The Potter and the Clay
18 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, 2 “Stand up and go down to the house of the potter, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the house of the potter and look, there he was doing work at the potter’s wheels. 4 And the vessel that he was making with the clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter, so he made again another vessel, as it was right in the eyes of the potter to make.
5 And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, 6 “Like this potter, am I not able to do to you, O house of Israel?” declares Yahweh. “Look, like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 One moment I speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom, to uproot, and to tear down, and to destroy it. 8 But if that nation turns back from its evil that I have threatened against it, then I will relent concerning the disaster that I planned to do to it. 9 And the next moment I speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it. 10 But if it does evil in my sight, to not listen to my voice, then I will relent concerning the good that I said I would do to it.
11 “So now then, say, please, to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh, “Look, I am preparing evil against you, and I am planning a plan against you. Please turn back, each one from his evil way, and walk rightly in your ways and your deeds.” ’ 12 But they will say, ‘It is hopeless, for we will go after our own plans, and each one of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
13 “Therefore thus says Yahweh,
‘Please ask among the nations, “Who has heard the like of this?”
The virgin of Israel has done something very horrible.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave from the crags of Sirion?
Or are the cold waters flowing from distant mountains dried up?
15 But my people have forgotten me.
They make smoke offerings to the idols,
and they caused them to stumble in their ways, the ancient ways,
to go into bypaths, not one that is built up.
16 To make their land a horror,
an object of whistling for eternity.
All who pass by it will be appalled,
and he will shake his head.
17 Like the wind from the east
I will scatter them before the enemy.
I will show them my back and not my face
in the day of their disaster.’ ”
Jeremiah’s Imprecatory Prayer
18 Then they said, “Come and let us plan plans against Jeremiah, for instruction will not be lost from the priest, nor advice from the wise man, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us bring charges against him, and let us not listen attentively to any of his words.”
19 Listen attentively to me, O Yahweh,
and listen to the voice of my opponents.
20 Should good be repaid in place of evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember my standing before you to speak good for them,
to avert your wrath from them.
21 Therefore give their children to the famine,
and hand them over to the power of the sword,
and let their wives be bereaved and widows,
and let their men be killed by death,
their young men struck dead
by the sword in the battle.
22 Let a cry for help be heard from their houses
when you suddenly bring upon them the raiding band,
for they have dug a pit to catch me,
and they have fixed secretly a trap for my feet.
23 But you, O Yahweh, you know
all their plans of assassination against me.
You must not make atonement for their iniquity,
and you must not cause their sin to be blotted out from before you.
But let them be overthrown before you.
Deal with them in the time of your anger.
The Valley of the Slaughter
19 Thus said Yahweh, “Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people, and some of the leaders of the priests, 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which is at the entrance of the Gate of the Potsherd, and proclaim there the words that I speak to you. 3 And you shall say, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel: “Look, I am about to bring disaster upon this place so that everyone who hears it, his ears will ring. 4 Because they have forsaken me, and they have defaced this place, and they have made smoke offerings in it to other gods whom they have not known, they, nor their ancestors, nor the kings of Judah, and they have filled up this place with the blood of the innocent, 5 and they have built the high places of Baal, to burn their children in the fire, burnt offerings to Baal, which I commanded not, and I ordered not, and it did not come to my mind.
6 “Therefore look, days are about to come,” declares Yahweh, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of the Slaughter. 7 And I will lay waste the plans of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will bring them to ruin by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life, and I will give their dead bodies as food to the birds of heaven and to the animals of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, and an object of hissing, everyone who passes by it will be appalled, and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons, and the flesh of their daughters, and each one will eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress which their enemies and those who seek their life inflict on them.” ’
10 “Then you shall break the jar before the eyes of the men who go with you. 11 And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “So I will break this people and this city as one breaks the vessel of the potter, so that it is not able to be repaired again. And in Topheth they will bury until there is no room to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place,” declares Yahweh, “and to its inhabitants, to make this city like Topheth. 13 And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be unclean like the place of Topheth, all the houses where they made smoke offerings upon their roofs to all the host of heaven, and where they poured out libations to other gods.” ’ ”
14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where Yahweh had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the courtyard of the house of Yahweh and said to all the people, 15 “Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Look, I am about to bring to this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their neck to not hear my words.’ ”
A Message for Pashhur
20 Now Pashhur, the son of Immer, the priest who was officer in charge in the temple of Yahweh, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Gate of Benjamin, which was by the temple of Yahweh. 3 And then on the next day, when Pashhur brought Jeremiah out from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “Yahweh will not call your name Pashhur, but Terror From All Around. 4 For thus says Yahweh, ‘Look, I am making you a terror to yourself and to all your friends, and they will fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes will be seeing it. And all Judah I will give into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will deport them to Babylon, and he will strike them with the sword. 5 And I will give all the wealth of this city, and all its acquisitions, and all its precious items, and all of the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, and they will plunder them, and they will seize them, and they will bring them to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all those who live in your house will go into captivity, and you will go to Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried, you, and all your friends to whom you have prophesied falsely.’ ”
7 You have persuaded me, O Yahweh, and I was persuaded.
You have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long.
Everyone is mocking me.
8 For as often as I speak,
I must cry out violence and destruction.
I must shout, for the word of Yahweh has become for me
a disgrace and derision all day long.
9 But if I say, “I will not mention him
and I will no longer speak in his name,”
then it becomes in my heart like a fire burning,
locked up in my bones,
and I struggle to contain it,
and I am not able.
10 For I hear the rumor of many,
“Terror is from all around, denounce him,
yes, let us denounce him!”
All my close friends are watchers of my stumbling,
saying, “perhaps he can be persuaded,
and we can prevail over him,
and we can take our revenge on him.”
11 But Yahweh is with me like a powerful warrior.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and will not prevail.
They will be very ashamed, for they will not achieve success.
Their everlasting insult will not be forgotten.
12 Yet, O Yahweh of hosts, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have revealed my legal case.
13 Sing to Yahweh, praise Yahweh,
for he has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
14 Cursed be the day on which I was born,
let not the day on which my mother gave birth to me be blessed.
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
saying, “A child is born to you, a son!”
and he made him very glad.
16 And let that man be like the cities
that Yahweh demolished without regret,
and let him hear a cry for help in the morning,
and an alarm at the time of noon.
17 Because he did not kill me in the womb,
so that my mother would have been for me my grave,
and her womb would be pregnant forever.
18 Why did I come out from the womb,
to see toil, and sorrow, and to end my days in shame?
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous. 14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, although they do not have the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts one after another accusing or even defending them 16 on the day when God judges the secret things of people, according to my gospel, through Christ Jesus.
Jews also Condemned by the Law
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve the things that are superior, because you are instructed by the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light of those in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Therefore, the one who teaches someone else, do you not teach yourself? The one who preaches not to steal, do you steal? 22 The one who says not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? The one who abhors idols, do you rob temples? 23 Who boast in the law, by the transgression of the law you dishonor God! 24 For just as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision is of value if you do the law, but if you should be a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if the uncircumcised person follows the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be credited for circumcision? 27 And the uncircumcised person by nature who carries out the law will judge you who, though provided with the precise written code and circumcision are a transgressor of the law. 28 For the Jew is not one outwardly, nor is circumcision outwardly, in the flesh. 29 But the Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, whose praise is not from people but from God.
12 An abomination to kings is doing evil,
for by righteousness the throne will be established.
13 The delight of kings are the lips of righteousness,
and he who speaks what is upright he will love.
14 The wrath of a king is a messenger of death,
but one who is wise will appease it.
15 In the light of the face of the king there is life,
and his favor is like a cloud of spring rain.
16 Getting wisdom: how much better than gold!
And getting understanding: it is chosen over silver.
17 The highway of the upright, it turns from evil,
he who guards himself keeps his way.
18 Before destruction comes pride,
and before a fall, a haughty spirit.
19 Better a lowly spirit with the poor
than dividing the spoil with the proud.
20 He who is attentive to a matter will find goodness,
and he who trusts in Yahweh, his own happiness.
21 The wise of heart is called perceptive,
but he who is pleasant of lips will increase persuasiveness.
22 A fountain of life is wisdom for its owner,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise will make his mouth judicious,
and upon his lips, it will add persuasiveness.
24 Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and healing to the bones.
25 There is a way that seems upright to a man,
but its end is the way of death.
26 The life of a worker works for him,
for his hunger urges him.
27 A man of wickedness concocts evil,
and his lips are like a scorching fire.
28 A person of perversity will spread dissent,
and he who whispers separates a close friend.
29 A person of violence will entice his neighbor
and cause him to walk on a way that is not good.
30 He who winks his eyes does so in order to plan perverse things;
he who purses his lips will bring evil to pass.
31 A crown of glory is gray hair;
by a righteous life it is gained.
32 He who is slow to anger is better than him who is mighty,
and he who controls his spirit than him who captures a city.
33 The lot will be cast into the lap,
but all of its decisions are from Yahweh.
Dispensing good, helpful advice gets the benevolent juices flowing. As easy as it is to give advice, though, it often hits me with the irony of a cartoon anvil when I end up tripping over my own counsel. When this happens, I’m convicted to examine my motives for advice-giving.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul challenges the superior mindset that was common among some Jewish people at the time: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve the things that are superior, because you are instructed by the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those in darkness, and instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Therefore, the one who teaches someone else, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17–21).
Paul is explaining why looking to the ot law for righteousness is futile. No person could perfectly keep the law. By holding to it, they were in fact condemning themselves. Paul even points out that some Jews thought they had attained a higher moral standing because of their knowledge of the law—and believed they were in a position to teach others. Yet they were still breaking the law.
It’s easy for us to discard this as an early church issue. Yet we still sometimes take comfort in “keeping the law” today. If we cling to our own good behavior rather than the righteousness we have in Christ, we commit the same sin. We can attempt to live like a saint—we can cultivate a reputation for goodness and dishing out wisdom—but we’ll set ourselves up for imminent failure because we can never keep up the pretense of godly behavior on our own.
However, if our “circumcision is of the heart”—if we trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our righteousness and the Spirit is working in us—then our hearts will be in the right place. That place is where we know we are great sinners, and where we are receptive to His transforming work to bring us into complete loyalty to Him. Then we will seek God’s favor, not the favor and superiority we crave from others.
If our lives are truly changed, we will be motivated to love others out of the love God shows us. That will give us the right perspective for seeing the transformation that God is working in their hearts. And it will free us to give the best advice of all: Seek God in everything.
What are your motives for giving advice?
Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord
Publisher: Lexham Press
Publication Date: 2012
This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.