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Jeremiah 18:1-10

18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “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.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

In our passage today we learn a valuable lesson about the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.  Surgeon said that when people ask him if he believes in God’s sovereignty or man’s free will, his answer was, “Yes!” They are both taught in the scripture. 

1. Our choices help shape our destiny 

Your life is made or break on your choices.  Is this the right person to marry?  Is this the right job? Is this the right career?  Many decisions are moral or are not immoral- but that is not the same thing as being wise. 

When you see the word “guidance” in the OT it comes from the word “ropes”.  This was a sailors term- when the ship needed navigating- it involved ropes.  How do you get God’s navigation?  

How does God guide us?  

The heart of man plans his way,

    but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Your plans are yours- if you so something stupid or cruel, you are held accountable for that- but what actually happens in history are absolutely controlled by God.  Nothing happens that is not according to his plans.  Your plans belong to you.  You’re 100% free in your choices, but they are 100% determined by God. 

2. God is sovereign over our choices   

Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand. (Verse 6b)

Story of Joseph is classic example:  “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good…”. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

3. Understanding our free will AND God’s sovereignty are both essential to our faith 

If you believe your choices have no meaning and purpose in the scope of externity, you would be depressed and struck down. If you believed God was in complete control and you had no say, there would be no reason to get out of bed. 

Why would you want to live in a universe that was completely controlled by your choices? When I look back on my 22 year old self, I realize about half of what I wanted would have been disastrous.  What about now? 

The bible is most balanced approach.  Example:  Paul's shipwreck. 

4. True meaning in life comes from conforming to God’s purposes 

 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. (Verse 4)

Why didn’t God just tell Joseph what to do?  Because wisdom comes with years of experience and failure and making bad choices. He is shaping us like clay. 

God is so great that he works out a plan, a plan to work everything out for your good if you belong to him, and his glory, which takes into consideration your choices, and still works his plan out infallibly. Jacob lied to his father, Isaac, and wanted his birthright. He cheated his older brother out of it. Because he cheated, because he lied, he had to flee from his family. Was he guilty? Yes. Did he experience pain in his life because of that choice? Yes. Was he punished for it? Yes. But because he sinned he went and found his wife, Rachel, through whom the Messiah came. Was it all right then that he sinned? No, but don’t you see because Jacob sinned, though God held him responsible for that choice, did that put him on an eternal plan B? Did he say, ‘I’ve ruined it from now on because of this sin. God will never give me the best?’ My friends, no. When he sinned he went into the best for him. God is far greater than your stupid choices. (Tim Keller)

Someone will say, “If I am just clay in God’s hand, where is the freedom in that?  I don’t want to be clay!”  It only means you don’t know the true meaning of freedom.  Think of the example of the gold fish in the fish bowl.  Is it more free in the bowl or on the couch?  It is only free when it finds it’s purpose.  

Meaning of freedom according to scripture:  “Living our lives according to the purposes of God.”

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean that we are clay in the potters hands?
  2. In what ways is it a comfort to know that God is in control?
  3. Why is it important to have a balanced view of God’s sovereignty and our free will?
  4. What is the meaning of freedom according to scripture?


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