John T. Willis

Friday, December 24, 2010

When Gods are Scarecrows--Jeremiah 10:1-16

The little words TRUE and FALSE are central in the Book of Jeremiah and throughout the Bible. In our journey through Jeremiah, we have already discussed these terms with regard to the people of God [e. g., Jeremiah 3:6-11], neighbors and friends [e. g., Jeremiah 9:2-9]. In the present passage, Jeremiah 10:1-16, there is a powerful contrast between false gods and the true God. This paragraph falls into three parts.

I. Jeremiah, as Yahweh's spokesman=prophet, summons "the people of Israel"=Judah= God's people "not to learn the way of the nations." Jeremiah 10:1-5.
a. Of course, God's people can and should learn very important things from the nations, from all people on earth. But Jeremiah is emphasizing that God's people must not trust in any god except Yahweh alone.
b. "The nations" are dismayed "at the signs of the heavens." Precisely what this means is uncertain. Generally, this refers to worshipping the sun, moon, and stars--see Deuteronomy 4:15-19. 10:2.
c. "The customs of the peoples" on earth are FALSE. What they do is: cut down a tree, shape it into some form with an ax by the hand of a skilled artisan, deck it with silver and gold, and fasten it with hammer and nails so it cannot move. They call this object a "god." But on the very surface, this is ridiculous. The maker is in control of that which is made. If anything at all, the object should "worship" the human being who makes the object. When a person makes an idol, he or she has to fasten it securely so a wind or a cat or someone or something else does not embarrass the idol when it falls over and cannot get up. The fallacy is that this "god" cannot "move." It cannot do anything. What kind of a "god" is this? See especially Isaiah 44:9-20. 10:3-4.
d. Jeremiah, speaking from Yahweh, compares "false gods" with "scarecrows" in a cucumber field. It is laughable when people see birds perched on the "arms" of scarecrows. False gods are like this. Jeremiah points out that false gods cannot "speak" or "walk" or "punish the wicked" or "encourage and bless the good." 10:5.

II. Now, Jeremiah speaks to Yahweh directly, clearly to instruct the people of Israel about the TRUE nature of Yahweh. Jeremiah 10:6-10.
*Jeremiah states seven important truths about Yahweh. Notice each one carefully and prayerfully.
a. Yahweh is INCOMPARABLE. "There is NO ONE like Yahweh." 10:6a,7e. Throughout history, human beings have tried to COMPARE God with someone or something. But this is impossible. Yahweh is ONE OF A KIND, IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF. The Latin term for this is "sui generis." See Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 7:22 and often in scripture.
b. Yahweh is GREAT. This is an "understatement." 2 Samuel 7:22. God's nature and deeds are inexplicable. 10:6b.
c. Yahweh is AWESOME. Who would not FEAR Yahweh? The word "fear" in this text is positive, meaning "high regard, honor, reverence, awe." 10:7a.
d. Yahweh is TRUE. All other gods "claim" or "profess" they are divine, but ONLY Yahweh "demonstrates" this by speaking and moving and acting in the world. 10:10a.
e. Yahweh is LIVING. Other gods have no life, and give no life to the rest of creation. Yahweh enlivens all that is. See 1 Samuel 17:26, 36; and often in scripture. 10:10ba.
f. Yahweh is EVERLASTING. Before all creation happened, he was, and after all creation comes to an end, he will be. Psalm 90:1-2 profoundly declares:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 10:10bb.
g. Yahweh punishes hard-hearted sinful people. In his heart of heart, Yahweh is a God of love and mercy; but in order to attempt to save the lost, Yahweh loves people so much that sometimes he is compelled to punish them. 10:10c-d.
*By contrast, as in 10:3-4, Jeremiah reinforces the truth that human beings who worship false gods are stupid and foolish; their work is made of wood and gold and silver and blue and purple. 10:8-9.

III. Finally, Jeremiah addresses his fellow-prophets to emphasize that Yahweh alone is God. Jeremiah 10:11-16.
a. "You" in 10:11a is plural, and thus Jeremiah's fellows, who are to speak God's message through Jeremiah to the people of Israel="them." 10:11a.
b. The "proof in the pudding" is whether any "claimed god" has created the heavens and the earth. IF NOT, they are not divine. 10:11b-12, 16.
c. Yahweh sends rain and wind. Rain and wind "do not just happen" as a natural phenomenon. Rather, Yahweh does these intentionally. 10:13.
d. For the third time [see 10:3-4, 8-9], Jeremiah emphasizes that all worshippers of idols are "stupid and without knowledge." Their idols are FALSE. The proof of this is that there is no "breath" in them. Yahweh will soon punish them. 10:14-15.

We human beings quickly set up "gods" of all types. Their "falseness" is obvious. Yahweh alone is the true God. He created all that is. He breathes into everyone and everything life. He is invisible, and therefore he is genuine. I hope YOU accept this God.

Share YOUR ideas and concepts of others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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