FALSE GODS VS. THE ONE TRUE GOD
The Uselessness of Idols
Israel was to be holy to the Lord. It was to be a nation called out from the nations of the world to be devoted to God. The Lord said “I am the Lord your God who have separated your from the peoples”. (Leviticus 20:24) They demonstrated this every day. They dressed differently, wore their hair differently, ate different food and obeyed different laws. They could not plant two kinds of seed in one field. They could not plow with two different animals at one time. They could not wear cloth woven of different kinds of thread. They were separate. They took the seventh day off from work. They let the fields rest in the seventh year. They were not to be “of the world”, but of God. They belonged to him and were to obey him.
Obviously, then, Israel was to worship on the Lord. The first commandment was “you shall have no other gods before me”. (Exodus 20:3) The next commandment was not to make idols or images. (Exodus 20:4)
Israel was not to adopt the religions of the people of Canaan and the surrounding area. In Leviticus 20:23, the Lord said “and you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things and therefore I detested them.” The Canaanites worshipped Baal, the storm god, and Ashtoreth, the goddess of fertility. They had many gods, but these were the principal ones at the time of the Israelite invasion.
The Canaanite gods and goddesses were worshipped through physical images. Baal was often represented by a large stone pillar. Ashtoreth was represented by a pole, often carved with a female image at the top. The Israelites had to break two commandments to worship these gods.
So, Jeremiah reached back to these early covenantal instructions and updated them to the current time in which he lived. He said “do not learn the way of the nations” (10:2) Israel had moved beyond worship of the Canaanite gods to include many others from the nations around them. Jeremiah attempted to call them back to true and undefiled worship.
Christians face this same temptation. We want to add things from the culture to church life. We want to re-define God into one who fits the morality of our culture. We want to blend in with the world rather than be called out of it.
Jeremiah also condemned astrology. He did not want them to be dismayed at the signs in the heavens. Comets or eclipses were fearful events. Astrology is still part of our culture. You can read your chart in the newspaper. Someone you meet might ask you what your sign is. You might sing “I thank my lucky stars” or say “the planets must be aligned just right”.
God says “stop it”. In verses 4-5, he points out how silly it is that you can make your own idol and then fear it or worship it.
The Unique God
Jeremiah contrasted the idols with the one true God. What did he say about God?
First, God is unique. In verse 6, he said “there is none like you”. He repeated it in verse 7.
Second, God is entitled to our worship. Verse 6 says that he is great and his name is great. He is not just another guy or a local god. Verse 7 says the fear of God is his due. He deserves our worship. When John had his first vision in Revelation, it was of the throne of God. (Revelation 4) All around the throne were worshippers, 24 elders on thrones representing the saved of Old Covenant Israel and the New Covenant Church. There were other creatures, too, surrounding God’s throne. And all together they worshipped God all day and all night saying “Worthy are you, Our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…” (Revelation 4:11)
Then in chapter 5 of Revelation, they say the same thing of Jesus, God the Son. Every creature in heaven and on earth worshipped saying “worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”. (Revelation 5:12)
Third, God is the true God. He is living, not a piece of wood or stone. He is the everlasting king. (10:10) God is eternal. There is no point at which he did not exist and no point in the future where he will cease to exist. And during all the time of his existence, even when there is no time, he is in control of his creation. He is king. He reigns over all creation, including mankind.
Jeremiah said God can make the earth quake. (10) He reigns and controls the physical world. He demonstrated that in creation, separating water from land. He demonstrated it during the time of Noah by bringing a great flood to destroy the world. He demonstrated it when he freed Israel from Egypt, by bringing plague and pestilence to Egypt, by stopping the river so the Israelites could cross, by bringing water from a rock and by driving quail to the camp for the Israelites to eat meat.
In contrast, the idols did not make the earth and they will perish.
God, on the other hand, made the earth. (10:12) In verse 16, Jeremiah says God is the one who formed all things. There is a fair amount of criticism of Genesis 1-3 and the story of God creating the earth. Some people want to treat it as myth or metaphor. The problem is, the Bible credits God with creation in many places. Here is another one. He created it by his power, his wisdom and his understanding. (12)
John the apostle also credits creation to Christ. He said “all things were made through him and without him was not any thing made that was made”. (John 1:3) The Bible presents God as the one who created the earth and everything on it and who, therefore, owns it and has a right to control it. He constantly says this is mine. Paul answers an argument in Romans 9 by saying “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder ‘why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay…”
God controls the weather (13), making rain and storms and lightening.
And at the end of the age, God controls the creation again in a sovereign way. He will say “Behold, I am making all things new”. (Revelation 21:5) He will make a new heavens and new earth and dwell with his people there. Amen!
This is the God who took Israel as his inheritance (16). The creator and controller of all the universe made a covenant with Israel, but Israel turned its back on God.
Slinging Israel From the Land
The Lord repeats his judgment. He will sling Israel out of the land of Canaan and bring distress on them for what they have done.
Jeremiah again grieved the destruction of his nation. That is what he means by “my tent is destroyed”. (20) Their leaders were stupid and did not seek the Lord.
Jeremiah Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty
Jeremiah acknowledged that God controlled his steps. God determined man’s way, both the individual and the nation. Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”. Therefore, if the Lord directed Israel toward destruction, Israel would be destroyed. If the Lord directed Babylon to invade Israel, it would do so.
On that basis, Jeremiah asked for mercy. He submitted to the Lord’s correction, but he did not want to experience the Lord’s wrath as Israel would experience it.
Jeremiah Understood God’s Wrath
Rather than experience God’s wrath, Jeremiah asked that God pour it out on the nations that did not worship the Lord and that attacked Judah. The Lord later did promise to punish those who destroyed Judah. But they still served his purpose.
Of course, the ultimate expression of God’s wrath will come at the Judgment. Revelation 19:15 says that Jesus will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty”. His punishment is so bad it is called the “second death”. The second death is the “lake of fire”. (Revelation 20:14)
We escape God’s wrath through faith in Christ and his bearing of the Father’s wrath. Christ is the wrath bearer. Romans 5:9 says “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God”.