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Lowell Brueckner

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Man Cannot Self-Govern

 Chapter 10

 1.      Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. 

 2.      Thus says the LORD: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. 

 3.      For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 

 4.      They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple. 

 5.      They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good." 

 Rejecting the way of futility

 The Lord directs His message to the house of Israel (1). If there is any place, where He can possibly be heard, it would have to be in that house. If there are any people, who have the necessary understanding, to be able to discern the good sense of His words, it would have to be the Israelites.  No true wisdom at all can be expected from the pagan non-Jews, who do not know God and are given to worship idols.

 Jeremiah proves that in the first verses of this chapter. If people pray to and depend on a decorated piece of wood, chopped down with an ax, how can the Lord expect a reasonable response from them? A palm tree has living roots, which grow deeply into solid earth and hold it upright, while man’s creations are fastened in place by tools and hardware. They have no life, they cannot speak for themselves, and are not self-propelled, to rise and choose their way. Modern, man-made creations can move, but they cannot move independently, nor can they do good or evil, without the pre-ordained will of their inventors. They are not to be feared. When are we human beings, who cannot create life, going to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God?

 The Lord counsels His people: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. Senseless pagans look to the stars, the moon and the sun for direction; they still do in modern times, by astrology, the zodiac, horoscopes and, with a certain degree of legitimacy, astronomy. Here is a definition of astrology from Wikipedia: Astrology is a pseudoscience that claims to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects.  


 How can you learn anything from people, who follow, what the Bible calls the host of heaven? We studied that practice of some of the kings of Judah and Israel in the radio program, “The Historical Books”. I will agree that the ways of men have become highly sophisticated over the centuries, especially in this computer age, but they still depend on creatures and the creation, instead of on the Creator.

 The highest level of learning is not intellectual, dependent upon our small, limited brains. The emotions are fickle and not dependable, so the people of God should not depend on feelings. We dare not trust inward voices, impulses, sub-conscious directions that come to us through dreams, visions or meditation, for eventually they will betray us.  Some of these things may be legitimate, as far as they can take us, but they are not the sure and final answer. The highest level of learning is spiritual, directed and taught by the Holy Spirit.

 Hear the doctrine of the apostle Paul: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Co.2:12-13). I have tried recently to express that truth this way: A Bible study should not be, principally, a study which satisfies the mind and it also should not be directed primarily to stir up the emotions. It should be truth that reaches our heart, something that penetrates deeply into our being that will stay with us forever. The Scriptures are spiritual, and we must capture their spirituality as we study them.

 Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn.6:63). The writer of Hebrews shows also that the word of God is a living, spiritual organism: “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart(He.4:12). It cannot be received, in the way that man’s wisdom is received, but welcomed into our lives as the unique word of God, which can be learned only through His Spirit. When that is the case, the word of God, “effectively works in you who believe” (1 Th.2:13). From the beginning of spiritual experience, it transforms the life, and continues to do a transforming work through the indwelling Holy Spirit: “We all… beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Co.3:18). This is the wonderful potential for the Christian.


 6.      Inasmuch as there is none like You, O LORD (You are great, and Your name is great in might), 

 7.      Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You. 

 8.      But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. 

 9.      Silver is beaten into plates; It is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of the craftsman And of the hands of the metalsmith; Blue and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skillful men. 

 God is holy and to be feared

 The first five verses of Jeremiah 10 capture the false ways of natural men and in the New Testament, we have the same kind of teaching from the apostle Paul in Romans 1. Now we continue as Jeremiah describes the wonder of the true and living God, beginning in verse 6. First of all, he declares that the Lord is unique… there is none like You. This is, in great part, what the Bible means, when it teaches us that God is holy. The word holy means consecrated or set apart. There are two great categories of beings: In the first is God alone, standing in the greatness of Himself… incomparable, inconceivable, unchangeable, self-existent, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, to name only a few of His divine attributes. In the other category is everything and everyone else, with limitations, mortality and dependence. 

 In the proper conception of God, He is rightly to be feared… Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? He goes on to say, This is Your rightful due. A great majority of humanity, and I include with deep regret, many evangelical Christians, want to create a mentality, in which God is not feared. It is a way of demeaning God to be Someone, who exists on our level. The Scriptures teach that God is the only One to be feared, and no one and nothing else is worthy of fear. This is not to take away the wonderful, friendly relationship of the fatherhood of God, to which Jesus raised us. But even in that awesome and incomprehensible grace, we still serve with fear and trembling (Php.2:12), as His church, “walking in the fear of the Lord” (Ac.9:31), and praying “hallowed be Your name… for Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory!”

 Under supernatural inspiration, Jeremiah declares His great and mighty name. His name is not heard only in the proper words, by which He is called, but in His character and in His person. His name is Who He is, not simply Who He is called. The Christian does not walk in the magical world of superstition, thinking that simply by saying “Jesus”, deliverance will come but, in faith, by trusting in the Savior, which is the meaning and significance of the word, Jesus.  He may call out in desperation, as a last resort, but he must call out in faith, trusting in Him to save.

 A fierce, trained army is coming towards Judah, representing the most powerful empire that has ever existed up to that time, certainly led by some of the most astute minds in all of history. For the assurance of the trusting listeners, Jeremiah teaches that none can approach the wisdom that belongs only to the omniscient Jehovah of Israel. Four young teen-age boys were taken captive from Judah to Babylon and it was discovered that they were “in all matters of wisdom and understanding… (Nebuchadnezzar) found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Dn.1:20). They were taught of God (7). 

 True doctrine is of supreme importance and it is essential that God’s people be taught, because many opposing, false doctrines exist. Idolatry is a doctrine (8); people are taught to be idolaters. Our enemy knows the importance of doctrine and therefore the false sects carefully teach members their peculiar views, often putting true Christians to shame with their knowledge of the Scriptures, which they think support them. Paul warned Timothy, “the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Ti.4:1). When Christians are wrongly instructed by misguided teachers, pretending a super-spiritual knowledge, to depend upon inner voices, impulses, dreams, visions, etc. (to which I earlier referred), they will easily develop a doctrinal complacency. They may even think that it is a disadvantage to have “too much” biblical knowledge. That is an acute and dangerous deception!

 Would you agree that if idolatrous teaching took place in the apostolic churches, that the church today is not exempt? Look briefly with me at the Lord’s message to Pergamos: “You have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols…” (Rv.2:14) There is no indication that the teacher in Pergamos was a woman, but it happens that a doctrinally tolerant church in Thyatira allowed “a woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to… eat things sacrificed to idols(Rv.2:20). Idolatry was taught in Israel and it is taught in the church.

 Those, who are not alert in their knowledge of God and His word will become dull-hearted and foolish. The natural eye is quick to catch the attraction of a skillful work, done by master craftsmen, as well as the value of the precious metals used and the beauty of the colors (9). No one ever said that the devil’s temptations are ugly. I fear they are extremely attractive and for that reason, it is necessary for God’s servants to stand and denounce them as worthless. Solomon, who called everything under the sun vanity, was such a preacher.


 10.  But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. 

 11.  Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens." 

 12.  He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. 

 13.  When He utters His voice, There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: "And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries." 

 14.  Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; Every metalsmith is put to shame by an image; For his molded image is falsehood, And there is no breath in them. 

 15.  They are futile, a work of errors; In the time of their punishment they shall perish. 

 16.  The Portion of Jacob is not like them, For He is the Maker of all things, And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; The LORD of hosts is His name. 

 17.  Gather up your wares from the land, O inhabitant of the fortress! 

 18.  For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will throw out at this time The inhabitants of the land, And will distress them, That they may find it so.

 19.    Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is severe. But I say, "Truly this is an infirmity, And I must bear it." 

 20.    My tent is plundered, And all my cords are broken; My children have gone from me, And they are no more. There is no one to pitch my tent anymore, Or set up my curtains. 

 21.  For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, And have not sought the LORD; Therefore they shall not prosper, And all their flocks shall be scattered. 

 22.    Behold, the noise of the report has come, And a great commotion out of the north country, To make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals. 

 Israel suffers the consequences of denying their magnificent God

 In these days, we must declare, through the Person of the Holy Spirit, the matchless wonder of the Person of the Father and the Person of the Son. Jeremiah knows and declares Him! 1) He is the true God and all others are lies and delusions. 2) He is the living God and Jesus is a life-giving Spirit. 3) He is the everlasting King with an unshakeable throne that will never be removed. 4) He is a God of wrath, and the earth, with its nations, trembles and are not able to resist His indignation. 5) By the power of His word, He has created. 6) He has done so with an amazing wisdom that the world is only beginning to discover. 7) Consider the billions of light-year expanse of the universe. It is His argument to the world of doubting humankind (10-12, his discretion, tabun in Greek means intelligence, but also argument).

 8) Thunder is often called the voice of God and countless times, we have witnessed that it, along with the electrical force of lightning, which produces it, introduces a tremendous downpour. 9) Evaporation is also a tremendous force, rather subtle compared to a thunderstorm, but without it, there would be no clouds and no precipitation of any kind. 10) He opens the door of His storehouse and hurricane winds and the tornados are released. There is no power on earth that can resist them and nothing can stop them. They bring a frequent demonstration to man of the omnipotent force of the Creator, before which he is helpless (13). This statement is borrowed from the prophet by a later Psalmist (Ps.135:7), and repeated in Jeremiah 51:16-19, along with verses 14-16, with good cause.

 The devil cannot create, although he has supernatural powers, but I imagine that the kingdom of darkness has amazing technology. Study the works produced by the false prophet, a man himself, along with the population of the earth in Revelation 13:11-15: “Telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” This is a very sophisticated idol, but we have already seen the like in the virtual images of the computer. Then, 3-dimensional, visible holograms are a reality today. Their designer will be destroyed by The Word of God, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Rv.19:13-20). Both the false prophet and the beast will perish.

 There are so many demonstrations of God’s matchless power, which should humble man, but the unbeliever calls it the forces of nature and walks away in his dull-hearted, willingly-ignorant pride. The works of men are continually shamed by the living reality of God. Man’s images are false, they have no living breath, they are futile, full of errors, and they will perish. All of us are witnesses of the perishable, temporary nature of all things made by man. They simply wear out, break, or become obsolete.


The Portion of Jacob is not like them. Not only Israel, but the church, has a testimony to declare that is absolutely different.  We are baptized into spiritual reality, which outperforms all that, which Jeremiah defines in verses 14-15. Israel, its 12 tribes united in one, is His inheritance, and the unified church is His bride and He is our Portion. In Genesis 15:1, He revealed Himself as Abraham’s Portion: “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

 God does not give anything apart from Himself to His people. It is not something, given by God, that we glory in, but God Himself. God, the Son, is our Portion: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life” (1 Jn.5:11, 12). He has given us “another Comforter (another, meaning in Greek, another of the same kind, as Jesus), the third Person of the Godhead.  There could be no greater Portion. Again, Jeremiah mentions His name… that is, His character with His attributes… the Lord of hosts, that is, the Lord of armies, an unstoppable force, by which He accomplishes His purposes, leads and defends His people (16). 

 But now, the inhabitants, who remain in Jerusalem, are in great distress, as the Babylonian siege accomplishes its purpose. Those in this fortress gather their necessary baggage for a final eviction and transportation to Babylon. They leave the Promised Land of their possession and Israel ceases to be an independent nation. Commentator Albert Barnes gives an alternate meaning to that they may find it so.  It so is not in the original and Barnes offer That they may find Me. The only comfort in this time is to find God; He is all that is left for them, yet this is a mighty consolation for those, who will turn to Him (18).

 Jeremiah speaks for his people and suffers with them, as they come to realize that they must now learn to bear the burden of captivity, submit to it, and live with their weakness (19). They are without defense, the metaphor is: As if they have been living in a tent, the stakes removed and easily laid flat to the ground.  There children are carried into exile or are killed and there is no one to help. The pain is severe (20).

 The noble leaders are now as common, senseless shepherds, who have failed miserably. They were godless, ruling independently, relying on their own capabilities, without looking to the Lord for guidance and strength.: There can be no true success without the Lord. Chaos has broken out and their flock is scattered (21). Invasion comes from the north with the commotion of an army on the march toward Jerusalem. As he has already said, the city will only be inhabited by jackals (22).


23.  O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. 

24.   O LORD, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. 

25.   Pour out Your fury on the Gentiles, who do not know You, And on the families who do not call on Your name; For they have eaten up Jacob, Devoured him and consumed him, And made his dwelling place desolate. 

 Important lesson: Man’s ways are not found in himself

 Jeremiah summarizes with a valuable principle of immutable truth, just as sure for the individual Christian in these times, as it was for the Jew in the time of the prophet. In his creation, God made man to be dependent. A human baby is helpless, in contrast to many animals at birth. He did not create himself and he absolutely cannot function without his Creator; his steps must be ordered by the Lord. There is no exception to the rule and we will only know true meaning and purpose in our lives, when we conform to it (23­).

 Paul puts it in the language of the New Testament: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Ro.8:14). Those, who are not led by Him, are not sons, but rebels. In Romans 10:9, the apostle insists that in order to be saved, you must “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus.” That means, obviously, that there must be a verbal confession from the sinner that he is submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

  We can thank God that when we fall short and make an attempt to walk on our own, we have a heavenly Father, Who disciplines perfectly. Jesus told a failing church, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rv.3:19). There was still room for Laodicea to receive His loving discipline, if they would only zealously repent. Certainly, any individual member of that church could do so. Jeremiah begs for the Lord to act, as He must, in His righteousness, but without anger (25).

 We learned in the last chapter from Peter that God must, first of all, bring His people into line, sometimes with severe discipline and then, Peter inferred, that the judgment upon those, who disobey the gospel, would be incomparably worse (1 P.4:17). Jeremiah was tuned to the same wisdom that Peter learned much later, Jeremiah pleads for God to spare His people from wrath, and reserve it for the ungodly. Israel’s neighbors collaborated with Babylon and it did not go unnoticed by the Lord (25). Paul affirms, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest” (2 Th.1:7, 8). This will be the final outcome, when the Lord returns for His church.































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