Today’s reading brings us to the last two of Jeremiah’s “confessions” (18.18-23, and 20.7-18). You get a feel for Jeremiah’s suffering in the story of the conflict with Pashur, but you also get a feel for Jeremiah’s bitterness in 18:21-22.
Is it just Jeremiah do you think, or is Jeremiah’s bitterness a mirror of God’s own bitterness against His people?
Chapter 18 emphasizes the impossibility of boxing God in. On the one hand, God has promised to be Israel’s God, to be with her and protect her and bless her. Jeremiah’s cry to God in 14:21 was “For the sake of your name, do not despise us.” The idea is, since Israel bears the name of God, if bad things happen to her, it will reflect poorly in the Lord. He continues: “Do not dishonor your glorious throne. Remember your covenant with us and do not break it!”
This is boxing God in. He promised. His reputation is on the line. Therefore, no matter how His people act, God must deliver and bless them.
But God will not be boxed in. Like the potter whose work is marred at the wheel, God can change the circumstances and do as He pleases. He will be true to His word, for after all, the promises were always conditional on Israel’s obedience, but He will also refashion and reshape. The change will be painful for both potter and clay, but God will have His way.