Sermon Title: “I am Still In His Hands“(Click Here to watch Sermon)
Pastor Richard Brown
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 18:1-6
As we navigate through this long and arduous season of crisis due to the pandemic with increasing cases and health officials telling us it’s not over, with us in another lockdown and people in a state of despair, we are being advised to take health precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. They are telling us to get the vaccine. They are telling us to social distance. They are telling us to wear gloves and a face mask to protect ourselves. Even with all these precautions, health practitioners are telling us that we must wash our hands thoroughly because this is still the greatest precaution. Compared to any other homemade remedy, the number one recommended way to protect ourselves is to simply to wash our hands. Note – Pastor Brown is always washing his hands.
Why do we wash our hands? Why should we? Because people have a way of passing on whatever they have through their hands. It is the easiest way to contract something. Ever see someone extend their hands to shake your own and you see the grime and dirt under their fingernails? For many it can be a turnoff. It reveals they’ve been in some kind of mess. But here is news for us, those of us walking with God living in an active and vibrant relationship ought to know that we are walking with someone who has dirty hands. God’s hands are messy, always into something dirty.
In our text we find Jeremiah down at the potter’s house. To understand the context, we need to understand where the people of God are at at this particular moment of time. As Jeremiah stands in the potter’s house, there have been 4 kings of Israel. The first king was Saul, then David, then, Solomon, then Rehoboam. Rehoboam is the last king to reign over a united kingdom. But when Rehoboam comes to the throne, he makes foolish decisions and takes advice from peers. He deals with the subjects in a harsh manner and they revolt. Rehoboam makes some crazy decisions and there is a split between the one nation of Israel. 10 tribes go with a fellow named Jeroboam. He was a prophecy come to fruition. They go to the north and become Israel. 2 tribes stay with Rehoboam – Benjamin and Judah and they become known as Judah. All the kings of Israel were wicked. The bible says that each new king was more wicked than their predecessor. Their wickedness consummated in captivity. They were conquered eventually in 730 BC by the Assyrians. The kings of Judah are from the bloodline and the lineage of David. Not so with Rehoboam. There is a blessing over the bloodline of David. The kings of Judah don’t suffer the same fate as Israel. Some were evil but most were good. Try as they might, the Assyrians could not conquer Judah in the time of Rehoboam.
Fast forward 200 years, Judah has now taken to the ways of their cousins to the north. Idolatry sweeps through Judah. Every man did what was right in their own eyes. As a result to prevent them from facing the same fate as the north, God begins to send prophets with an unpopular and unwelcome word. Jeremiah is one of those prophets with a message. Repentance is the message. Jeremiah is a serious prophet unlike many today. His message wasn’t one of prosperity and blessing, as God doesn’t bless mess but cleans mess. It’s unlikely that Jeremiah’s itinerary was filled with engagements. He was known as the prophet of doom. He would sit alone and lament and regretted the day he was born. He described himself as a man of strife and contention and cursed by everyone in Judah. But he didn’t have time for their hypocritical ways where these people kept an appearance of faith yet fell into false ways. Judah felt that because the temple was in Jerusalem that God would protect them from captivity and the temple would be preserved. Jeremiah warned them to repent. He says that God’s condition for protection is that they amend their ways. He says act justly between your man and your neighbour (Jeremiah 7:5). Jeremiah speaks of breaking up fallow ground (Jeremiah 4:3). Jeremiah’s mission was called out of him from his mother’s womb by God (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah was basically saying in modern vernacular – check yourself before you wreck yourself. “There is a promise over you but God won’t bless your mess.” Still, no one in Judah listened to Jeremiah. And so, as Pastor Brown’s mom used to say, “those who refuse to listen, will feel”. If they didn’t listen to God, they would listen to the whip of Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah 25:8-11, therefore the Lord Almighty says this because you haven’t listened to my words. I will raise up Nebuchadnezzar because you won’t listen to me. Jeremiah was thrown into a dungeon and he lamented and cried and cursed the day he was born but every time he’d give up he felt fire shut up in his bones and he couldn’t quit. Being the bearer of bad news, Jeremiah was denounced. He was looked at as a killjoy. He was denounced because the people were guilty and guilt – a useless emotion – keeps us in the vice we are in. When we walk in guilt, we believe the lie we can’t change. When we go through guilt we feel like it’s over for us. That we must just continue in what we are doing that there is no hope. These people felt like they were steeped in their situation for too long, they felt like they couldn’t change. They retired themselves to believe that this was how things would be forever. We can find ourselves in situations where we have dug a hole so deep that we feel as if it is over. That our financial situation, credit, family and marriage situation will never change. That it is hopeless. That’s how they dealt with Jeremiah, that things had gone bad and that things couldn’t change. They were hopeless. Like the disciples on the road of Emmaus, they were hopeless going back to their old ways. Hopelessness and guilt have a way of blinding your eyes to your destiny and the possibility of you walking in your destiny. The tribe of Judah was hopeless. The devil is still convincing many today, even Christians, that they cannot change, that what they are experiencing is how things always will be. But the devil is a liar. God is still the God of the hopeless and the destitute and there is no pattern of destructive behaviour that He can’t rescue us from. It doesn’t matter how bad it has got. The bible says His arms are not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). He can rescue us and pull us out of everything.
Even when we are in a mess and are grimy and filthy, we ought to know that we are still in His hands. God tells Jeremiah to meet Him at the potter’s house. He wanted to show Jeremiah something – a message to be delivered to His people. When Jeremiah gets there, the potter is making something on the wheel. Whatever he is making hasn’t turned out the way he had expected. Whatever he is making and fashioning it had flaws to it. When the potter realizes that the vessel is tainted, the potter doesn’t throw the vessel out. He’s not in a crisis because his hands are still on the vessel. The potter makes it over again into a vessel that seems good to him. He does not give up but makes it into a vessel that seems good to him. Someone ought to declare today, “God make me over, I might be in a mess right now, but God make me over – I’ve been this way for so long. Though the devil is trying to tell me my situation won’t change, I heard You are the Potter and that I am the clay. So make me over, create in me a clean heart and restore a right spirit in me. You are the manufacturer and You can make me over.”
In the bible there are 3 words connected to creation.
Bara – means to create from no preexisting material. It is the production of the accomplishment of something new – something rare. In Genesis 1:1,in the beginning God created. In the beginning God bara. Then we see the word in the creation of conscious life. Sea creatures and other new and rare
things. Then we see it in the creation of man in Genesis 1:27 – in the image of God He created them. This word bara has connotations, it means newness. Something that was made not out of pre-existing materials. It is an instantaneous action, sudden and immediate. Bara is always and only the work of God. Only God can create something new. Only God can stand on nothing, look at nothing and tell nothing to become something.
The second word which is the focus of this sermon – this hebrew word is yatzar – this means to form, shape or to repair. It means to repair as a potter forming vessels at the wheel. Genesis 1:26 “let us make man”, bara then God formed man, He shaped what He cut out.
The third word in creation is the word asah. It means to make or to accomplish or to advance, to be busy, to execute or to bring forth. The word describes the process of construction.
These three words are important.
When God creates you, He makes you unique, then He begins to form you and He shapes you – He shapes away the sharp and jagged edges. He takes our rough edges from our journey – He yatzars over our life. Then after He is done shaping us, He brings us forth and presents us. God can’t put us on a platform until He shapes us. Yatzar is a crucial step in the process of us walking in our destiny.
So Jeremiah is in the potter’s house. The potter realizes that the clay he has pulled out has flaws. So he goes through the process of yatzar. When he sees that the pot is damaged, he doesn’t discard it, he repairs it. What we would throw out as no good, God keeps His hand on it and says it just needs to be repaired. What we have no time for, what we take our hands off of, God Almighty keeps His hands on. He says it just needs to be repaired. I know she’s angry and he’s hurt. I know the deeds of their lifestyle, but it just needs to be repaired. Nothing is unrepairable in the hands of God. No matter what they did or how damaged you are, no matter how long it has been, we are still in the hands of God. God says, “I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty. I will make you over and make you into exactly what you are called to be.” God is getting ready to shape our lives into what seems good to Him.
There are two things that God utilises when He puts us through yatzar.
God always has an intention. Clay taken from the ground is slimy, grungy and worthless. But then it goes through a process. Regardless of our successes, failures, cultures and circumstances of our birth, God is exerting a tremendous amount of energy and time. He is investing in us to produce a vessel flexible to go through every storm. Excavators and archaeologists found bones of people who lived and decayed. The only things they find without decay and intact is pottery. It’s because once the potter is done with the clay it goes in the furnace and it becomes durable so that no matter how much it weathers it still has value. Everyone else around us may see the mess and the marr but the potter sees the ministry in our mess because God’s hands are still on us. God knows our iniquity and our possibility. You ought to tell yourself that you don’t look like what you’ve been through. When God gets through with us, we will be built to last. God will not give up on what He has a vision for. What He sees in you He will always see in you. And, He will never give up on the vision He has for us. His hands have been messy for a long time, He knew it’d be messy before He put His hands on us BUT Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. “Stay on the wheel, I can do anything with you,” says the Lord. He isn’t afraid of the mess. He has an intention for our lives.
The instruments are the hands of God. Pastor Brown started out this sermon saying God’s hands are filthy. We ought to be so glad for the day God touched our lives. We ought to be so glad that His hands are still on us. While the clay spins around on the wheel, it is never out of contact with the potter’s hands. He is in constant contact molding and shaping and forming the clay. If he were ever to remove his hands, the clay would be spun out and lost. We ought to declare that our world will never spin out of control because His hands are on us. Because His hands are on us, He senses the changes and when there is a bump or a contradiction or an inconsistency, He feels it immediately and He takes whatever steps necessary to correct the problem. Know that Jesus knows – we don’t even have to share the problem. We need to know we are still in His hands. God’s hands are still on us. That’s what He was trying to tell the tribe of Judah. He was telling them to repent. God said “tell Judah can I not do with you even as the potter has done with the clay?” God wants to form our lives. We just came through resurrection. He wants to do something wonderful in our lives – we are still in His hands. It’s not too bad, our marriage, family and lives can get through this. It’s not too late – we are still in His hands.