Jeremiah 1, continued (4 Epiphany, Year C)
The introductory chapter of Jeremiah lays out what will become clear in the rest of the book, that the God of Jeremiah has the entire world and all its nations on the potter's wheel. The Sovereign Potter is at work squashing and remaking a huge, global vessel of clay on the wheel.
Speaking of this in Jeremiah 18, God says, "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in my sight by not obeying my voice, then I will think better..." (18:9-10).
The Potter is not capricious, but is working with the clay to produce a beautiful artwork. The clay is free to be non-cooperative, but it is not free to declare itself something other than clay. To do so would be simple hubris!
The "universalistic" (global) perspective of the book of Jeremiah reaches one of its heights at Jeremiah 16:19–21. In this passage, the book makes reference to God’s planned salvation of the nations. (A similar vision is found in multiple other OT texts, including 1 Kgs 8:41–43; Ruth 1:16; Pss 22:27; 67:2; 68:31–32; 102:22; Isa 18:7; 19:19–22; Jer 3:17; 4:2; 12:16; Zech 8:20–23; 14:16; and Mal 1:11.)
The Jeremiah 16 text looks beyond the coming judgment on Judah to contemplate the goal of history in the nations rallying around Yahweh. Converting to Yahweh, earth’s peoples make the astounding confession that their traditional gods were never gods at all. This view of the nations is here attested well before the time of 2 Isaiah and the late exilic period when many scholars suppose such notions first emerged!