Yielding to the Potter’s Hand

How to Be a Better Yielder!

Jeremiah 18:1-6


Pastor Craig Ledbetter                                           

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland

26 April, 2009  AM



I.      Introduction


A.     Our memory verse this month is Psalm 40:8


1.       I delight to do thy will, O my God

2.      I love doing what YOU want done!

3.      I YIELD to your will, and dump my own

4.      I know, and I TRUST that your will is infinitely better!

5.      That’s why I delight to do it!


B.     But do we all believe that, or yield like we should?

C.     Well, this morning, we are going on a school-trip, of sorts!

D.    We want to go down to the Potter’s House

E.     Not a very fancy place. Kind of plain, and simple, but one of the most powerful lessons that can be learned MUST be learned down at the Potter’s house

F.     Why are we going there?


1.       To learn that God is always working on us, with purpose and care

2.      To learn that He has a marvellous design in mind for our lives

3.      To learn that He uses pressure and circumstances to help mould us

4.      To learn that what is so wrong in us, can be perfectly worked out


G.    When I was 8,9,10 and 11 years old, my mother taught me how to mould pottery clay and to work with pottery. She had a shop that sold handmade pottery and other crafts. She taught me as a child what we are about to learn from Jeremiah 18.


II.   Message


A.     The Potter’s House (Jer 18:1-3)


1.       Pottery was a big business up until the industrial revolution of the 1800’s.

2.      The wealthy used pewter (lead) plates, and cups (and died early of lead poisoning) for their household vessels

3.      But normal people used pottery. They had no glass or plastic cups

4.      Special things were made by the potter like vases, water pitchers, tea pots, and even special storage boxes for jewellery and fancy serving bowls

5.      Mundane things were also made by the potter like water jugs and mugs and cisterns and cups and plates

6.      They were all produced down at the potter’s house

7.      It was there that God told Jeremiah to go and learn a powerful lesson so that he could turn around and teach to Israel


B.     The Potter’s Work (Jer 18:3)


1.       A Potter works on clay


a.      Potters don’t work with gold, or silver, or stainless steel – only clay

b.      Clay is a kind of a mud, straight from the ground

c.       Not all mud can be used in pottery, but clay can be (I have plenty of it in my back garden – that’s why nothing grows in my back garden!)

d.      A potter would usually have an entire field of clay right next to his house to gather clay out of and use for his work


2.      A Potter works on the wheels


a.      This was a special contraption

b.      A pottery wheel is a well designed structure that allowed him to easily fashion a vessel like a cup, or a plate or a vase

c.       It had a spinning top (a wheel) that was attached to a rod and another wheel at the bottom that was pushed by the potter’s feet to keep it spinning

d.      These two wheels would allow the clay to be spun so that it was balanced as he fashioned the item

e.      Note: None of the potters work was natural, or haphazard, or accidental (not because of any evolutionary steps the clay took) – it was always on those wheels, because only by those wheels did anything ever come of that clay!


3.      A Potter works by HIS own hands


a.      Pottery required the Potter to get involved

b.      Making pottery was not an automated process done by machines

c.       He didn’t ever leave the work of moulding the clay to anyone else besides himself

d.      HE fashioned the clay

e.      He couldn’t just sit back and use mind over matter and wish for the lump of clay to become something – He had to make personal contact with the clay

f.        As he used his hands, and as the lump of clay spun around on those wheels, he would apply pressure to form, and mould it into a new shape - an unnatural shape – a shape of HIS design, not what comes easy or naturally


C.     The Potter’s Design (Jer 18:4b) – look at the last part of the verse!


1.       When the potter sat down with the lump of clay, he would have a design in his mind

2.      He knew what HE wanted to make

3.      He didn’t ask the clay!

4.      Maybe someone needed a salad bowl, or a tea pot, or a special jar for holding important papers

5.      So the potter would go to work.


a.      First imagining how it should look,

b.      and then gathering the fresh clay out of the field

c.       And then slamming it down onto the ground – more about this in a moment!


6.      Remember, the clay was NOT anything until the potter began to work on it!

7.      Is anyone starting to get the lesson yet?


D.    The Potter’s Problem (Jer 18:4) - Marred Clay


1.       The clay was flawed – ruined

2.      Unyielding to his hands

3.      Normal clay has stones, and straw and dried clay in it

4.      It did not take on the shape of the master’s hands

5.      If the Potter stopped now, and just left it alone, it would have been a bad testimony to the Potter’s abilities

6.      Yes, it could have been discarded, but a good Potter keeps the clay, and tries again


E.     The Potter’s Work  


1.       Let me describe it!


a.      Taking the formless lump of clay from the ground


1)      He would first separate it from all the rest of the clay field

2)     Then cut it to size

3)     Then… Violently throw it to the ground. Over and over!

4)     What a sight!

5)     This was not anger, or madness, or wrath. It was the Potter’s Work!

6)     The next would kneel over the clay, and begin the kneading process. Like you would bread

7)     The kneading was to work out air pockets and impurities so that the vessel would not fall apart under the stress of spinning on the potter's wheel.

8)    He would then throw the small lump of clay onto the centre of the wheel and begin!


b.      Once it was on the wheel…


1)      Using only a bucket of water to keep the clay from drying, and several sharp instruments for cutting and shaping…

2)     He would press the spinning clay with his thumbs.

3)     And almost instantly a simple cone would begin to emerge which he shaped, reshaped, and pressed again.

4)     Note:


a)     Throughout this entire process, only the clay moves.

b)     The hands of the potter were perfectly steady because the clay must conform to the potter's hands, not the potter to the clay.

c)      Ponder that for a month or two!


5)     Often, there is more clay than the Potter needs, and so he uses very sharp instruments to cut away all that was not the vessel he was creating.


c.       What if it didn’t yield, or take on the shape of the potters will?


1)      If I were to put a lump of clay off centre that had not been kneaded, it would suddenly fall apart spewing wet clay in all directions. It would make a mess.

2)     But, if you then took the bits of clay, and wadded it up into a ball, knead it again, throw it back on the wheel and started anew to make a vessel of honour out of it, it might just yield to your hand!


2.      So, What is the Potter’s Work?


a.      The Potter’s Work is a Continuous Effort


1)      He made it again – such sweet words

2)     He started over – God’s mercy in new/reset, every morning


a)     He did it with Israel coming out of Egypt

b)     He did it with the apostles on the day of Pentecost

c)      He did it with Peter


3)     Maybe you won’t let God make you what He thinks is best, well, He will work on another design then

4)     I would start letting God make something beautiful of me if I were you (Eccl 3:10)


b.      The Potter’s Work is A Hard Effort – not an easy task making something useful


1)      Had to use a lot of pressure

2)     Had to keep the wheel spinning at just the right speed

3)     Had to apply just the right amount of water

4)     Had to know when to remove extra clay (pruning) that was not needed for the final product


c.       The Potter’s Work is A Fruitful, Beneficial Effort


1)      It is not all pressure, and troubles

2)     There is an end to the work, amen! (Philp 1:6)

3)     And the Potter does sit back after his labours and is pleased, and he does stop the wheels thankfully!

4)     And he moves his work to the kiln, so that he can use it for a great purpose

5)     Don’t wait until heaven to be useable by God – then is too late


d.      The Potter’s Work is a Pleasant Effort! Hey! Did you know, the potter actually enjoys working with the clay, and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to create a new vessel. It is a messy process but the pots and dishes he made were wonderful to behold!


F.     The Potter’s Fire – not described here in Jeremiah 18, but is understood throughout the rest of Scripture


1.       No clay, left to itself is of any use to anyone but pigs. It is only wet muck! This is how we all start, and it is amazing that we want to be left alone, to stay that way!

2.      But as you now know, clay has to be kneaded and worked on and spun and shaped in order to be useful

3.      But that is not all - It also has to be “fired”

4.      Oh how we do not understand this process!


a.      Why can’t clay just be used without going through the heat?

b.      Because we have NO strength in ourselves, and when water touches the clay, or any pressure is applied to the shaped vessel, it crumbles


5.      The heat of a special thing called a kiln will correct that

6.      Do not imagine that a potter is placing the cup or bowl of vase in purgatory, or into a kind of hell – this is not a place of purging, but of strengthening!!!


a.      The drying times are important so that the vessel would retain its new shape, and be strong enough to carry burdens that are placed in it.

b.      The drying times, those desert seasons, those times of persecution, those times when you are mocked, and ignored, well, they are just as critical as being on the wheel.


7.      The Potter would put his new vessels on the shelf and sort of "forget" about them until they were ready for the kiln, much as the Spirit of God does when He seems distant from you, and when your prayers are as silent screams, and you feel abandoned and alone.

8.     But there is glory in the firing process!


a.      It really is beautiful when the clay vessel glows white hot at some 1200 degrees Celsius. The clay will not explode. It glows!

b.      This is called the first firing!

c.       In the first “firing”, the silicon within the clay turns to a kind of a glass inside and the beauty of the vessel begins to emerge.

d.      It is then that the pottery is taken out of the heat and painted and adorned with colours.

e.      But there is a second firing that brings out the hidden colours of the clay itself, and it mixes with the paint and colours of the Potter. All of the glorious beauty hidden beneath comes to the surface and the vessel becomes both useful and beautiful.


G.    What if the Potter had just left the clay alone? What if he never worked on the clay and prepared it for such fiery trials? What if the Potter tried to cut corners, and skipped some steps in the whole process?


III.           Application - How This Applies to Us (Jer 18:5-6)


A.     God spoke to Jeremiah as he watched the Potter work with that clay

B.     Two Simple Questions:


1.       Cannot God Do as the Potter Does? Isn’t HE allowed to work on US?

2.      What is Stopping Him?


C.     Here are the truths!


1.       God is the Perfect Potter – you need to believe that (Ps 18:30; 111:2,3; 139:14)!


a.      He does not make mistakes!

b.      Troubles aren’t fashioning you - God is

c.       Your enemies don’t ruin you. Your problems aren’t in charge

d.      God is in charge – remember that!


2.      We are in God’s hands (Isaiah 64:8; John 10:27-29)


a.      If you are born again

b.      If you are not in the hands of the Lord Jesus, you are at the mercy of the destroyer (John 10:10)


3.      God has a Perfect Design


a.      When the potter sat down with the lump of clay, he would have a design in his mind. He knew what HE wanted to make. He didn’t ask the clay what was best!

b.      Remember, the clay was NOT anything until the potter began to work on it

c.       This is where we see something called the sovereignty of God

d.      God working out His will in our lives (See Romans 9:20,21)

e.      Therefore, when God sees us, He sees us for what we can be, more than what we are


4.      We are troublesome to the Potter


a.      To yield is our greatest goal!


1)      To give up, as something that is claimed or demanded; to resign; to relinquish

2)     To give in, to surrender

3)     To give up the contest; to submit

4)     To submit to an authority

5)     To become SOFT and not HARD in the hands of the Lord

6)     To yield to God’s hand (1Peter 5:6) – humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty HAND of God!


b.      We do not normally, easily yield

c.       We are stubborn, stiff-necked, hard hearted, rebellious, headstrong, obstinate, hyper-opinionated, rigid, self-willed, implacable, UNYIELDING!

d.      Sound like anyone YOU know?


5.      But THANKFULLY the Potter does not stop working on us


a.      He does not throw us away! He cannot do that!

b.      He slams us, and kneads us

c.       Over and over, and over, and over – as long as it takes!

d.      Working OUT those things that hinder His work IN us

e.      HEY! What are your troubles? Are they CURSES? Or maybe blessings, as God breaks you and humbles you, and softens you, and helps you YIELD to His perfect will! Perfect design

f.        No one prays, “Not my will, but thine be done”, until they have been slammed several times, and then looks to Jesus!!!

g.      So, if we do not respond well to God’s work ON our lives, He applies more pressure – guaranteed!


1)      Aren’t you glad that God isn't afraid to start over in our lives if we fall apart?

2)     Those hidden things in us, those unconfessed sins, act like impurities in the clay. Though they may be hidden from human sight, sooner or later they will emerge and must dealt with or the clay will be forever only half formed and useless.

3)     Thank God for His ability to start over (Lam 3:22,23)


6.      As He begins to finish His work, God trims more and more off of us – pruning (see John 15) – less of you, so there can be more of HIM!


a.      Yes, He uses very sharp instruments to cut away all that was not the vessel he was creating

b.      Like the sharp edge of the sword of the Spirit – the word of God

c.       Like the sharpness of rebukes from family and faithful friends

d.      Like the sharp pains of this world to crucify our flesh that we might walk with Him.


7.      When we have gone through the kneading, spinning, shaping process, there is one more step – the kiln – the firing. Don’t be afraid:


a.      Fiery trials perfect us – make us strong and ready for the Master’s use (James 1:2-4; 1Peter 1:6-7)

b.      Fiery trials protect us – from falling apart later under stress


8.     When God is finished, we can say like Job, “I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:12). A lump of clay CAN be made into priceless gold!!! But only when yielded to the mighty hands of Jesus!


IV.            Conclusion


A.     Is God allowed to work on YOU?

B.     What is Stopping Him?


1.       Probably fears

2.      Probably hurts

3.      Probably confusion


C.     Go to the Potter’s house and learn that HE knows what He is doing, and can be trusted

D.    Maybe you won’t be able to say, “I DELIGHT to do thy will oh my God” but you can say “I have decided to do God’s will!”





Craig Ledbetter |  Pastor  |  Bible Baptist Church  |  021-4871234  +353-21-4871234  |  biblebc@gmail.com  www.biblebc.com