Jeremiah 10:3-8 (ESV)

for the customs of the peoples are vanity.

A tree from the forest is cut down

and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.

[4] They decorate it with silver and gold;

they fasten it with hammer and nails

so that it cannot move.

[5] Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,

and they cannot speak;

they have to be carried,

for they cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them,

for they cannot do evil,

neither is it in them to do good.”

[6] There is none like you, O Lord;

you are great, and your name is great in might.

[7] Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?

For this is your due;

for among all the wise ones of the nations

and in all their kingdoms

there is none like you.

[8] They are both stupid and foolish;

the instruction of idols is but wood!

Jeremiah 10:10-14 (ESV)

But the Lord is the true God;

he is the living God and the everlasting King.

At his wrath the earth quakes,

and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

[11] Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

[12] It is he who made the earth by his power,

who established the world by his wisdom,

and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

[13] When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,

and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

He makes lightning for the rain,

and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

[14] Every man is stupid and without knowledge;

every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,

for his images are false,

and there is no breath in them.

Jeremiah 10:21 (ESV)

For the shepherds are stupid

and do not inquire of the Lord;

therefore they have not prospered,

and all their flock is scattered.

The second of the Ten Commandments commands that God not be portrayed by anything in heaven or in earth. Nothing in heaven or on earth is to be used to portray God. Nothing. Why not? Because the Creator cannot adequately be pictured by something that He has made.

It would be like focussing on the smile of the Mona Lisa and saying “that is Da Vinci”, or a chip of stone off St. Paul’s Cathedral and saying “this is Christopher Wren”. It’s stupid and insulting. The things God created can tell us that our God is very great but they cannot capture God inside themselves so that we can call them God.

There is no way to try and portray God without insulting Him, without bringing Him down to our level. There is only one way that God can be brought down to our level and that is if He chooses to come down and be here. And that is exactly what He did.

Jeremiah 10 talks about the stupidity of idolatry (verses 8, 14, 21). People carve something from stone or wood and then bow down to it. The creator bows down to the creation. Stupid.

Jeremiah 10 tells us why we must not make images for worship. 1) Verse 6 – it is because there is none like Him. Nothing we make can properly portray God. If the image is of another god then it cannot come close to even representing the power and majesty of the real One. If your god can be pictured it is a testimony that it is not much. The real one is beyond comparison. To picture God is to bring Him down. It is to try to tame Him and taming God is unthinkable. It is stupid. 2)Verse 10, 14 – The Lord is the true God and every image of God will be a false representation of Him. He makes the earth quake. He cannot be fashioned by it. 3) Verse 15 – the images are worthless. They can do nothing. They stay where you put them and they shall cease to be when God rains down His judgement. The god who can be destroyed is no God at all.

Now then. Unless you come from a tradition that actually makes idols you are not likely guilty of this sin in its literal sense. But we do make our idols don’t we? As the man who goes into the forest and cuts down a tree and fashions an idol from it so we fashion our houses and cars and jewellery and put them in a place in our lives that God alone deserves. We value what the god of our culture, money, can provide us with. We value the gift from God more than the God of the gift.

We will use the things that God gives us, to do those things which God has commanded us not to do. We will take the money and the cars and the cottages and the days off that God grants us to forsake meeting with believers. We will use the computers and the televisions that God has allowed us to enjoy, to watch all kinds of godless idolatrous things. We will treat God like a delivery boy for the things that really matter to us. We will even ask God to give us things that we love more than Him and then grumble against Him if we do not get them. We pray and act like His purpose is to come through for us in wealth and health. It is all idolatry.

Then Jeremiah says in 10:21 “For the Shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered and all their flock is scattered”. As usual the idolatry is led by the religious leaders. Pastors who do not pray and then they produce people who have no spiritual depth or stamina. How can they? They have none themselves. They produce people who are just like them.

It is all a very shocking picture and we would be very wrong to think that we cannot and have not committed these same sins to some degree. We read Jeremiah and shake our heads at how godless Israel had become. But we are being tempted in exactly the same sorts of ways and God is no more pleased with us than He was with them when we give in to those temptations.

Idolatry is insidious. It creeps up on us when we are least expecting it. We become guilty of it without even knowing it. No Christian plans to put something ahead of God. But they do. Are we willing to ask ourselves if we are guilty of the idolatry that we condemn when we read the Old Testament prophets? If we are not then we can be sure that we indeed will commit the very sins that brought them into the judgement of God.

God is so much better. God is so great and so worthy of all our worship. It is so stupid to let anything ahead of Him. And I want to be smart.