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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 19:1-4a

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 19, 2015

A Clay Jar
19 This is what the LORD says: Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests. 2 Go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, by the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I will tell you. 3 Say: Hear the word of the LORD, kings of Judah and you who live in Jerusalem. This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel says: I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make everyone who hears about it shudder, 4 because they have forsaken me and have defiled this place.

Some time after Jeremiah’s first potter-prophecy (chapter 18), the Lord commanded him to go back and buy a pot. Perhaps it was from the same potter; perhaps not.

Few Bible maps attempt to show the location of the potsherd gate, and this is the only time that this sha‘ar ha-charsit is mentioned in the Bible. Commentaries talk about where it may have been, but we don’t know with certainty. The Valley of Ben Hinnom is the valley immediately south of the city, running west to east and joining with the Kidron Valley to the southeast. Another gate on the south side was called the Dung Gate (Nehemiah 2:13, etc.), evidence that Jerusalem’s garbage was dumped into this valley and burned. The potsherd “gate” might not even have been a gate through which one could walk; it may have been a hole in the wall nicknamed a gate through which people just threw their broken pottery (we don’t know exactly what the wall looked like before it was destroyed by the Babylonians and rebuilt by Nehemiah). Jeremiah was told to go out into the valley and stand near the entrance of the gate where broken pots were carried or flung, and break a pot.

The action wasn’t magical. It was a very definite action from God that hardly needed any word of explanation. But more happened in this Valley of Ben Hinnom than the dumping of broken pottery and the burning of trash. Pagan worship had happened here, too. Jeremiah will talk about that in the verses to come.

God told the prophet to bring with him some of the elders of the people and the priests. This was so that they could hear his message first-hand. If God was going to condemn them, he didn’t want there to be any question of it being misunderstood. These were people who had begun to close their ears to what Jeremiah said. If they were only going to try to catch him to see if he made a mistake (perhaps you recall the comments about Jeremiah 18:18), the Lord wanted them to hear that this was no mistake: They stood condemned before God.

What a gracious God we have who forgives us! He condemned his own people for their unbelief, but he has reached out to us with his saving Gospel and given us what we didn’t deserve, didn’t earn, and didn’t even look for. He has showered us with his undeserved grace. He could have smashed us like the pot in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but instead he has polished us, cherished us, and set us aside for his holy purpose. What a gracious God we have who forgives us!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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