God is the potter and Israel the clay. What God has created from nothing, a large nation from a man and woman beyond the years of child-bearing age, God can still refashion. At the time of Jeremiah’s writing, Israel had proven faithless time and again. God intends to judge them, but this judgment, if we are to follow the logic of God, isn’t primarily for destructive purposes, but for reformation.
When God makes this illustration, Jeremiah has been so mistreated that, after having earlier in the book interceded desperately for Israel, he is now ready to have God strike this people in full wrath. Why does Jeremiah feel this way? As the old saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished,” and Jeremiah feels as though his previous prayers for Israel have only been met with disproportionate mistreatment and ridicule. How does one go from praying desperately for a people’s protection one minute, then next wishing God to punish them severely? Jeremiah gets a sense of the profound evil of His people, the weight of their sins as he has experienced the crushing weight of their injustices. So, he wants payback.
Thankfully for them, as we see, God intends His judgement to work to strengthen the work of the Lord’s hands. Israel will be re-shaped but not thrown away. God of justice, we thank you today for your mercy!