The Word Made Fresh
1Israel, hear the word of the LORD!
2This is what the LORD says:
don’t try to copy the other nations,
and don’t be alarmed by signs in the skies.
Let the other nations be alarmed by them.
3Their practices are worthless –
they cut down a tree in the forest
and an artisan uses an ax to shape it.
4They cover it with silver and gold
and secure it with hammer and nails so that it can’t be moved.
5They are like scarecrows in a melon field. They can’t speak.
They have to be carried everywhere because they can’t walk.
So don’t be afraid of them because they can do you no harm;
they can’t do you any good, either.
6There are no others like you, LORD.
You are mighty, and your name is strong.
7Who wouldn’t be afraid of you?
You are the king of the nations, and they should be afraid.
There may be wise ones in the nations and kingdoms,
but none of them are like you.
8They are stupid and foolish.
Any wisdom they receive from idols is no better
than listening to a piece of wood!
9They obtain silver from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz.
Artists and goldsmiths work with them,
dressed in blue and purple.
Their gods are shaped by their hands,
10but the LORD is the real God,
the living God and the everlasting Ruler.
When God is angry the earth shakes
and no one can survive God’s wrath.
11Say this to them:
The gods who didn’t make the heavens and the earth
will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.
12It was God whose power made the earth
and whose wisdom established the world,
and whose knowledge shaped the heavens.
13When God speaks there is a storm in the heavens,
and mist rises from the remotest ends of the earth.
God makes lightning flash and brings rain,
and wind is brought out from where it is stored.
14Everyone is ignorant and knows nothing.
Goldsmiths are ashamed by their idols
because their creations are false and have no breath.
15They are worthless. They are a delusion,
and they will die when they are punished.
16Jacob’s God is nothing like them. Jacob’s God created everything,
and Israel is also the inheritance of God,
whose name is the LORD Almighty.
17Therefore, you who are trying to survive under siege
should gather all you have and leave.
18The LORD says, “I am going to throw out
those who live in the land today,
and they will be in distress – I will make them feel it.”
19Woe is me because my wounds are severe.
But then I thought, “This is my just punishment, and I must bear it.
20My tent is gone – the ropes have broken.
My children have left me and are no more.
There is no one to erect my dwelling place again
or even rehang my curtains.
21The shepherds are stupid and don’t bother to seek the LORD’s guidance.
That is why they haven’t been successful –
that is why their flocks are scattered.”
22Listen! A great commotion is approaching from the north.
They will reduce the cities of Judah and make them desolate,
good for nothing but jackals.
23I know, LORD, that the future of humankind is not in their hands.
I know they cannot find the right direction.
24Teach me, LORD, but in justice, not in anger.
Else you will completely destroy me.
25Spill your anger out on the nations that don’t know you
and the people who don’t call on you –
the ones who have devoured Jacob.
For Jacob is consumed; his homeland laid waste.
1-10: The Jewish people were not supposed to carve or sculpt or shape anything as an image of God, and the prophets simply could not understand why anyone would worship an idol, which they saw as no more than a chunk of wood or silver (see, for example, Isaiah 44:12-17). Jeremiah tells the people that God is denouncing them for worshiping such impotent statues (1-5), and then proclaims the LORD to be the only true God (6-10).
11-16: Idols will perish from the earth, but the LORD, who created the earth, will remain.
17-18: Because they believe idols have power over their lives, God will cast them out of the land he gave their ancestors.
19-21: God cries out as though personally wounded by the gross negligence of the leaders (shepherds) who have allowed the flock to be scattered.
22-25: Jeremiah can see the writing on the wall; Assyria is spreading across the land unstoppable, and they will soon reach the cities of Judah. But human beings are not in control, he argues, and begs God to be angry with the nations that are encroaching on Judah because, after all, they don’t know God.
Only God, who created the heavens and the earth and breathed life into each one of us, is worthy of worship. Seeking God’s guidance in our daily decisions is the definition of wisdom.