Helpless Scarecrows & the Living God

The prophetic speeches and actions of Jeremiah, which are commonly dated somewhere between 630 and 600 B.C., alternate between indictments of Jerusalem and her citizens on the one hand, and statements of the sentence God intends to bring about on the other.

That sentence is spelled out most plainly in Jeremiah 6:22: "Look! A great army coming from the north! A great nation is rising against you from far-off lands. ... They sound like a roaring sea as they ride forward on horses. They are coming in battle formation, planning to destroy you, beautiful Jerusalem."

That great army was, of course, mighty Babylon. And they did finally come. In 587 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian army to break through Jerusalem's protective walls, burn the city, destroy the temple, and deport the people.

Jeremiah had warned them about it for over a decade, but Jerusalem's leaders tuned him out and listened instead to the astrologers who read their daily horoscopes in the stars...or perhaps Cosmopolitan Magazine.

But go back to the indictments. What was the problem that roused the anger of God?
Well, there were several:

  • Injustice (Jeremiah 5:28)
  • Disobedience (Jeremiah 6:16)
  • Exploitation (Jeremiah 7:5-6)
  • Deception (Jeremiah 8:11)
  • Dishonesty (Jeremiah 9:9).

But the topic of Jeremiah 10 leads me to think that maybe those were just symptoms to a more foundation problem: idolatry. So chapter 10 contrasts the impotent idols of other people with the living God of Israel.

So verse 5 says: "Their gods are like helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field! They cannot speak, and they need to be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of such gods, for they can neither harm you nor do you any good."

Notice the verbs that are used to describe what these idols can't do:
They can't speak. They can't walk. They can't help. They can't harm.

Now look at verses 12-13: "But God made the earth by his power, and he preserves it by his wisdom. With his own understanding he stretched out the heavens. When he speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning and the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses."

Look at the verbs:
God made. God preserves. God stretched out.
He speaks. He causes. He sends. He releases.

Those verbs can be transposed in adjectives, which verse 10 has done:
Our God is true, living, and everlasting...in obvious contrast with the idols that are false, lifeless, and limited.

Therefore, the double-statement in the middle of the passage is appropriate when it says:
"LORD, there is no one like you" (vv. 6-7).

This is the God we must obey.
This is the God in whose image we are made.
This is the God we were made to worship.


Related Posts:
Rededication (and Repentance)

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