Let’s read that important portion.  Jeremiah 10:1-5, “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. 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. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”

Let’s first establish who is talking to whom?  The writer of this book, Jeremiah, is bringing a message from God to the Israelites.  That is obvious from verse 1.  He issues a warning to Israel that they should not follow the examples of the heathen.  Instead of the word ‘heathen’, most every translation uses the word ‘nations.’  The Lord is instructing His people, Israel, that they should not act like the other nations, which would be people who did not know the Lord.  In this instance, He is referring to the Chaldeans and Egyptians.

There are three things that the Israelites are warned against following:

  • THE WAY OF THE NATIONS – Verse 2.  When in the constant presence of the heathen nations, it would be so easy to adopt their ways physically, morally, and spiritually.  Israel was forewarned that they should not do this.
  • THE FEAR THAT OTHER NATIONS HAVE – Verse 2.  Extraordinary appearances in the sky, such as eclipses, comets, and meteor showers, seemed to the pagan nations to indicate impending calamities. To give importance to these things is to walk in pagan ways.
  • THE CUSTOMS OF THE NATIONS – Verses 3-5.  One such custom was the cutting down and decorating of trees for worship.  Jeremiah warns that these idols cannot speak, cannot move, and cannot do evil or good.

King David gives a similar warning about idols in Psalm 115:4-8, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”  While these idols are obviously different from the ones mentioned in Jeremiah 10, the qualities of the idols are the same:  they cannot speak, they cannot hear, they cannot smell, they cannot touch, they cannot move.  There is then this horrifying warning in verse 8, “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”  Those who create and worship idols become like their idols…they are lifeless and useless!

Some have used Jeremiah 10:3-5 as a warning against Christians using Christmas trees.  Is this a fair comparison?  While this custom started long before the birth of Christ, we see that it was already an established practice among the heathen.  Should we use this heathen custom in celebration of the birth of the Savior?  Should we use pagan means to acknowledge the One true God?  Should we ignore this warning and continue in the ways of the pagans?  To me, the answer is obvious…NO, we should not.  Is there any way we can turn this practice, which is offensive to the Lord, into something in which the Lord is honored?  NO, we cannot.  Because these idols are, in reality gods to those who make them, we should keep in mind the words of the Lord in Exodus 20:3-4, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”  I mentioned at the outset that these were words from the Lord to the Israelites.  Are there similar words given to us today?  YES!  Let’s end this meditation by considering the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (195.4)