for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
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.”
The theme of these verses seems to be a common one throughout the Old Testament. False idols, and the destruction of a nation that turns to them is reported throughout the Bible, especially in the books of the prophets.
I have written a number of times about false gods and idolatry, and this will be another piece on that subject. I’m sure there will be a few more times I will write about this, since I am currently reading the book of Jeremiah and still have fifteen more books to go in the Old Testatment.
God freed the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. God brought them through the wilderness, but even after doing that God wasn’t meeting their expectation. So they turned to false gods, man-made idols. Then the Israelites conquered their enemies and prospered in the land given to them by God. But even in the good times they turned to false gods and idolatry.
In good times and bad times man turns away from God and gives his heart to that which does not exist. For they say God does not exist but this piece of stone, wood, metal, plastic or electronics does, so this is now my God.
Jeremiah explains the process of idolatry in the terms of the ancient times. But today this same theme holds true. Maybe if Jeremiah was here today he would write:
A piece of technology is crafted by men and worked by a producer and agent.
It is decorated by wordsmiths, designers and actors,
And captured in a box so it cannot move.
The idols are like pictures in a gallery,
They cannot speak, they have to be carried,
For they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them for they cannot do evil.
Nor is it in them to do good.
So turn the box off and get up and seek righteousness in the world,
For it is not in these boxes of technology made by man.
I’m sure he’d say it a bit more eloquently, but you get the idea.
These images that we watch on all types of monitors, from a two inch screen to a seventy inch screen and larger, are nothing but that, images. They have no power for either good or evil. They are impotent items of color. They are creations of man.
Yet we base our truths on what we hear and see in these boxes. We say they have power. We pass judgement based on our expectations, so we are just like the Israelites of the Old Testament.
We give these boxes and their images power over our lives, our actions, our decision making, and yet they have no power. They are no different than a pile of sticks, stones or manure. They just look better and smell better. But their purpose is the same, there is none.
It is as Jeremiah states in the beginning of verse three:
“for the customs of the people are vanity”
We create and worship these false gods because they serve our purpose. They help us rationalize away the evil that we do, they make it okay to sin and remove God from our hearts. They make it okay to sacrifice our freedom to other false gods.
All the prophets from the Old Testament would write the same books today as they did thousands of years ago. The names and places would change, but the theme would be the same.
The destruction of man, the unavoidable consequences of man’s actions, man’s actions of arrogance and vanity, this still holds true today.
We prefer to worship that which meets our expectations and ignores the consequences of our actions. We prefer that which tries to ignore the forces, the laws of the universe, but they cannot be ignored. We prefer to worship that which tells us nothing so we can fill its mouth with the words we want to hear.
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