When the Potter hits the "reset" button
“The story of Jeremiah is the anguished poetic reflection on the destruction of Jerusalem.”
We were introduced to Jeremiah by considering a potter at work. He crafts a piece of clay in whatever way seems good for him to do. When the clay cooperates, great! When the clay refuses to be shaped, the potter has every right to shape, reshape, and even to start again with the same material, if necessary. Yahweh, our creator, must have at least as much freedom over his creation as an artist at work. He has the freedom to do whatever seems good to him with the material he has spoken into being, ex nihilo.
A couple of weeks ago at Wits’ End, our Midrash discussion took us back to the story of Noah and his Ark, full of his family and a ton of animals, who would become a “Reset” button on the world God had made. And while the rainbow stands as a promise that God would not flood the world again, the story of Jeremiah has an eerily similar feel.
That same week we remembered the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives in New York City. Those events shook the psyche of our nation like it hadn’t been in decades. Suddenly, we realized we were vulnerable. Even our greatest city could become a place of death.
The fall of Jerusalem is as shocking politically as the full destruction of New York would be to us. But spiritually, there could be no bigger calamity than the fall of Jerusalem. Sure, it meant that life would change on an economical level. But more to the point, Jerusalem falling meant that God had abandoned his people. True, some may be saved, just like in the story of Noah, but there would be much more tragedy than there would be salvation in the daily news.
The world, as Jeremiah knew it, was coming to an end. The divine Potter had formed this piece of work called Israel, from the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He personally shaped them as he heard their cry for help when they were in Egypt. He crafted them in the desert for 40 years. Then, through seemingly endless wars with Philistines, he had fired them in the kiln, giving Israel, the work of his own two hands, the land he had promised. And Jerusalem. Jerusalem was at the very center of this labor of love.
In a word, it is unimaginable that Yahweh would do this to his people. And yet we are brought to the potter’s house and invited to note the freedom and the intentionality of the Creator. And amidst the trauma, the panic, and the utter desolation, a curious truth comes to light; the nature of creation is ongoing. Yahweh has a plan in all of this. The trauma of Jerusalem’s collapse is not meant as a final word. The potter does not break his creation simply out of frustration. He breaks it because it is not yet what it will one day become.
We wonder if the same is true for our own trauma. Death is an ever-present reality. The pain caused by betrayal is not meant simply to disappear in time. But is there a promise of future wholeness in each breaking?
How do you deal with a God who is willing to destroy his own people, even if there is a future promise of wholeness?