Home > Jeremiah Was a Dragon-Man > Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: Needless Fear and Dismay

Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: Needless Fear and Dismay

“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity…
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
Jeremiah 10.1-5

It’s pretty well established that the people of God have a strong proclivity to serve a bunch of gods. Yes, they certainly do their duty at the Jerusalem Temple with sacrifices and burnt offerings, but along with their YHWH worship, they pursue other gods. Chapter 10 is another example of Jeremiah shedding light on what idols really are and contrasting them with who YHWH is, and through this comparison exhorting complete devotion to YHWH and the shunning of the idols of other nations.

Jeremiah does this by explaining again what the idols are. The idols are constructions. They are beautiful constructions royally adorned and sculpted by skilled craftsmen (10.9). The idols are followed by other nations. The nations put their faith in the idols, collectively acknowledging the power of these gods of wood and stone (10.1). The power of the idols is their beauty, their imposing godlike features, their skilled crafting, and in the collective cultural belief that these idols are indeed gods.

As is self-evident, the appearance of power does not give something power, neither does beauty, neither does everyone believe something has power. The only power these characteristics of idols give them is the power to deceive, to trick people into trusting them. The message of Jeremiah is this: the power you think these idols have is fake, the power of the pagan religions is pretend. Because there is no real power is these supposed gods, there is no reason to be afraid of them, there is no reason to be dismayed by them, and it is foolish to listen to their impotent instruction (10.8). Jeremiah is trying to free Israel from their worry over what will happen to them if they abandon their idols and point them toward the one who has all true power, regardless of who trusts in him, the Creator of the very material and people who build the idol constructs. YHWH is the only one worth trusting, fearing, loving, following, accepting instruction from, and hoping in.

Now is the question I’m not sure how to answer (help?): How does this relate to you and me? As we’ve talked about previously, we have idols, they are just different kinds. Our idols still look beautiful though. They are still made by skilled craftsmen and so many people put their hope and trust in them that it seems like idols do actually have power. Certainly many of us, at least at times, have thought that if we just had more money, more time, better relationships with our family, fame, attention from the opposite sex, marriage, more intelligence, kids, a better job, more power, new politicians in office, more strength, a bigger house, new friends, or _________, then we would be happy, our hopes would be fulfilled and our lives would be as they should be. These are some of the idols of our society, the cultural constructs supported by a mythology which makes it seem as if they have real power to give us life. Still, they are just beautiful constructions made with human hands and minds that have no power in and of themselves.

The reality that these idols are not gods and have no power is quite hopeful to us. When we realize they have no power, then we are free from them. So often our idols make us afraid and hopeless. For example, if we don’t believe making more money has power to fulfill us, then we won’t be afraid of not making more money, won’t be dismayed if we don’t make more money, and won’t be disappointed when we do make more money that making more money was not the hope we were looking for. If we believe idols have no true power, then we can stop giving them power over us by pursuing them in the hopes they can give us the life only YHWH can provide. The truth is that no matter how powerful an idol seems, it’s power is in pretense only. Truth sets us free from a pretense of power.

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