Today’s reading: Jeremiah 18-22.
“An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty. On board the liner are scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port. Both freedom and sovereignty are present here, and they do not contradict. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history.” A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy
The balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s will puzzles many, including myself. I do believe, however, that it’s more of a “both/and” situation rather than “either/or.” In other words, there’s room for both God’s rule and man’s ability to make choices. Jeremiah’s field trip to the pottery reveals some of the give and take in this divine/human interaction.
“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Jeremiah 18:2-4
Judah is the clay, and there’s no doubt that God is in control as he molds the pot. But Judah rebels against God’s will and mars the pot. At that point, God the Maker could have abandoned the clay, but in a demonstration of grace he continues to work with the clay and reshapes it into a useful vessel. As Judah’s rebellion reaches its full ripeness, Jeremiah pleads with his fellow Jews on God’s behalf to repent of their evil and allow God to remake them. He tells them that God has prepared a disaster for them, but if they reform their actions God will undo his plans for destruction. God has an ultimate plan for his creation, but he also has contingent plans that change according to our choices.
Some will argue that since God knows what choices we will make his plans are not contingent. That may be true. God said of Judah, “It’s no use, (they) will continue with (their) own plans.” And so they did, refusing to heed Jeremiah or repent. God sends Jeremiah back to the pottery, this time to buy a finished pot that has been dried and hardened beyond any change. Jeremiah calls the elders to the city dump, shows them the pot or jar, breaks it to pieces before them, and then speaks for the LORD once more.
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.” Jeremiah 19:10-11
God gives us opportunities to follow him and obey his will, but there comes a time when the opportunities pass. At that moment any choice we had is lost and the fullness of God’s sovereignty is all that remains. As Proverbs says, “he that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Or, as Hebrews says, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Remember then, before it is too late, “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Image by Donnie Nunley on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0