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The Potters Clay

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THE POTTER'S CLAY

Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1–12

Memory verse: Jeremiah 18:6
"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel."

Lead—In

Describe the work involved in making items from clay. Explain that pottery was very important in Bible times. All types of pots, dishes, and other vessels were made from clay. Severely flawed pottery was considered worthless. Potters did their best to make perfect, useful vessels.

A potter begins with a ball of smooth clay that has had the air bubbles worked out of it. This ball is flattened and shaped into the size and shape desired. The potter works on smoothing the inside and outside of the vessel at the same time. His hands must be kept moist so they will not create scratches or nicks in the clay. After drying for a day, the clay becomes firm enough to withstand a final shaping. This final step is referred to as “cleaning the green ware.” (Green ware is pottery that has not yet been fired.) Then it is ready to be “fired,” or baked, in order to harden. If a flaw occurs at any point before the firing process, the potter can simply crumble the clay, work it again, and start over. After firing the clay, however, a marred vessel cannot be fixed. It is useless.

Explain that in some ways we are quite similar to clay vessels. Encourage the students to listen to how we are like clay to God.

Hearing God’s Word

God wanted His people to know the wonderful plans He had for them. He gave a message to the prophet Jeremiah to give to the people of Judah.

The Prophet Jeremiah

The prophet Jeremiah was born in a village called Anathoth, located about four kilometres northeast of Jerusalem. His father was a priest. Jeremiah began his ministry as a prophet when he was about 20 years old. In those days, that was quite young for someone to take such a position of authority.

Ask: “How would you have felt if you had been Jeremiah and you were to tell people what God wanted them to know?” (Allow responses.)

Jeremiah began his work as a prophet when Josiah was king of Judah. Josiah was one of the few kings of Judah who served the one true God. Most of the other rulers led the people further into idol worship. Both Jeremiah and Josiah worked to turn the people back to God. They tried to teach the people God’s law, and encouraged them to worship only Him. But Josiah was killed during battle when he was still a young man. His teachings were forgotten as other wicked kings ruled Judah. They did not want the people to know the right way to live. These wicked kings resented Jeremiah’s warnings.

Jeremiah realized the people had no intentions of serving God. Their form of worship to God was not sincere; it was just for show. But Jeremiah knew God wanted more than outward obedience. He wanted the people to realize that true worship to God comes from the heart. The people needed to really love and want to obey God.

Jeremiah at the Potter’s House

One day the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. He was told to go down to a potter’s house to hear from God. Jeremiah obeyed and watched the potter working at his wheel.

As Jeremiah watched, God taught him a lesson. What was it? (Ask several students to read Jeremiah 18:1–6.) God used the potter and the clay as an object lesson. He told Jeremiah that the people of Judah were like the clay in the potter’s hands. God’s object lesson is true for us today also. Our memory verse reminds us of this. (Repeat the memory verse together several times.)

If you have ever worked with clay, you know that it is hard to get a pot right the first time. A clay object may have to be worked and reworked several times before it is just the way the potter wants it. A small stone or piece of grit can ruin the pot as it is being turned on the potter’s wheel. If the potter really cares about his craft, he will rework the clay and start again if he sees the vessel is marred in some way. He knows a cracked or flawed vessel will not be very dependable or useful.

As Jeremiah stood in the potter’s shop, he understood the lesson God wanted to teach him. The people of Judah were as clay in God’s hands—He wanted to form them into something good. God sent Jeremiah to tell the people what they would need to do to become useful and valuable to Him. What was it?

They had to stop doing wrong and start obeying God. God loved His people and He wanted them to love Him. If God’s people were not willing to obey Him, He would not be able to help them when their enemies came to attack them. Their sins would cause them to be seriously punished. (Ask various students to read Jeremiah 18:7–11.) God reminded His people that He wanted to bless them. If, however, they chose to be disobedient, God would have to begin again, just as the potter broke apart the marred vessel and started to make it over again.

The People Refuse to Listen

Ask: “How did the people respond to God’s message?” (Allow response. Let a student read Jeremiah 18:12.) They chose their own way. They did not want to submit to God and obey Him.

God was saddened by the people of Judah’s refusal to love Him. God wanted to bless them, not punish them. But God cannot stand sin. If the people would not turn from sin, God could not help them. They had become useless vessels just as the potter’s marred vessel was useless.

Jeremiah’s warnings unfortunately came true. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, sent his army to destroy the cities of Judah. They held a long, terrible siege against Jerusalem. Finally the city was conquered and destroyed. The king was blinded and led away in chains. Many people were taken captive and forced to live far away from their homeland. The land of Judah became deserted.

During everyone’s lifetime, there are decisions that must be made. These decisions can bring good results or bad ones. We often think only older people make important decisions, but that is not true. The decisions you make today can affect what your life will be like in the future. As long as we are willing to listen to godly advice, read the Bible and pray every day, God will help us grow spiritually. He will guide us and help us to make the right decisions and have right attitudes and behaviour.

If we are like the people of Judah and choose our own way instead of obeying God’s leading, we will lose much that would bring value and joy to our lives. Also we will lose an eternity in heaven. Being shaped into a perfect vessel might require some reworking, but when that vessel is completed, it is beautiful and useful.

We Are Like Clay Vessels

Like Judah and Israel, we are also like clay in God’s hands. We need to allow Him to shape us in the way He desires. We would not want to be useless vessels because of cracks or flaws in our lives.

Ask: “What are some flaws that could cause us to be unlovely people?” (Allow response.)

Selfishness, unkindness, anger, lying, cheating, stealing, bad language, and disobedience are all flaws others can see. These flaws cause serious cracks that damage our lives and make us less than God designed us to be.

Our lives are witnesses of our dedication to God. Did you know our lives are sometimes the only ”Bibles” some people will ever read? If we go to church and call ourselves Christians, others will watch to see if we live what we say. If we let ugly flaws and cracks ruin our lives, we hurt not only ourselves but also others we might have influenced for Jesus.

What kind of vessel do you want to be? Allow God to fill in those cracks and smooth out the rough places in your life. You will find peace and satisfaction when you put your life into His hands. You will avoid the painful mistakes that come from ignoring Him. You will become a blessing—a good vessel God can use to show His love to others.

Accepting God’s Word

The Master Potter can would you if you are one of His vessels. You become His vessel by asking forgiveness of sin. Point out that everyone is born a sinner and needs a Saviour. Explain the plan of salvation. Then pray with each who wants to receive Jesus as Saviour. Instruct them in how to grow as a Christian and encourage them to share about their decision for Jesus with someone this week.

Hospitality

I stopped at a roadside shed in a small town where coffee was being served. A 16-year-old girl wearing a miniskirt was standing at a table preparing coffee for customers while her parents sat behind her, drinking coffee and chewing khat.

I sat near the parents and ordered a cup of coffee. The young girl went out and came back wearing tights to cover her legs. It was interesting that in this drug-addicted society, modesty was still valued.

The father offered me some khat leaves. I accepted them and carefully examined a leaf. Then, I politely laid the leaves on the table beside my cup of coffee. This provided a topic for discussion before the father stepped outside and drove away in a big transport lorry.

REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for Hararghe Parents

1. Parents valuing their children as a precious treasure.
2. Children to honour their parents.
3. Parents to be concerned about their children's eternal destiny.

Prayer Promise

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Remember: THE POTTER’S CLAY

Memory verse: Jeremiah 18:6

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel."

1. We are like clay in God's hands.
2. Obeying God allows Him to shape our lives.
3. God wants to make us into a useful vessel.

Pray for Hararghe Parents.

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Study 3 | All Peoples/The Prophets | africaatts.org/go-teach

 

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