by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
IN THE POTTER'S HOUSE.
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jer. 18:1-4). This is a passage which has presented difficulty to not a few, or probably it would be more correct to say that (in most cases at least) it has been made to present difficulty. Enemies of the Truth have grievously “wrested” these verses and even the interpretations of its friends have not always succeeded in removing the mists which have beclouded the minds of those influenced by error. Because of this and also as we hope to write upon some later portions in this chapter, a comment or two on its opening verses may not prove unacceptable.
Arminians have appealed to this passage in support of their horrible and God-dishonouring tenet that the Creator may be thwarted by the creature, that puny man is able to bring to nought the designs of the Most High. If such a dreadful calamity were possible, then, to be consistent, they should carry such a premise to its logical conclusion, and avow
“The universe He fain would save,Such a blasphemous caricature of Deity is repugnant and repellent to the last degree unto every renewed heart, yet is it one which finds more or less acceptance today in professedly “Christian” quarters. The natives of dark Africa manufacture idols with their hands but the heathen in Christendom fashion a “God” out of their Satan-blinded minds.
But longs for what He cannot have!
We therefore worship, praise and laud,
A disappointed, helpless God!”
A disappointed and defeated God! What a concept! What a contradiction in terms! How can He be the great Supreme if man is capable of check-mating Him? How can He be the Almighty if lacking in ability to carry out His will? Who would render homage unto One who is thwarted by His creatures? How vastly different is the God of Holy Writ, who has but to speak and it is done—who commands and it stands fast (Psa. 33:9)!
Jehovah is no pasteboard Monarch. No, “our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psa. 115:3). “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did He in Heaven and in the earth, in the seas and all deep places” (Psa 135:6). “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isa. 14:26, 27). “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:9, 10).
But are there not other passages which speak of God in quite another strain? Suppose such be the case, then what? Why, would these not oblige us to modify our conception of the absoluteness of God's supremacy as predicated in the verses cited above? Certainly not. The Holy Scriptures are not a “nose of wax” (as Papists have wickedly affirmed) which man may twist as he pleases. They are the inspired Word of God, without flaw or contradiction; yet we need wisdom from the Holy Spirit if we are to interpret them aright. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), incorporeal, and therefore “invisible” (Col. 1:15), “whom no man hath seen nor can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). Must we, forsooth, modify this representation of His ineffable Being because we read of His “eyes” (2 Chron. 16:9), His “hands” (Psa. 95:5) and “feet” (Exo. 24:10)? “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psa. 121:4): is that negated by the statement, “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep” (Psa. 78:65), or because He represents Himself as “rising up early” (Jer. 7:13)?
When Scripture affirms that God's “dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand” (Dan. 4:34,35), are we obliged to place limitations upon such supremacy when we hear Him saying elsewhere, “I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof” (Prov. 1:24, 25)? Of course not.
Then how are we to avoid such an expediency? By distinguishing between things that differ: by discriminating between God's secret will and His revealed will, between His eternal decree and the rule which He has given us to walk by. The latter passage speaks of men scorning the Word of God, which it is their responsibility to obey. The former passage affirms the sovereign supremacy of God over all, whose eternal purpose is accomplished in and by men, not because of their willing compliance but in spite of their enmity and rebellion—as was the case with Pharaoh.
Settle it in your mind once and for all, my reader, that the true and living God is King of kings and Lord of lords, the Almighty, whom neither man nor devil can defeat or successfully resist—for such is the plain and positive teaching of His word. The churches may no longer proclaim such a God. The vast majority of those who still pose as His people may no longer believe in such an One, but that alters not the fact that He is so: “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Settle it in your mind likewise that Holy Writ cannot contradict itself, and therefore if the meaning of some passages are not clear to you, humbly look to their Author to enlighten you—for the obscurity is in your mind and not in His Word.
When Christ affirmed, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), He spake according to His absolute Deity. But when He declared, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), He spake as the God-man Mediator. The perfect accord of the two passages is evident when we perceive the dual relationship of Christ to the Father: as the Son and as God-man. In like manner we must learn to distinguish between God speaking as absolute sovereign and as the Enforcer of human responsibility—as the One who deals with men according to their condition.
Now in the verses at the beginning of this article there is not even an apparent difficulty: men must read into it what is not there before they encounter a stumbling stone. The Lord does not affirm therein that He is represented by “the potter” (vv. 5-10 are considered in our next), and if we suppose He is, then we shall be rightly confounded. Jeremiah was sent to a “potter's house” that he might receive instruction from what he saw. While there he witnessed a vessel of clay “marred” in the hand of the potter. Most assuredly that cannot picture man's fall, for his Creator pronounced him “very good” when he left His hands. Nor can it picture the experience of any since the Fall, for the hand of God is the place of safety and not of injury. Further, we are told this potter “made it (the marred vessel) again another vessel.” But God never mends what man has marred, but displaces with something altogether new: the old covenant was set aside for the New (Heb. 8:8), the old creation for a New (2 Cor. 5:17), the present Heaven and earth by a New (Isa. 65:17). Rather is the “as seemed good to the potter to make it” the particular similitude fastened upon (v. 6).—A.W.P.