Jeremiah 10:1-16 The living and true God

We may be inclined to think that one sin which offers no temptation to us is idolatry.  We could not imagine ourselves showing devotion to some deity of wood or stone.  You might conclude that idolatry holds no attraction for you., but an idol is anything that takes the place of God – sport, work, digital devices, success, security – all can become idols, so we need to give heed to the Bible’s warnings.  We consider Jeremiah 10:1-16 The living and true God.

1. God rules

One besetting sin of Judah was idolatry – following the gods of the surrounding nations.  Hence the call of v2 ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations’ – a call to separation from false religion.  The fundamental reason for the call is that the deities of the nations are ‘worthless’ – empty and powerless.  In v3-5 we have a vivid satirical description of the making of an idol.  It has to be carried by those who worship it.  Idols ‘can do no harm nor can they do any good’.  In contrast, ‘O Lord, you are great’ (v6).  The Lord is ‘King of the nations’ (v7).  We have an echo of such a view of God in Revelation 5:12 ‘Worthy is the Lamb…’

2. God lives

Idolaters are ‘senseless and foolish’ (v8) because they reflect the gods they worship.  Idols can do nothing for anyone because there is no life in them.  People become like what they worship.  The only possible result of the worship of a lifeless idol is spiritual deadness.  Then Jeremiah draws the contrast – ‘But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King’.  The living God exercises sovereignty – ‘king of all the earth’ (Psalm 47:7).  He also exercises moral government, with ‘his wrath’ (v10) a solemn reality.  He is to be revered and feared.

3. God creates

In v11-13 Jeremiah focuses on one aspect of the activity of the living and reigning God – his work of creation, and the consequent sustaining of creation.  The idols did not create (v11).  They deceive men entirely.  In contrast – ‘God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding’ (v12).  The work of creation reveals the fundamental perfections of God.  He also governs events in the world – ‘thunders…clouds…etc.’  This is his sovereign providence, seen in his ongoing control of all aspects of life.  This is full of comfort and encouragement for believers.

4. God redeems

In v14-16 Jeremiah concludes his indictment of idols.  They are ‘a fraud’ (v14), ‘worthless, the object of mockery’ (v15).  Their devotees are ‘senseless and without knowledge’ (v14).  There is nothing good to be said for the idols or those who worship them.  In contrast – God is ‘the Portion of Jacob’ (v16).  Not only is he the Maker and Sustainer of all things, ‘including Israel’, but is the God of gracious redemption.  In covenant love he gives himself as the Portion to an undeserving people and makes them ‘his inheritance’.  That is the wonder of grace.  We recall the description in Ephesians 1:18 of ‘his glorious inheritance in the saints’.  The redeeming work of Christ is the ultimate proof that this is the living and true God.