Monday, January 07, 2013

Jeremiah 18: 1-10

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jer 18:1-10 AV)

As students of scripture we have to be careful in applying one passage of scripture to another and not make the mistake of attributing more than should be considered to a passage by another author. On the other hand we should also be aware of how writers such as Paul used Old Testament references when explaining how God interacted with Israel and the Gentiles as he did in Romans chapter nine (v.22 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?). Many commentators bring Paul's statement and discussion back to the above passage from Jeremiah (Forlines, Clark and others) to assist the believer in understanding God's transitions between Jews and Gentiles. Bruce's commentary on Romans notes the unique content of Romans chapters nine through eleven as dealing with this same theme. It is only wise scholarship to understand the sources of a primary author's thoughts, in this case Paul and his use of Jeremiah. There are several commentaries that address the passage from Jeremiah and I have appreciated Adam Clarke's thoughts below on this matter.

Adam Clarke’s select commentary on the above passage (abridged verse 6):

Have I not a right to do with a people whom I have created as reason and justice may require? If they do not answer my intentions, may I not reject and destroy them; and act as this potter, make a new vessel out of that which at first did not succeed in his hands? It is generally supposed that St. Paul has made a very different use of this similitude from that mentioned above. See Rom 9:20. His words are, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" To this every sensible and pious man will answer, Undoubtedly he has. But would any potter make an exceedingly fair and good vessel on purpose to dash it to pieces when he had done? Surely no! And would or could, the God of infinite perfection and love make millions of immortal souls on purpose for eternal perdition, as the horrible decree of reprobation states? No! This is a lie against all the attributes of God. But does not the text state that he can, out of the same lump, the same mass of human nature, make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? Yes. But the text does not say, what the horrible decree says, that he makes one part, and indeed the greater, for eternal perdition. But what then is the meaning of the text? Why evidently this: As out of the same mass of clay a potter may make a flagon for the table and a certain utensil for the chamber, the one for a more honourable, the other for a less honourable use, though both equally necessary to the owner; so God, out of the same flesh and blood, may make the tiller of the field and the prophet of the Most High; the one in a more honourable, the other in a less honourable employ; yet both equally necessary in the world, and equally capable of bringing glory to God in their respective places. But if the vessel be marred in his hand, under his providential and gracious dealings, he may reject it as he did the Jews, and make another vessel, such as he is pleased with, of the Gentiles; yet even these marred vessels, the reprobate Jews, are not finally rejected; for all Israel shall be saved in (through) the Lord, i.e., Jesus Christ. And should the Gentiles act as the Jews have done, then they also shall be cut off, and God will call his Church by another name. See on Romans 9:22.