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Making Scarecrow Idols

The Verdict / John Munro
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July 3, 2023 8:49 am

Making Scarecrow Idols

The Verdict / John Munro

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July 3, 2023 8:49 am

Dr. John H. Munro July 2, 2023 Jeremiah 9-12


Let me ask you to open your Bibles to Jeremiah chapter 12. These summer Sundays, perhaps strangely we're looking at this Old Testament book.

Some would see it as a very negative book. Jeremiah is sometimes described as the prophet of tears, a gloomy kind of individual, a harsh individual, and yet we're learning that what he said to ancient Judah is coming in power to us today. He's given a very tough assignment by God. He's a prophet, and his message basically is one of repentance. It's a message of judgment. If you're a prophet, if you're a preacher, you want to say something positive.

You want, in a sense, to reinforce people in their own prejudices and desire, and in that way increase your popularity. But Jeremiah has a very strong call. He realizes that he was consecrated by God, that before he was even conceived in his mother's womb, God knew him, and God had a purpose for him. And in the difficulties of his task, and it's a very difficult task, we see his courage and his commitment to the Word of God. Here, if we could say humanly, as we come into chapter 12, he's kind of having a tough day.

You have these? Jeremiah chapter 12, let's read first of all the first four verses. Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you, yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them and they take root.

They grow and produce fruit. You are near in their mouth and far from their heart. But you, O Lord, know me. You see me and test my heart toward you.

Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it, the beasts and the birds are swept away because they said he will not see our latter end. Jeremiah, in these verses, is asking a very common question, a very emotional question, one that I would suggest all of us have asked, why, why, why? Why, Lord, do you allow the wicked to prosper? I'm a man of God. I'm a prophet and I see the wicked thriving.

I see their crops are doing very well. Why do you allow this to happen? How long, verse four, how long will the land mourn? How long has this to last?

How long have I to put up with this? Notice the Lord's answer. It's a tough answer, verse five.

If you have raced with men on foot and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? Some translations say the pride of the Jordan, thinking that Jeremiah is revering to the time when the Jordan swells its bank, but probably the word is better translated thicket as we have in our translation. Later, Jeremiah uses the word again and is translated the jungle. The jungle of the Jordan. The Jordan today in one sense is much of a river, but the time of Jeremiah obviously it was, and there was a kind of jungle in the banks of the Jordan. There were wild animals there even at the time of Jeremiah the lion.

In other words, Jeremiah, here's the point. If you think it's tough going now, you haven't seen anything yet. That's not what he wants to hear, is it? He's given a very tough assignment, but it's going to become even more difficult. If you have difficulty running with the men on foot, how on earth do you think you're going to compete with the horses?

If you have difficulty surviving in the safe land, how are you going to get on running in the jungle of the Jordan, a place where there's wild animals and a lot of treachery? Not what we want to hear during the tough times of our life, is it? Do you find living for Jesus Christ difficult today with all of His challenges? I think most of us would say yes, it's difficult. Students, do you think it's difficult being a Christian at Audrey Kell or Southmec High School? Do you think that's difficult? How do you think it's going to be when you go to UNC Chapel? You think your work situation is difficult now? How do you think it's going to be for you when you get that promotion? You think it's difficult raising a five-year-old child today?

How do you think you're going to do when you have a child in middle school and two in high school a few years from now? That's it, isn't it? The NIV translates verse 5 this way, if you've raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe ground, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

Very graphic, isn't it? The way Jeremiah writes. Here's the point. How are you going to be faithful to God in the future if you find it tough living for God today? See, God has plans for Jeremiah, and God has plans for you and me. Instinctively, we think that if we follow the plans of God, if we do the will of God, life is going to be easy. That's not always the case. It wasn't the case for Jeremiah.

Do you find yourself today falling apart because of disappointments and some setbacks in your life? How do you think you're going to handle the future? How are you going to run with the horses when you can't even keep up with men on foot? You say I don't know. Well, Jeremiah is going to tell us.

And I can summarize it this way. What's he saying? Stop looking at scarecrows.

He said what on earth is that? Stop looking at scarecrows and start looking at your great God. First of all, don't worship false gods.

Go back to chapter 10. Jeremiah 10, and we'll read from verses one through 10. Now, arise, this is unfamiliar language, but if we concentrate, we can understand this. Don't think because it's Old Testament, the book of Jeremiah, you can't understand it.

Yes, you can. Pay attention to the reading of the Word. Jeremiah 10 verse 1, hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Notice, hear it. Listen up.

I'm saying that to you. Hear it. Listen. Don't just listen to my voice. Think of the message. Thus says the Lord, 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.

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. And 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. Verse six, there's none like you, O Lord.

You are great, and Your name is great in might. You would not fear You, O King of the nations, for this is Your due. For among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You.

They are both stupid and foolish. The instruction of idols is but wood. Beaten silver is brought from tarshish and gold from ufaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith.

Their clothing is violet and purple. They are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God. He's the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Verse 14, every man is stupid and without knowledge. Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false and there's no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion.

At the time of their punishment, they shall perish. What a contrast. What's he saying? First of all, don't follow the contemporary society. Verse two, here's the Lord. Learn not the way of the nations. Why are you following the way of the pagan nations?

Israel's done that time and time again. You remember the time of Samuel? They're not happy with Samuel as a prophet. And they look around the nations and they say all the nations have got a king, and we need a king. But they want to select their own king.

First Samuel 8, there shall be a king over us. The people say that we also may be like all the nations. We want to be like everyone else. You see, this desire to conform to the surrounding nations, this desire to look like and act like everyone else is a very strong human emotion, isn't it? Those of us who are brought up in Christian homes know that emotion. Dad, why are we different? Why can't we be like so and so? Answer, well this is a Christian home. And we take our beat of our drum, not from the contemporary pagan nation, but from the Word of God. But this desire to conform is very strong in us, isn't it?

To go with the flow. Don't stand out. Who wants to stand out? Who wants to be different?

Who wants to be thought of as an oddball at work or at school? But Israel had forgot that when God called them out of Egyptian bondage, they were told that you are to be a holy nation, separated, different, distinct from the other nations. They are pagans. They have many gods. You are different.

You are different. But now Jeremiah 10, verse 2, they're learning from the way of the nations to their destruction. That be true of us?

Of course it is. We're often like Israel, aren't we? Instead of learning from and following the Lord, we learn from and follow our surrounding culture. Almost in every aspect of our life, Paul in the New Testament tells us, don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Be different. Don't follow the Lord. Don't allow the world to squeeze you into its own mold. You're different.

Be different. And Jeremiah has already told us that the trends and the customs of the surrounding nations, they are vanity, vapor, worthless. They're pointless.

They're meaningless. Chapter 2, verse 5, we saw before he said, what wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me? There's something wrong in me, the great God that you would leave me, and what do you do?

You go after worthlessness and become worthless. And Israel, of all people, they worship false gods. Notice the graphic way in which Jeremiah to get their attention describes their idols. Verse 5, their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field.

NIV says a melon field, cucumber. I read that, I thought scarecrows in the Bible, I was brought up with the old King James. And the old King James talks about boundaries but the word — Hebrew word for palm and scarecrow have the same consonants but in the context, the translation scarecrow I think is right. Here's a picture of a scarecrow.

Not many around Charlotte. When I was growing up, there was many scarecrows but I don't know if you have that in your backyard. It looks like one of my old suits on it. You know a scarecrow? The farmer puts up this ridiculous structure in the middle of his field of cucumbers or melons or whatever it is to scare the crows.

The birds come, they take the fruit, and the farmer puts up the scarecrow. It's a kind of steak-like, helpless, almost pathetic figure, isn't it? Yes, you can put a hand on its head. You can put a coat on it.

You can put baggy pants on it. But it's still a scarecrow. And Jeremiah is saying, listen, that scarecrow of an idol, it can do absolutely nothing for you. That's your idols. Look at the scarecrows in the cucumber field next door to farmer Bob. See a scarecrow? That's just like your idols. And this is what Israel has done. Israel turned from God the fountain of living waters.

That's tragic itself, but it gets worse, isn't it? They go to the forest. They cut down a tree.

They hammer a few pieces of tree together. Make this ridiculous scarecrow. They decorate it with gold and silver.

They put on fancy clothes on it as we read. But it's still made of wood. And this is what you want to worship instead of the great God.

This is now your God. Notice what he says at the end of verse four. It can't move. Scarecrow doesn't go around the field, does it?

It's at one point you can't move. Verse five, they cannot speak. You can't have a conversation with an idol, with a scarecrow, can you?

And they can't walk. You've got a God who is omnipresent, and you leave that God, and you turn, and you worship that idol. This verse eight is utter stupidity. It's both stupid and foolish. You say, well, that's ancient Israel. We're much more sophisticated.

We don't do that, don't we? Any idols, any scarecrows in your life? Idol of comfort? Idol of success? That's the American dream, isn't it?

It almost becomes an idol. Little kids pursue the American dream. What Jesus said, seek first the kingdom of God, but don't we tell our kids, pursue the American dream.

That's the way of success. Education. Listen, I believe in education.

Education can very much become a God, can't it? Entertainment. Oh, do we worship entertainment? Money? It's an idol. You worship money? Sport? It's one of the biggest idols we've got in this country.

Not in this country only, but throughout the world, isn't it? Your own pleasure, your own enjoyment. You ask the person in the street what they live for, it's their happiness. You ask the average man, what do you want for my daughter?

I just want her to be happy. A scarecrow. We make scarecrows idols, and so we become worthless.

These idols, like a scarecrow, are totally helpless to help you in your time of need. You may be a billionaire that will not help you on your deathbed. Jesus says, what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

You may have developed a very large company and been very, very successful. That doesn't help you one little bit when you're told you've got a terminal illness or a loved one dies. What's Jeremiah saying? What's God saying through Jeremiah?

Don't make scarecrows idols. Can I remind you of the first commandments? First commandment, you shall have no other gods before me.

That's number one of the 10 commandments. God is a jealous God. God must have no rivals. He is God. The pagans have thousands of idols. You Israel are to have one, and that God you're to love with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that was repeated by Jesus in the Gospels, isn't it? No idols. John, at the end of his little letter, 1 John 5 verse 21 writes, little children, keep yourself from idols. Idols.

Martin Luther said, whatever you set your heart on and rely on, that is really your God. So let me give you a little pop quiz. There's five parts to it.

Now relax. You're going to grade yourself. So you can lie, but God knows, right? You're not going to tell me, but here it is. I'm trying to work with you to see what idols, what scarecrows there might be in your life.

Here's the first question. What do you love in life? It's the love test. Augustine said, moral character is assessed not by what a man knows, but what he loves. What's number one love in your life? Jesus says you're to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Is that true? Your love test. Number two, your thought test. In your free moments, what do you think about? Someone said, you're not what you think you are, but you, but what you think you are.

What do you think about? What do you think about when you're driving? What do you think about when you're going to sleep? In your free time, what's in your mind? The thought test. Here's the third one, the money test.

How do you spend your money? You know, if we saw your checkbook, if we saw your credit card list, if we knew how you dealt with your finances, that would tell us, wouldn't it? We sing, there's an old hymn, Fanny Crosby, not a mite with I behold, but with hold. I'm going to give you everything I have, Lord. Why do we sing that if it's not true? The money test.

Paul says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Is that number one in your life? I mean, be honest before God. God knows.

Here's the fourth one, the time test. What do you choose to do in your spare time? You say, I live a very busy life.

Yes, I do. I know you're a very important person, but what do you do in your spare time? What were you doing last night? What were you doing yesterday morning?

What about Friday night? What do you do in your spare time? I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just asking a question. Number five, the security test. What gives you security in life? What or whom are you trusting for the future? That's a good one, isn't it? What do you think you're doing?

Any scarecrows in your life? To love or to trust in anything more than God is to make it an idol. If you're trusting in your riches, you're making your resources your God.

If you're an anxious person, you're allowing your circumstances to control you, and you've made your circumstances your God. If you love your children more than God, you've made your children, your family a God. A very common idol in Christian churches and families. Becomes number one. What our family wants, they get.

An abdication of spiritual leadership in the family, and often we just make our family a God. God will have no rivals. God's a jealous God. Pleased to be number one. First commandment, you shall have no other gods before me.

Very simply stated, a short command, but really everything in the Ten Commandments follows from that. If you get that one right, you won't struggle so much with the other ones. Let me ask you the question another way. Maybe this is getting too convicting. You want me to move on, I know.

I'm going to dig a little deeper here. What upstages you, what upstages you coming to Calvary on the Lord's Day to worship? When you're not here on a Sunday morning, why is that?

What's more important in your life? People sometimes say, well, I was tired. Well, you tell that to God. I'm too tired to come. Oh, I work hard all week. I'm tired. On Sunday is the Lord's Day. I catch up on my rest. Really? Seems your comfort.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-04 20:44:44 / 2023-07-04 20:53:01 / 8

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