Jeremiah 10:1-2. Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
Among the heathen, if certain stars were in conjunction, it was considered unlucky; and certain days of the week were also regarded as unlucky, just as to this day, there are people who think that it is very unfortunate to commence anything on a Friday. There are a great many foolish superstitions floating about this silly world, but you Christian people should never allow such follies to have any influence upon you. Neither the fiends of hell, nor the stars of heaven, can ever injure those who put their trust in God.
Jeremiah 10:3-4. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
Those ancient prophets seemed to take delight in heaping scorn upon the god-making of the heathen. Even the heathen poets made sport of the god-making; one of them very wisely said that it would be more reasonable to worship the workmen who made the god, than to worship the god which the workmen had made.
Jeremiah 10:5. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must need be borne, because they cannot go.
Pretty gods they must be, cannot move, and cannot even stand till they are nailed up, and cannot stir unless they are carried from place to place.
Jeremiah 10:5-8. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
To teach people to worship mere stocks and stones, may well be called “a doctrine of vanities.”
Jeremiah 10:9. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
Step into any Roman Catholic Joss-house in England, or on the Continent or, for the matter of that, into any Anglican Joss-house, for they are all very much alike and you will see that the modern “gods” are no better than those upon which the prophets of old poured scorn, and I think it is our duty to pour scorn upon these saints, and saintesses, and Madonnas, and Bambinos, and I know not what besides.
Jeremiah 10:10-13. But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
To what a height of sacred imagery does Jeremiah mount! He seems to shake off his usual melancholy spirit when he comes to sing the praises of the Lord. He uses very similar language to that of Job, his fellow-sufferer.
Jeremiah 10:14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge:
Every idolater proves that he knows no more than a brute beast when he worships a stock or a stone.
Jeremiah 10:14-15. Every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
The next verse brings out very vividly the contrast between these false gods and the one living and true God: —
Jeremiah 10:16. The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.
What a blessed name that is for God: “The portion of Jacob”! And the other side of the truth is equally blessed: “Israel is the rod of his inheritance.” God belongs to his people, and they belong to him, if we can but realize that these blessings are ours, we are building on the solid foundation of the richest possible happiness. The form of the prophecy now changes, for God was about to send his people, because of their sin, into a long and sad captivity; so the prophet says, in the name of the Lord: —
Jeremiah 10:17-18. Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress. For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so.
They had fled to their fortresses for shelter, for the Babylonians were coming up against them; but no hope of deliverance was held out to them, and they were told to pack up their little bundles, to put their small stores as closely together as they could, for they had to go away into a far distant country as captives of the mighty king Nebuchadnezzar. God compares their captivity to the forcible ejection of stones from a sling; “I will slide out the inhabitants of the land at this once.” How severely God chastened his people in Jeremiah’s day! Yet, when we think of their innumerable provocations, and of how they revolted again and again against the Lord, we are not surprised that at last, the Lord sent them into captivity. Now listen to Jeremiah’s lamentation over the people whom he looks upon as already in captivity; he speaks in the name of the nation, and says: —
Jeremiah 10:19. Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.
Ah, child of God, you also must learn to say that! There are some trials and troubles, which come upon you, against which you may not contend, but you must say, “Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.”
Jeremiah 10:20. My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.
Alas, poor Israel! she was like a tent removed, with none to set her up again. There are some churches, in the present day, that are in this sad condition; the faithful fail from among them, there are no new converts, and no earnest spirits, so that the church has to say, “My tent is spoiled and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains “Yes, poor afflicted church, that may be all true, yet thy God can visit thee, and make the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children, and thou who hast lost thy dearest ones, and seemest now to have no stay left, — thy children are all taken from thee, but thy God can build thee up; is he not better to thee than ten sons; and has he not said to thee, “Thy Maker is thy Husband; the Lord of hosts is his name” ?
Jeremiah 10:21-22. For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, —
“Bruit” is an old Norman word; one wonders how it got in here. It might be rendered, “The noise of the tumult is come,” —
Jeremiah 10:22-24. And a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons. O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.
What a suitable prayer this is for a sick man, for a tried believer, for the child of God in deep despondency of soul; I scarcely know any better words that any of us could use. The suppliant does not ask to go unchastened, but he says, “O Lord, correct me, but with judgment: not in thine anger; lest thou bring me to nothing.”
Jeremiah 10:25. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.
So he asks God, instead of smiting his own children, to smite his enemies, and knowing what we do about the Babylonians, we do not wonder that Jeremiah put up such a prayer as that.