Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 16 2019 - Jeremiah 10:1-16 – Idols are not like our God

Much of today's passage is devoted to describing idols. The craftsman takes a piece of wood from the forest and labours in shaping it to represent a god. It is then adorned with precious metals – hammered silver brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz – before being adorned with blue and purple garments made by skilled workers. Finally it is fastened to some sort of stand or plinth – without nails it would topple over. It's "like a scarecrow in a cucumber field," says Jeremiah (v.5). It cannot speak or move but is carried by those who worship it. You don't need to fear such 'gods'.

Jeremiah is addressing a people who have adopted the practices of the peoples around them (v.1). They are full of superstitious fears – that if they do not placate this or that god, if they do not offer right sacrifices then they will suffer bad harvests or disease. When they see "signs in the heavens" – perhaps gathering storms before the harvest is ripe – they are filled with fear and rush off to prostrate themselves to their scarecrow. There is no need to fear such things, says Jeremiah, these idols are worthless and helpless; they cannot bring blessing or trouble to those devoted to them.

But what a contrast there is with the Lord, the living and true God. He was not made by the hands of human craftsmen – or conjured up by the ingenuity of human priests or theologians.

He is the living God, the eternal King…
God made the earth by his power;
    he founded the world by his wisdom
    and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (vv.10,12)

He is the God who made us and who has set his love on his foolish and wayward people (see v.16). He is a God who sees and hears and acts. He is a God to be feared for:

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
    he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses. (v.13)

The "signs in the heavens" are his signs, whether lightning and thunder or the darkening clouds that bring the longed for rain. He created the rainbow and sets it in the sky to assure us that in judgment he always remembers mercy. He is a God who keeps his covenant promises.

Many people today are enslaved by all sorts of superstitious fears. They follow their horoscopes, fearful of what the coming day or week may bring. Many still prostrate themselves before idols of their own making. The living God has freed us from such fears. He sent his Son into the world to show us the depth of his love and to win us back to himself. He is the God who alone sees and hears and acts. He is the God who stoops to save and who lifts us up.

Verse 11 of this passage has a message for the nations: "Tell them this: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'" The Book of Jeremiah was written in Hebrew, but this message is written in Aramaic, the common language of the empire in Jeremiah's day. It is the message from the living God for a world cowering in fear. It is the message entrusted now to us: "Put away your worthless idols and come to know the living God who has made himself known in the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange his peace for your fear."

Father God, we thank you that you are not an idol of our own making but the living God who created all things and who made us that we should know and love you. Thank you for the Lord Jesus who has set us free from fear and, by his death and resurrection, forgiven us all our sins and given us life that even death cannot destroy. Help us by your Spirit to tell others, in words they can understand, of your great love that they too may turn to the living God from idols and live lives freed from fear.

Peter Misselbrook