The word of the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and led him to a potter’s house where the potter was working clay into a vessel. The Lord uses this physical demonstration to show Jeremiah how, like the potter, He wants to mold us into beautiful vessels, but sometimes we (the clay) aren’t malleable in His hands. (Jer 18)
With each piece of clay there’s a turning point where the clay just can’t be reworked any longer. The clay is so stubborn that it becomes hard and the potter can’t physically mold it. This clay becomes a ‘vessel of wrath’ and is thrown into the valley where it shatters into pieces. (Jer 19)
It is always God’s intention to make beautiful vessels. When we don’t listen to His purposes or incline our hearts to know His ways, we become spoiled in His hands–He can remold us again and again, but there is always a point where we, like the clay, can’t be reworked. It isn’t God’s fault when we don’t cooperate, it’s ours; just as the potter wanted to make lovely vessels but couldn’t if the clay wouldn’t cooperate.
God’s exhortation to Jeremiah through the physical demonstration of the clay is to warn the people to turn away from evil, and to reform their ways and their deeds (Jer 18:11). He wants them to turn back to Him so adamantly that He is willing to use severe measures to get their attention that perhaps they will be shaken by the extremity of what their stubbornness is doing to them.
There is a physical choice, in other words, to soften our hearts to the Lord (the circumcision of the heart) and be malleable in His hands. This requires complete surrender (submissiveness) on our part, but allows that we would be created into a beautiful vessel of the Lord–and once we understand that He is good as He says He is, we can trust that whatever He wants to make us into really is the most fulfilling thing.