Exploring Jeremiah 10

Jeremiah 10:10a — But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God.

Remember as a kid when you would walk along a narrow surface — a fence top, a railroad track, a curbstone — with your arms out to keep your balance? You went along fine for a while, but then suddenly you began to fall off. You flapped your arms and twisted your body and, maybe for second, you thought you would recover. But then the moment came, the split second when you knew you were lost. You hadn’t fallen yet, but you were about to.

That’s the situation Israel was in when Jeremiah wrote this verse. The nation’s heyday under David and Solomon was about 300 years in the past. A series of ungodly and ineffective kings and a nation-wide turning away from God had brought Israel to the brink. A few good kings had managed to keep things on track for a while, but the crisis moment had now come. Israel had first been occupied by Assyria. Then Egypt took over. Both these nations allowed Israel’s kings to reign as puppets. But now the Babylonians were on the way, and the people would be scattered.

What was it that the Israelites did that knocked them off the track? Idolatry. They turned their back on the one and only true God and worshiped false gods. Egypt had over 1,200 of them — gods in the form of cows, crocodiles, fish, gods of the sun and moon, fertility gods and agricultural gods. Babylon and Assyria had their own — Ishtar, Dagon, Baal, Anu, Enki and Nergal. And the Israelites had adopted them too.

In Jeremiah 10, the prophet speaks of the pointlessness of worshiping false gods. In verses 1-16, he contrasts the idols with the true and living God. Here are five things (there are a lot more than five in the passage) that Jeremiah has to say about the value of idols and false gods.

  1. They have to be propped up to keep them from toppling.
  2. They cannot speak.
  3. They cannot do good or evil (so there is no reason to be afraid of them).
  4. They are the work of men.
  5. They have no breath.

Now here are five things (again, there are more than five listed) Jeremiah says about the true and living God.

  1. There is none like Him.
  2. He is the everlasting King.
  3. His wrath will be terrible (so there is definitely a reason to fear Him).
  4. He created the earth by His power.
  5. He is the Maker of all things.

Jeremiah was waving his arms as hard and fast as he could, trying to get his nation back on track. But it was too late.

Application

This is a good verse to use when teaching kids about absolutes. It may be very difficult for some of them to understand. If they’re in public school, if they watch television or if they have non-Christian friends or family members, they’ve almost certainly been told that “right” and “wrong” depend on the situation. Even reality won’t hold still. And our culture backs this up.

  • Politicians talk about values and live to serve themselves.
  • Product advertising makes products like alcohol and tobacco look glamorous while public service advertising warns of the dangers of those same products. Often, the same people who are offering a product are warning about its dangers.
  • Schools can’t teach creation, but they can teach evolution. Your church teaches creation and says that evolution is wrong. But your kids spend far more time in school than they do in church, and their parents tell them that they must pay attention and get good grades.
  • Kids are told that they should be tolerant of other “belief systems,” but that the Pledge of Allegiance is offensive because it includes the name “God” (a name used by almost every belief system).

Talk to your kids about absolutes and truth.  For example, if you live in Southern California, ask if it’s an absolute truth that it’s always hot where you live. Define “hot.” Demonstrate that while it might be correct to say that it is “usually” hot in Southern California, it’s not an absolute because once, in January in 1937, the temperature was 23° at the Los Angeles International Airport. (This is absolutely true.) Nobody would call that hot.

Explain that absolutes are truths that never change. There are no conditions or circumstances that can make them untrue. God is always good. He can never be bad. God is always right. He can never be wrong. God is always honest. He can never lie.