God has already spoken plenty through Jeremiah, explaining how and where His people have gone astray- He has also made it plain and clear through which means He plans to judge His people. The warnings have been straight forward, direct and harsh. But here, in Chapter 18 we see that through the vision of the potter and the clay- God demonstrates that it is indeed His sovereign right to judge and assess His creation how He so chooses. It is almost an apologetic piece that describes how and why He could possibly break perceived promises that should spare Israel from any kind of destruction. However, the true spirit behind it is to demonstrate God’s desire for repentance.
The key element is the fact that, because God is merciful and just, he demonstrates a gracious invitation for repentance, and states clearly that He will honor such a turning away from sin and evil. In verse 8, this is clearly displayed. Of course the contrary is also true-
Out of this reality- the Lord pleads that His people would choose the former way- and turn from evil (vs. 11)
The rationale is futile however, because as the rest of the chapter unfolds (even as early as vs. 12, where they say it’s in vain) and in the content of chapters 19 and 20- we see that it does not matter much, whether God promises mercy or judgment, as the hearts and minds of the people have been made up, and they have decided already that they will carry on in their own ways. In what seems in chapter 18 to be a sober description and explanation of the true heart and intention of God; His people appear blind to this message. It appears that they have become so hardened to the Lord that both direct confrontation and speech, as well as creative vision and parable, seem to be ineffective ways to lead them to change their ways.
Not only are the people resistant to the messages and warnings- they continue in their pursuit to silence Jeremiah, the one who speaks truth from God, and instead seek after the false prophets, who tell them what they want to hear. The strong example of the oppression of Jeremiah inflicted by Pashur in chapter 20 gives us a glimpse to what extent measures were being taken. This of course does not go unnoticed by the Lord either and in chapter 20 vs. 3 we read the startling statement: “The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror On Every Side.”
The application of this segment of the book for me is very important in helping us examine ourselves and our motives. When we are encountered by conviction, but also (praise God) the message of grace offered through an invitation of repentance, how do we react? Are we self aware enough to recognize it, and our sin and evil ways and to be grateful to God for the ability to withhold His wrath from us… or do we continue to pursue our own way- diving deeper into the sin and evil- scoffing at the free gift of mercy- and even attempting to silence the messenger that God has sent our way? It is frightening at times that the house of Israel could be so deceived and so unwilling to heed to the Lord- yet, we all have the capacity to do the same and must strive for honest assessment, not only of our actions, but of our heart and motives, which will drive our response when the offering of grace through repentance comes our way.