TODAY’S READING: Jeremiah 18–22
Jeremiah’s definition of balance seems to be equal passion in opposite directions. In the span of just a few breaths Jeremiah erupted: “Oh Lord, You induced me…everyone mocks me… Because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily… But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones… All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling… But the Lord is with me as a mighty awesome One… Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord! …Cursed be the day that I was born” (20:7–11, 13–14). Far from manic, Jeremiah was a living embodiment of the inseparable union and tension of mercy and judgment. Both holiness and love are eternal fires, and both must flow through God’s missionaries.
As God’s handiwork, God’s people are fashioned to be the earthen vessels that display the awesome glories of God. The beauty of God is owed to be displayed, shared with all peoples everywhere. Israel was formed to be a light to all the nations, as was the Church, and if the light in us is polluted darkness, how great is that darkness! The great Artist of heaven has every right then to remake His vessels or repaint His art if they no longer represent His beauty.
The global context of this classic passage in Jeremiah is often overlooked. In Jeremiah 18, the prophet was told to go to the potter’s house to learn the lesson of creator rights and creation responsibility. In verse 6, the application was simply and clearly given: Israel was clay in God’s hands, and verses 7 and 8 immediately explained why: to be God’s prophetic voice to the nations. If, as verse 12 predicted, those blessed with the presence of God and chosen to be His messengers to the nations refused their assignment, it would be the Gentiles who wondered at the grand stupidity of those who exchanged the joys of Jehovah for the folly of idols, becoming a terror to themselves and their friends (18:13, 15; 20:4). The burning heart of the Lord, the artistic intention of the Creator burst forth from His prophet: “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord” (22:29). All God’s clay are clay designed to bear His glory to all nations, to inherit the promise to David, and to find purpose in God’s grand missionary goals.
God created us to announce His holiness, love, and glory among all nations. We have a creation responsibility to present God as He is to all peoples. This responsibility is laced with joy, blessing, life, and fulfilment. If we accept what we were created to do, life will flow in us and from us. If we rebel against our missionary destiny, the Creator is good enough to break us and just enough to make us a terror to ourselves. If we do not learn the lesson of our breaking, the weeping Judge will one day smash us at His righteous gates of refuse (19:1–13). He who falls on this Rock will be broken, but he on whom this Rock falls will be smashed to bits.