Today: [Jeremiah 10] The Idolatry of Man’s Wisdom. In this chapter, Jeremiah minutely describes the idols and pagan altars that the people of God have substituted for worship of the one true God. He describes their construction and the materials from which they were formed, declaring them unable to speak, see or hear. The pagan priests of ancient times were very adept at convincing others that their statues and figures of Baal, and Ashteroth were living things. What about our day? If you were under the influence of what amounted to an idol would you even be capable of knowing it? Idolatry and paganism is much more sophisticated in our day and much more prevalent in our culture. Thank God that He continues in His patience to reveal Himself to us as He did to the people in Jeremiah’s day as the only living and true God.
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[Jer 10:1-25 KJV] 1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people [are] vain: for [one] cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They [are] upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also [is it] in them to do good. 6 Forasmuch as [there is] none like unto thee, O LORD; thou [art] great, and thy name [is] great in might. 7 Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise [men] of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, [there is] none like unto thee. 8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock [is] a doctrine of vanities.
Chapter 10 begins with an admonition to “learn not the way of the heathen”. When my father pastored a church in Mexia, Texas in the 1980’s there was an incident in the nearby town of Groesbeck where two pastors were discovered frequenting a strip club. When they were demanded to give an answer for themselves they said with a straight face “we just wanted to know what to preach against…” We can laugh at their foolishness but how much of the thinking of the godless and the learning of the godless filters into our lives? Even in the very foundations of the Christian faith we can find profound influences of Greek philosophy and learning that has no foundation in the scriptures. How did this happen? After Rome fell, a bishop by the name of Augustine wrote a treatise called the “City of God”. It was a refutation against the Romans who widely blamed Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity as the reason why Rome fell to Flavius Odoacer and the Visigoths in 476. In order to vindicate the church, Augustine validated Christian thought by reconciling it to the Greek philosophers whose teaching was the underpinning of all Roman culture and education. He compared God to Zues, and Christian wisdom to the wisdom of the Roman’s embodied in the person of Minerva, the Greek/Roman goddess of wisdom. There was a question in a previous broadcast about the Queen of Heaven who is part of the pagan pantheon of the Babylonians. Evangelical scholars compare the worship of her to the venerating of Mary by the Catholic church but it is much deeper than that – Minerva was the goddess of the night and them moon which represents the reflected wisdom of men is the symbol of her rule. The goddess of heaven or the queen of heaven is the false wisdom of men that supplants the wisdom of God not only among the unredeemed or the church of Rome but in the church of the living God when it patterns itself after the ways and wisdoms of the world. Jeremiah condemns all such wisdom in verse 7-8 as brutish and altogether foolish.
9 Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple [is] their clothing: they [are] all the work of cunning [men]. 10 But the LORD [is] the true God, he [is] the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. 11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, [even] they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. 12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. 13 When he uttereth his voice, [there is] a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. 14 Every man is brutish in [his] knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image [is] falsehood, and [there is] no breath in them. 15 They [are] vanity, [and] the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. 16 The portion of Jacob [is] not like them: for he [is] the former of all [things]; and Israel [is] the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts [is] his name. 17 Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress. 18 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find [it so].
In verse 9 Jeremiah mocks the craftsmen who take deaf and dumb stock (piece of wood) and plate it with silver and gold and festoon it with cloth of blue and purple that men might bow down and worship it. We can laugh at the thought of such ignorance as worshipping a statue but what you need to realize is that whatever you set before you, whatever dominates and consumes your life is the idol that you worship. In our day, the idolatry is much more sophisticated, manifesting itself in the cult of celebrity where mere men and women are projected into our minds and hearts as though they were larger than life, knowing more and being more accomplished and beautiful than common man, so much so that we are compelled to buy their products, and follow the events of their lives as though they give us some meaning. The Queen of Heaven in the Babylon of Genesis 6 was Astarte whose name derives from the stars, from which also the world “celebrity” and the expression “movie star” come from. Am I saying that we should not watch movies, or television, etc.? Not necessarily. What I am pointing out is that what the scriptures would define as idolatry in our culture is so entrenched in our everyday life that it would be almost impossible but for the grace of God to extricate ourselves from it.
Verse 10 speaks against the vanities of the godless making known that the Lord is God, the true God and the everlasting King. Then the verse speaks of the wrath of God before whose indignation the nations tremble. Why must the nations and the world be introduced to God’s wrath and indignation? Because it implies that things are not as they should be. Remember that man is not a victim. Satan was in the earth, in Eden itself when the first couple was living lives and an existence of undefinable bliss and perfection. It was man who corrupted the world by choosing undeceived to partake of sin as Isaiah 14:6 reveals:
[Isa 14:16 KJV] 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, [and] consider thee, [saying, Is] this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
Only by God’s displeasure, through the dispensing of His perfect law through Moses does man come to realize that there is something deeply flawed in the earth that was perpetrated by man’s hands for which he is accountable. The wrath of God brings the law of God to light and the law of God serves its function according to Gal. 3:24 to bring us to Christ.
19 Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this [is] a grief, and I must bear it. 20 My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they [are] not: [there is] none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains. 21 For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. 22 Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, [and] a den of dragons. 23 O LORD, I know that the way of man [is] not in himself: [it is] not in man that walketh to direct his steps. 24 O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. 25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.
In verse 19 the heart of God is revealed as He grieves over the spoiling of His temple and the fact that His children who once sought Him daily are gone forth from Him. This is the tragedy of Eden and the tragedy of Jeremiah’s day as the Babylonians descend and begin to brutally dismantle the city of Jerusalem and destroy the temple. All the while the people of God who should have trusted in Him, cower before their Asherah poles and images of the Queen of Heaven, and the altars of Baal seeking deliverance and there is none. In verse 21 the guilt is laid squarely against the pastors who can be so adept at assigning the responsibility of others but so incapable of seeing their own dark failings reflected in the idolatries and pagan practices of the very people they have claimed to led before God and in His ways. Verse 22 tells us that the cities of God and the city of Jerusalem itself will now become a den of dragons and demons. This certainly came to pass as the first demon that Jesus drove out was in the synagogue of Capernaum where the law and the prophets were read every day and the people gathered and frequented in order to demonstrate what they thought was fidelity to God. To this travesty of divine justice the prophet cries out in verse 23 to which we can add our own cry: “O Lord, correct me, but with judgment and not in thy anger lest I come to nothing…” Let the anger of God be poured out upon those that shake their fist in His face but let those of us with hearts that turn toward Him find grace to help in a time of need.
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