he made it over. He made it again as it seemed good for the potter to do. Thank God for the saving of a person's life, the saving of this vessel representing you here. Our God, the divine Potter, is the God of the second chance and the third and the fourth and another and another.
How many you need. It's called grace! It's that marvelous grace, that majestic, magnificent grace, that we are made again. Maybe you are unyielding and there's sin in your life, impurity in your life that is resisting the work of the Master's hand. Literally in the Hebrew it says that it was marred again and again. It was spoiled over and over again. But He kept remaking it! Is God through with you because you have failed Him? No! No! No! A thousand times no! Our God is the God of new beginnings! And because of the cross, because of the power of the resurrection, even though you've messed up and you're broken, you can be made again!
Now before we shut down this service and end this message, I need to give you the same warning that God and Jeremiah gave the people of Israel. I wouldn't be honest with you today if I didn't clearly say what the rest of this text says, because God told Jeremiah to take another trip to a potter's house, and in chapter nineteen, look at it. The Lord says, "Go, buy a potter's earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests," and he says, "go out to the Valley of Hinnom". So he goes, he buys the flask at the potter's house, he goes before the spiritual leaders of Israel and says, "Come and go with me to Hinnom".
That was where the potters worked, there on the brink of the Valley of Hinnom. One way we know that is archeology because to this very day there in the Valley of Hinnom there, just outside of Jerusalem they're uncovering earthenware, pottery, broken shards by the scores, by the hundreds, even thousands, because a potter would make something and if he couldn't finish it, he would just break it and throw it into the Valley of Hinnom. It was the potter's house, and there at the potter's house. So he said, "Go, and take the children, or leaders of Israel to the Valley of Hinnom". And notice what he said in verse 10: "Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, and some shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, so that it can never be mended!'", be saved.
It's just a shard now, to be thrown away in the Valley of Hinnom. Jesus spoke of the Valley of Hinnom. You know what He called it? Gehenna, because in the day of Christ the Valley of Hinnom. Gehenna was the town's garbage dump. People threw their trash there. The refuge of the city was there. It was burning day and night. Jesus used it as a fiery illustration of hell because hell is the garbage dump of the universe, separation from God forever! Get this picture. The prophet led by God brings these men to the edge and says, "Look at that". He breaks the bottle just to demonstrate it. He throws the bottle, it crashed beneath, and all below is wastedness of the vessels that were never mended, forever gone.
So what God is saying to us is that you can say no and no and no and resist and resist and resist, that there is a sin unto death that Jesus spoke of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit an unforgiveable sin. What is that unforgivable sin? It must be murder, it must be perversion, it must be some terrible sin. It's the sin of unbelief. The only sin that cannot, will not be forgiven, to blaspheme God by not believing God! You come to the edge and you say no and no and no, and ultimately you're in and out forever.
The proverb says, "He who being often reproved and hardens his neck, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy". The Bible says, "Today if you hear His voice, don't harden your heart". Don't allow. I'm told that when clay is on the treadle so long and resistant to the master's hand, it can become hard and brittle, and that's when the master must throw it away. "Today is the day of salvation". It's never too late for a new beginning as long as you will listen and not harden your heart.