Thursday, March 11, 2010

Broken Vessel - Jeremiah 19

Jeremiah 19:11 "And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again, and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury."

I pondered this chapter as I prayed for my family this morning. I had already read it over several times but the broken vessel seemed so final. I wondered what lesson there was and what hope there was for a broken vessel.

First we should keep it in context. What was Tophet anyway? It was a place in the valley of Hinnom where human sacrifices were offered to Molech. It is also known as the place of the sun, the place of fire, the valley of slaughter. The sacrifice of infants to fire-gods was kept up here. eventually after Josiah spread bones there to stop the practice it became a cesspool for the sewage of Jerusalem. It became Gehenna to indicate the place of eternal suffering. It is translated hell in the gospels.

v1 "Thus saith the LORD, go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests v2 And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee."

There was a reason why such judgment was pronounced here. As we saw from the bit of history above, it was an evil place. Israel had turned to gods and idols and every kind of worship that they could imagine.

v4 "Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;"

We have here a nation that has been built by God and protected by God. Yet they have turned from him and even forgotten him. Forsaken is a sad word.

Then, I returned to the broken vessel and wondered what lesson of good could I draw from it. Then I thought of the potter in his shop. I have heard of how they would from time to time pick up a piece of a broken vessel and use it to shape a new vessel they were making. Then I thought of Israel in the Bible and the church. Isn't it true that, as Christians, we draw heavily from the Old Testament and the history of the people of Israel.

In a way, we are shaped by the broken vessel Israel. We learn from their greatness and their great God. We, as a church, are a new vessel shaped by the old.

Even broken Christians can shape other Christians. Every life is a lesson that others can learn from. Even the 'don't does' of others can be a warning to those who would do right.

We look at their greatness and their turning away. We look at the lovingkindness of God toward them and the stern chastening they received. From these stories, we learn much about ourselves and the importance of the sacrifice Christ made. We are indeed sinful and hopeless on our own. It took a sinless person to die for our many transgressions.

Try as we may to do the right thing and live a good life, we are still prone to turn back to sin or to yield to temptations. Thank God, we have a refuge, a city of refuge, a place to run when we come to ourselves and see that we have wrong God. We also forgiveness and a place to start over. We do not have to be the broken vessel in the valley of Hinnom.

Being a Christian is a better way.

I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

He is justified in doing so because Christ took our place and carried our sins to the cross.

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