But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Jeremiah 18:4 (NIV)

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible we might come across something that might seem like a contradiction. Like the idea that God can change His mind. When this happens we have all sorts of ways that we can approach this issue. We can remember “God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises” (Numbers 23:19 CEV). We also know that His ways are not our ways and that “just as the heavens are higher than the earth, [His] thoughts” are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9 CEV). There’s nothing wrong with remembering these things about God and if you choose to grab hold of these and move on, dismissing what you might think is a contradiction then that’s great! I, on the other hand, since I was about two years old, haven’t really stopped asking, “Why?” The biggest change, though, is that I now listen when I ask the question.

In reading Jeremiah 18 today, I ran across God telling Jeremiah:

7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. Jeremiah 18:7-10 (NIV)

I have to confess that sometimes when I’m reading through my daily devotions that I might go faster than I should through the text. In this season, by the time I’ve gotten to reading through my devotions, I have already listened to them earlier in the day and find myself thinking of what I’ve heard earlier. By the time I read the text, I already have an idea of what God has brought to my attention. I think that’s floating around in the back of my mind while I’m reading. This is one reason why taking notes, whether they be mental or physical, during reading is important. Highlighting a verse is one way of taking note of it.

When we read this we might think that God is telling Jeremiah that He can change His mind. You may recall the story of Jonah, the prophet God told to “go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2 NIV). When Jonah finally gets to Nineveh he proclaims, “‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown'” (Jonah 3:4 NIV). All of Nineveh repents at hearing the message, believing God, and God turns his anger aside and doesn’t destroy the city (Jonah 3:5-10).

In Jeremiah 18 and here in Jonah we have two cases where God has done the same thing. What does He tell Jeremiah in verse 7? He says that he will warn a nation beforehand. That’s what He had Jonah do. Go and tell the people of Nineveh what was going to happen if they didn’t turn from their ways. We know from Nahum that Nineveh is eventually destroyed about 150 years after the book of Jonah.

I don’t see any indication here that God changes His mind. We can see that God warned the people of what He was going to do if they didn’t change their minds and turn from evil. There’s more here that God tells Jeremiah in verses 9 and 10. If God tells a nation that they’re going to be blessed and they do evil then they’re not going to be blessed.

Before God tells Jeremiah any of this He directs Jeremiah to watch a potter at work. Jeremiah notes that the potter will rework the clay if it doesn’t please him while he’s forming the pot. That’s what God is trying to get Jeremiah to understand. We are the clay that God desires to go in a certain direction. While it might appear that what God does is based on how we behave, I don’t see it this way.

Human beings are mutable but God isn’t. God’s judgment is just that, His judgment and He does what He says He is going to do. In Deuteronomy 28 God tells the people what the consequences are for obedience and disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-68). He tells the Jewish people that He

64 will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. Deuteronomy 28:64-67 (NIV)

Therefore, the events of Jeremiah are exactly what God said they were going to be 600 years or so earlier if the people didn’t obey. While we must remember that God doesn’t change His mind and always keeps His promises, it’s more important to apply this how and where it needs to be applied. Previously I said that there was nothing wrong with thinking that you’ve found a contradiction and then moving on from there believing God to be who He is. However, allow me to suggest that if there was any doubt there then that doubt could possibly grow and fester into something more if left unresolved.

However, seeking understanding of the word will result in a greater relationship with God because we’re not just “passing” on what we might have otherwise considered a flaw in God’s nature. God has no character flaws and when we pursue a better understanding of Him, as presented in His Word, we aren’t doing a disservice to Him. We’re seeking to know Him better, and the better that we know God, the more we can be a tool of understanding for those who also seek to know Him.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.