Project 119: Hope in the Upheaval | Jeremiah 10

 |  Project 119  |  Amy Hirsch

Jeremiah 10 

“The Folly of Idolatry”

Growing up, my mom despised the word “stupid.” She would quickly correct us when we called someone or something “stupid,” and to this day, I refrain from using the word—partially out of the habits of childhood and partially because my mother was correct. But as I read Jeremiah 10, a phrase popped into my head: “the stupidity of idolatry.” Stupid means “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” While we should never call someone stupid (it’s such an unkind insult), I think Jeremiah would have used the word “stupidity” when he described idol worship in this chapter, had he written his letter in English.

In Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah tells us about the stupidity, folly, and vanity of idolatry. Idolatry and self-worship are the two besetting sins continually plaguing God’s people. And these sins have been an issue all along, ever since God freed his people from slavery and delivered them from Egypt. (Remember the golden calf?) The people have always been quick to lift up their souls to something other than God. Little has changed by the time we get to Jeremiah’s prophecy, except that this sin has become so prevalent that even the priests, teachers, and leaders—who were supposed to shepherd the people and lead them in God’s ways—have fallen into the same trap. 

As I read this chapter, I thought about God’s omnipotence. In other words, God is all-powerful. This is one of the incommunicable attributes of God—things that can only be true of him. (For a helpful book on this topic, check out Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him.) Jeremiah begins by telling us how idols are formed: They are manmade objects, crafted and decorated by people. They are immobile and inactive. In fact, some of the idols he describes are so flimsy that they have to be nailed to some kind of support so they won’t fall over (see verse 4). Jeremiah contrasts these created idols, these mute gods, with the Lord Almighty. While these idols were crafted by human hands, the Lord God spoke all things into existence, including the very humans who made the idols! He formed the very wood and precious metals they were using to create these idols. While these idols were lifeless, God is the true and living God, the everlasting king. 

It would be easy for us to condemn God’s people for such silly actions; after all, who lifts their souls to a golden calf or wooden statue? But far too often we find ourselves doing the same things, don’t we? We trust in things that are manmade and fickle and that can never bring us total fulfillment. I find myself echoing the prayer in verses 23–24 with my own paraphrase: “Lord, I know that you alone know all things,” (which is God’s omniscience, another incommunicable attribute of God), “and that you alone direct people’s steps. Correct my false worship, Lord, but please don’t discipline me in anger! Please reorder my steps in justice, for the glory of your name.”