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God and the gods

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God and the Gods (Jeremiah 10:1-16)

When we lose the consciousness of God we do not lose the need of God. When we lose the vision of God, we do not lose the necessity of God. We must create a god when we lose the God who created us. Man is ultimately either a God worshiper or a god maker.

The form of idols changes but the central significance never changes. Idolatry is not an Old Testament issue only. Everywhere the claims of God are avoided, idolatry manifests itself. The idols of power, sensuality, and self-gratification have borne many names but remain the same. Are you worshiping God or the gods?

The Origin of an Idol

Anything handmade or manmade that becomes the ultimate concern of life is an idol. The prophet chronicles the origination of an idol (v. 3). An idol always reflects the elements of the earth, finite, material—a piece of wood. Idols come from the earth beneath a man and pull him down to their own level. The beautification of an idol is a matter of deception only. Idols are gods by disguise only! When a man worships a handmade god he must continually disguise it or it will be seen for what it is, a piece of wood. The stabilization of an idol is illusory. Instead of stabilizing a man it must be stabilized by a man: "they fasten it with a hammer and nails" (v. 4). The living God carries you; you must carry an idol.

In contrast to this, God is the Maker, not the made; the Framer, not the one who framed (v. 12). Men's idols are boringly the same—wealth, power, sensuality. Of God it may be said, "There is no one like you." If the one you worship bores you, it is an idol, not the living God.

The Nature of an Idol

When men worship gods created in man's image, what kind of gods do they worship? First, they are contemptible, "like a scarecrow in a melon patch" (v. 5). What satire! Men who worship the work of their own hands even ultimately come to hold their gods in contempt. In contrast, the living God will always be due reverence (v. 7). Men never discover the grounds for contempt in Him.

Man-made gods are immobile: "they must be carried because they cannot walk" (v. 5). When you manufacture your own god, it becomes a burden that you have to carry. Man-made becomes a burden, not a burden bearer. Sensuality becomes a weight, not a help in the way. The biblical God moves and acts. He carries His people; He does not have to be carried by them.

Most sadly, manufactured gods are unhelpful. They cannot speak, they cannot bless, and they cannot even curse. When a man turns to them in the great griefs and disappointments of life, their instruction is no better than the wood they are made of (v. 8). You ask and they do not answer. You cry and they do not speak. In life's terrible hours manmade gods are more terribly silent. In contrast, the living God is the special possession of His own people (v. 16). He hears, blesses, and, in disobedience, curses.

The Worth of an Idol

The ultimate worth of such gods is summarized in one word, emptiness. Repeatedly the prophet calls them vain, vaporous, frauds (v. 14), and nonentities. They are breathless, unlike the God who moves the winds of the storm. When you turn to them, there is nothing. Concerning your gods you must say with Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity" (1:2, KJV). An empty god means an empty life.

That further means their deceptiveness, "the objects of mockery." Although idols cannot bless or help, they can most certainly mock. In the hour of great need, man-made gods laugh and sneer. They leer at us with their own impotence, the court jesters of our empty heavens.

They will be disclosed in their own temporariness, "when their judgment comes, they will perish" (v. 15). Unlike the eternal God, man's concocted deities are under a death sentence. The terrible possibility is that when you make your own god, he may die before you do. Men who worship wealth become jaded as their god disappoints them and they go out into despair. Men who worship the sensual find that age cools the faggots of lust and their god dies before they do. Where is Baal today? The old idol is an object of idle curiosity.

The final word is this: All substitutes for God are less than the men who make them. Did your God make you, or did you make your god?

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