The God of the Second Chance

Bible Book: Jeremiah  18 : 1-6
Subject: Grace, God's; Forgiveness

Thomas Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a “light bulb” and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You’ve probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. And who do you suppose he trusted with the task of carrying the bulb upstairs this time? He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one.[1]

I’m glad for second chances, aren’t you? And I want to speak to you this morning about “The God Of The Second Chance.” There are several situations in the scripture that we could use to magnify the fact our God is the God of the second chance.

 In the Old Testament, we could look at Abraham who lied about his wife on two separate occasions, and then at the bidding of his wife, Abraham slept with their maid and had a child. But God came again to confirm the covenant promises to Abraham. Another example is Moses who, at the age of 40, had attempted to help one of his Hebrew brethren by killing an Egyptian taskmaster. The murder was discovered and Moses fled in fear to the wilderness where he spent the next 40 years of his life. When Moses was 80 years old, God gave him a second chance and called him to be a deliverer for his Hebrew brethren. We could also look at David who committed adultery and then arranged the death of his mistress’s husband. But God seemed to give him a second chance so that David went on to pen further hymns and continue building a kingdom for God’s glory.

 In the New Testament, we could look at Simon Peter who cursed and denied the Lord the night before Jesus was crucified. But God gave him a second chance, as the Lord examined Peter’s love and re-commissioned him in John 21. Or we could look at Acts 13, which tells us of John Mark and how he left the ministry for a time. But God (and Paul) gave him a second chance as we read the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11, where he said, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”

 I listened recently to a sermon by Dr. David Jeremiah as he dealt with the God of the second chance. In the sermon, he mentioned some of these individuals that I have just mentioned, but his main focus was upon Jonah who ran from God in Jonah chapter 1. But then in Jonah 3:1, “the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time.”

 I came across a poem by an unnamed author entitled, “The God of One More Chance.” It says…

A man named Peter stumbled bad. Lost all the love he ever had

Fouled his own soul’s spring. Cursed and swore and all that sort of thing.

He got another chance and then … He preached the gospel to many men.

A boy goes wrong the same as he … Who fed swine in a far country.

He seems beyond the utmost reach … Of hearts that pray, of lips that preach.

Give him another chance and see … How beautiful his life may be.

Paul cast the young man Mark aside … But Barnabas his metal tried

Called out his courage, roused his vim … And made a splendid man of him

Then Paul, near death, longed for a glance … Of Mark who’d had another chance.

King David one dark day fell down … Lost every jewel from his crown

He had another chance and found … His kingly self, redeemed, recrowned

Now lonely souls and countless throngs … Are lifted by his timeless songs.

For fallen souls – arise, advance … Ours is the God of one more chance.[2]

These people and this poem remind us of the fact that failure need not be final. But in order to magnify the truth that our God is the God of the second chance, I want us to look at another person. And as we look at this person, I want us to look at a place, and I want us to look at a thing. The person is the potter in Jeremiah chapter 18. The place is the potter’s house, and the thing is the lump of clay upon the potter’s wheel.

H. A. Ironside reminds us that there are many “Scripture similes taken from the potter’s house.”

In 1 Chronicles 4: 22, 23, the potters are among those who “dwelt with the king for his work.” In Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 2:27, Messiah takes the part of the offended potter, dashing in pieces the unworthy vessel. Isaiah in chapters 29:16 and 64:8 of his magnificent prophecy, and Paul in Romans 9:20, 23, use the same figure as this chapter in Jeremiah brings before us. God is the Potter; we are but the clay in His hands.

Solemn and needful lessons are to be learned in the house of the potter – lessons for puny man’s pride and self-sufficiency. And the Lord said to Jeremiah, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words” (chap. 18: 2). In unquestioning obedience he goes to the appointed place of instruction arriving just in time to find the potter working a vessel on the wheels: marred in his hands, he takes it up anew, and as Jeremiah looked on “he made it again, as it seemed good to the potter to make it” (verse. 3, 4).

At once the word of Jehovah came to His servant. Taking what had just occurred before his eyes, He likened it to the way in which He was about to deal with marred, sin-disfigured Israel. (Ironside)

The lessons learned in Jeremiah 18 are primarily for Israel then. But as J. Vernon McGee reminds us, “The figure of the potter and clay is carried over in the New Testament. We find Paul in his epistle to the Romans using the same simile: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:21).

I believe then, that there is meaning in this message for all of us. There is a sense in which we are all “just clay in the potter’s hands, lifted up from the miry sands.”

As we go with Jeremiah down to the potter’s house…

I. Let’s Consider The Potter’s Project vs. 3

(Jeremiah 18:3) Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

A. Notice The Material In This Project

We’re told in verse 4 that “the vessel that he made” was “of clay.” As Pastor Howard Chang said, “When the potter desires to create something, he must have clay. The kind of clay that is available to him will determine what kind of pottery he can make. There are many variations of clay. Clays can be moist or dry, various shades of earth tones in color, and have different compositional make-up.” As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Geologists tell us that there are endless varieties of clay, each locality having its own peculiar varieties.”[3] Chang goes on to say, “The potter works with each of these variations for his own purposes and alters the clays as he sees fit.”[4]

1. The Clay Has A Typological Meaning

According to verse 6, the primary interpretation of this object lesson is that the clay represents Israel. For God said, “Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” But it doesn’t just apply to the Hebrew; this clay analogy applies to all of humanity. Consider the following verses…

(Genesis 2:7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

(Job 10:9) Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?

(Job 33:6) Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.

2. The Clay Has A Transitional Movement

The clay was wedged out of the earth, and this lump was brought to the potter’s house, which refers not to the area where the potter lives, but to where the potter works. Before the potter brings the lump of clay into the workshop, he repeatedly throws the clay down upon the ground and then he walks on it, as Isaiah 41:25 says, “as the potter treadeth clay.” This is all done to soften the clay and remove any air bubbles within the clay. And before God brings you into the household of faith, He may have to bring you down and burst your bubble so that your heart is soft and pliable. Once it is here in the potter’s workshop, the clay will be formed and fashioned into a usable vessel. The psalmist said…

(Psalms 40:2) He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

I too have been transitioned and transferred, from the horrible pit to the house of the potter, from the mire to the choir (so to speak).

B. Notice The Molding In This Project

(Jeremiah 18:3) Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

1. We See The Turning Wheels on the wheels

Ray Stedman said…

That wheel stands for the turning circumstances of our life, under the control of the Potter, for it is the potter’s foot that guides the wheel. The lesson is clear. As our life is being shaped and molded by the Great Potter, it is the circumstances of our life, the wheels of circumstance, … which bring us again and again under the potter’s hand, under the pressure of the molding fingers of the Potter, so that he shapes the vessel according to his will.

The wheel below is unseen by the clay, and this is the wheel where the speed and force of the process is controlled. Then there is the wheel above where the work is wrought. Sometimes we see the twists and turns of life, and we fail to see that the force behind it all or underneath it all is the potter.

There are two wheels, an upper and a lower, a heavenly influence and an earthly circumstance. His hand is on the upper, His foot upon the lower. (From The Biblical Illustrator)

Had the clay possessed mental, sensitive being, it might have complained of the method, the pressure of the kneading hand, the spinning of the wheel. But objection is (unwise). We are sometimes whirled round and round upon the wheel of life, until the head is giddy and the heart sick. But there is not one unnecessary pang. God’s will is of the highest purpose. Character can only come by discipline, and through suffering we pass into the perfect beauty of holiness.

(F. James from The Biblical Illustrator)

2. We See The Transforming Work he wrought a work

This word “work” has the idea of ministering. As the potter ministers to the clay, he molds it and makes it. Ultimately, the clay becomes a cup that runneth over.

Verse 4 speaks of “the vessel that he made of clay.”

vessel – Hebrew 3627. keliy, means something prepared, any apparatus such as an implement, utensil, or vessel.

The word “wrought” in verse 3 and the word “made” in verse 4 means to do it. The clay is not doing it. The potter is doing it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24) Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

II. Let’s Consider The Potter’s Problem vs. 4

I say the potter’s problem, but actually the problem was not with the potter; the problem was with the clay. So often when people get marred and scarred on the wheel of life, they want to jump out of the potter’s house. But we have to remember that the potter is not finished with us yet.

J. Vernon McGee tells about a little boy who was playing in the mud down by a brook. He was attempting to make a man. He worked on him and had gotten pretty well along when his mother called him. They were going downtown and he must come along. He wanted to stay, but she insisted that he come. By this time he had finished his mud man except for one arm. But he had to leave. While he was in town with his mother and father, he saw a one-armed man. He eyed him for a while. Finally he went up to him and said, “Why did you leave before I finished you?”

A. Notice The Passage’s Revelation Of The Problem – The Clay Was Marred

(Jeremiah 18:4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

1. What Is The Explanation Of The Marring?

Phillip Keller wrote in one of his books about a time when he was traveling around the border of China and Pakistan. He was told that this was the area where the finest Chinese pottery was made. He remembered verses like the ones above and asked if he could go see some of it being made. The potter took him to a shed behind the house where he prepared the clay. The man went inside, mixed up a lump of clay, and then took it inside to his wheel. He worked with the clay to make a vessel. He noticed a tiny rock in the wall of the vessel he was forming. He knew the vessel would not hold up with that foreign matter in it so he took it out. Then he had to mash the clay into a lump and start again.[5]

Adam Clarke says of the marring, “It did not stand in the working; it got out of shape; or some gravel or small stone having been incorporated with the mass of clay, made a breach in that part where it was found, so that the potter was obliged to knead up the clay afresh.”

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon says that this word “marred” is from a Hebrew term that means to be spoiled, to be injured, or even to be ruined.

2. What Is The Environment Of The Marring

(Jeremiah 18:4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

We think that because we’re Christians or because we are in church or even because we are in God’s hand, we are exempt from problems. But even though we are in His hand, there can still be mars within our hearts in the form of injury or iniquity.

B. Notice The Potter’s Response To The Problem – The Craftsman Was Merciful

(Jeremiah 18:4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

1. Let’s Think About The Concept Involved In “Making It Again”

The word “made” is the same as “wrought” in verse 3 and “made” in verse 4, and it means to do it.

again – Hebrew 7725. shuwb, means to turn back (but not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point). We are not taken back out into the mire so that we have to get saved all over again. God simply balls up the clay and starts again.

As Elisabeth Elliot said, “To Jeremiah’s surprise, instead of casting the now marred vessel on the scrap heap at his side and taking a new lump of clay which will not thwart his will, the potter takes the broken pieces, removes the offending substance and out of the old clay makes a new vessel.”

2. Let’s Think About The Compassion Involved In “Making It Again”

Potters say “When you get clay on your hands, it never washes off.” I believe that’s how God feels about us.

Gene Reasoner wrote a song some years ago that expresses this truth well. He wrote…

Empty and broken, I came back to Him,

A vessel unworthy, so scarred with sin

But He did not despair, He started over again

And I bless the day, He didn’t throw the clay away.

He is the Potter and I am the clay

Molded in His image He wants me to stay

But when I stumble and fall and my vessel breaks

He just picks up the pieces, He doesn’t throw the clay away.

Over and over, He molds me and makes me

Into His likeness, He fashions the clay

A vessel of honor, I am today

All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away.

III. Let’s Consider The Potter’s Purpose vs. 4

(Jeremiah 18:4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

A. His Purpose Is To Define The Vessel’s Function

1. So That It Is A Unique Vessel

This word “another” presents the idea of the next manifestation of this work, which is a continuation of the previous work.

2. So That It Is A Useable Vessel

B. His Purpose Is To Delight In The Vessel’s Formation

1. The Potter Views It As A Good Work

(Jeremiah 18:4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Adelaide Pollard put it like this…

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

2. The Potter Views It As A Glad Work

good – Hebrew 3474. yashar, means to be straight or even; figuratively it means to be right, pleasant, prosperous.


On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and downed him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, which was the ultimate margin of victory.

That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?” The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.

If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He did not budge. The coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Then Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with a strong man’s tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, and I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.

Haddon W. Robinson, Christian Medical Society Journal (

[1] James Newton, Uncommon Friends (

[2] (