Let Your Heart Be Good Clay in the Hands of the Potter: The Bible in Lent Day 25

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. While I’ve read parts of his prophecy before The Bible in Lent challenge, reading it all together (and in order) has highlighted for me just what a difficult calling this was for him.  He was hated and scorned by the people he prophesied against. His message does not include the same comfort of Isaiah promises but speaks of the imminent destruction the people have brought upon themselves by breaking God’s promises.  God provides several metaphors and visuals to Jeremiah to use in explaining what has happened to Jerusalem and what His desires are for His people, but the one that has always stood out to me is the image of the potter and the clay.  When I was a little girl, I thought pottery would be the ideal task. The spinning wheel looked peaceful and the end products always left me wide-eyed. Watching friends work on their wheels via Instagram the last few months has left me with the same wonder. Their skill at molding and shaping their clay with slight movements of their hands amazes me.  So when the Lord sent Jeremiah to watch the potter work, I perked up.  So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6 RSVCE After Jeremiah witnessed the potter shaping the clay, reworking the spoiled pieces into a new, unspoiled vessel, the Lord revealed the metaphor to him, that Israel was the clay and the Lord was their potter.  But the people were not clay that was ready to be worked with by the potter. They rebelled like spoiled clay, hardhearted and unwilling to listen.  The Lord continued on, saying that He would not destroy a people who repented from their evil ways but that neither would He continue to bless a nation that turned to evil and resisted His instruction.  The metaphor of the potter and the clay has been one that…

Read More

The Comfort of God’s Presence in Trials – The Bible in Lent: Day 24

Isaiah’s words have often been a comfort to me in hard times. While it often convicts me of my negligence for the things of the Lord and my heart’s proclivity to wander after lesser things, it also always reminds me of the deep hope I have even in the midst of trials.  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,     he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;     I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you;     and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,     and the flame shall not consume you.” – Isaiahs 43:1-2, RSVCE This passage has reminds me again and again of the hope we have in knowing that God is active and present, not distant or unaware of our trials. But it also reminds me that trials along my journey are not expected.  When you pass through the waters… When you walk through the fire…  I wish these passages said if instead of when but the passage is a preparatory one, not a hypothetical one.  There have been and no doubt will be again seasons of treacherous waters and flames in my life. This passage doesn’t tell me that these things should be ignored or minimized, they tell me that God will walk alongside me and keep me from being consumed by them.   I may struggle past the waves, but I will not be overwhelmed. The fires may burn me, but I will not be consumed because my God, the God who formed me, walks with me.  It is easy for me to assume that God is distant, that He is too busy or sovereign to care about the plights of a girl in Michigan struggling through the waves. But it is not in God’s nature to be distant, but rather a very present help in all of our troubles.  Sometimes,  I think it is easier to stuff down the assumption that God doesn’t see because if God does see, it means He hasn’t intervened. And it hurts to know God sees and yet allows the pain of unanswered prayers and unmet dreams.  But He doesn’t promise to calm every storm, but He does promise to be there with us. He isn’t distant, hardened to…

Read More

Prophesy of Isaiah – Condemnation and Hope: The Bible in Lent Day 23

The Book of Isaiah confronts us with such stark contrast. We see both the despair over sin and future hope.  When Isaiah approaches the throne room of God and sees the Lord’s majesty, his response is to lament over the state of his inadequacy of God.  I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” – Isaiah 6:5  When confronted with true holiness, the only response is to realize how utterly unholy even the best of us are in our natural state.  Isaiah’s task after this encounter is to tell the people of the impending actions that will be taken against them because of their sin. They have broken their covenant with God, forsaking proper worship and abandoning the poor. Isaiah prophesies that they will be taken away from their grounds into captivity.  But thankfully the prophecy doesn’t end with this despair. Because despite the holiness of God and our failures, God’s love and mercy extend past what we could imagine and provides a way for reconciliation.  And so we see the prophecies of the coming Messiah who would redeem a broken people and bring the age of unity and fellowship that could have been for years.  Instead of oppression and neglecting of the poor, we will see the perfect justice of the mighty descendent of Jesse.  Hezekiah said he would not ask for a sign, but the prophet responded that there would be a great sign of what the Lord, that a virgin would conceive the redeemer, someone who would choose rightly between good and evil.  And not only will the Messiah, be a leader for the Israelites, but for the whole world.   In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. – Isaiah 11:10, RSVCE I love the contrast in the book of Isaiah. Because the horror of sin and its effects is not mitigated or swept aside, it is confronted head-on. But so is the immeasurable grace of God working even in the midst of us. Even in the proclamation of judgment, we see the hope we have in His mercy and salvation.  Because we are never left to…

Read More

7 Pieces of Wisdom: The Bible in Lent Day 22

In the Book of Sirach, we find a collection of wisdom applicable to the life of the faithful. For the Christian, the pursuit of wisdom should be forefront of our life.  It’s important as we read through the wisdom, to think about how these passages apply to our lives today. Here are 7 verses from the Book of Sirach and this wisdom can apply to the lives of Christian women today. For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. – Sirach 2:5 RSVCE In the midst of trials, the reminder that they will help refine us as gold is refined in the fire helps give me hope. It reminds me that God has never abandoned me in trials and that my hope isn’t in this moment, but is in the God who is working the flames on my behalf.  The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord. – Sirach 3:18 RSVCE The higher your position, the more you have to actively seek humility. When you are in a low position, when you rely on others, humility is a more natural disposition and you recognize your dependence on God. When you are great, you need to actively seek humility.  Do not find fault before you investigate; first consider, and then reprove. – Sirach 11:7 v This one is straight-forward – don’t be hasty to judgement. Take the time to investigate something before forming your opinion.  Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”; for he will not do what he hates. – Sirach 15:11 RSVCE Again, this is pretty straightforward. We cannot blame the Lord when we choose sin. The Lord does not do what He hates. He will always provide a way for us to choose good and it adds to our shame when we choose sin and blame God for it.  He who despises small things will fail little by little. – Sirach 19:1 RSVCE This verse is a good reminder to start small and not be too proud or haughty to embrace small beginnings.  A slip on the pavement is better than a slip of the tongue. – Sirach 20:18 As the Book of James expands upon the importance of bridling your tongue but more abut consistently in the Book of Sirach we are…

Read More

Don’t Despair, but Don’t Abuse Grace: The Bible in Lent Day 21

The Book of Sirach is one I haven’t read before embarking on this challenge to read the whole Bible in the 40 days of Lent.  The Book of Sirach reads very similarly to the Book of Proverbs. It is a compilation of wise sayings and reflections. Much of it is a reaction to the push at the time to embrace the religions and lifestyles of other cultures.  In chapter 5, there was a passage on dealing with sin that stood out to me as the antithesis of both extremes being offered in our culture today:  Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.  Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.  Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.  Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish. – Sirach 5:4-7 RSVCE In this passage, we are first confronted with the tendency to despair over sin and see no way out. But instead of despair, we are called to remember the mercy and forgiveness of God in spite of our sin.  On the other end of the spectrum are those who presume upon the mercy of God and add sin to sin, saying it doesn’t matter. This attitude is reminded of the justice of God and the call to turn to the Lord in repentance.  We are prone to extremes. To over-estimating the impact of sin on our souls and under-estimating the grace of God or, on the other end of the spectrum, to assume that sin cannot harm us and we can persist in it because of God’s mercy.  As is typical, the response we need lies in the middle.  This passage in Sirach both emphasizes the mercy of God but also calls us to accountability for our sin.  When I sin, I need to reject the idea that my sin doesn’t matter and is of no consequence. My personal sin was significant enough that Christ had to suffer and die for it to be atoned for and that is not something that should be treated lightly.  But neither…

Read More
1d4a7af8d08de24801fc74d62774cf0a8fadd0f88f77b989ab