“It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the Lord of hosts is his name.” – Jeremiah 51:15-19 ESV
In these verses, the prophet writes what amounts to be a hymn of praise to Yahweh, God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts. In the first few verses, God is referred to in the third person. His name remains unmentioned, but His deeds are outlines in great detail. He made the earth and preserves it through His wisdom. It was God who laid out the heavens and all they contain: The sun, stars, planets, galaxies, asteroids, nebula, black holes, and all that stretches out into the universe for millions of light years. And He created it with understand and gave it a precise order and structure. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is the result of chance or exists without God’s approval and creative power. And Marduk, the creator-god of the Babylonians played no part in any of it, because he is non-existent.
Jeremiah goes on to describe Yahweh as not only the creator, but the instigator and sustainer of all things.
When he speaks in the thunder,
the heavens roar with rain.
He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.
He sends the lightning with the rain
and releases the wind from his storehouses. – Jeremiah 51:16 NLT
God’s voice carries weight. When He speaks, things happen. He declares that it should rain and it does. He calls the clouds to appear and they do so. The wind is at His beck and call. All nature is subservient to His sovereign will. Bel, the Babylonians storm god was not the one responsible for the weather. He was not the source behind the storms that brought wind, rain, thunder and lightning to the earth. It was all the handiwork of God Almighty. And yet, as obvious as all of this may be, the majority of the people who live on this planet are too ignorant to recognize the unmistakable attributes of God in the world around them. And Jeremiah describes mankind in less-than-flattering terms: “The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge!” (Jeremiah 51:17 NLT). Rather than attribute the mighty works found it nature to Yahweh, they give the credit to lifeless, man-made idols made of wood and stone.
The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make,
for their carefully shaped works are a fraud.
These idols have no breath or power.
Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! – Jeremiah 51:17-18 NLT
How ridiculous it is for someone to make an idol with their own hands and then step back and claim that this block of wood or carved stone is a deity with powers to rescue them from danger, protect them from harm, bless then for their worship, and sustain them throughout life. The prophet Isaiah echoes the sentiments of Jeremiah.
How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
an idol that cannot help him one bit? – Isaiah 44:9-10 NLT
And he’s not done.
The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,
pounding and shaping it with all his might.
His work makes him hungry and weak.
It makes him thirsty and faint.
Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood
and draws a pattern on it.
He works with chisel and plane
and carves it into a human figure.
He gives it human beauty
and puts it in a little shrine.
He cuts down cedars;
he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
to be nourished by the rain.
Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
and makes himself a god to worship! – Isaiah 44:12-15 NLT
It’s so pathetic, it’s sad. How silly it all comes across when you see it written down in black and white. How ludicrous the whole idea appears, and yet, man has made a habit of manufacturing his own gods for generations. The apostle Paul describes it in stark terms: “they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise” (Romans 1:25 NLT).
And Isaiah goes on to paint the idiocy of idols in embarrassingly silly terms.
He makes an idol
and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
and to keep himself warm.
He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”
Then he takes what’s left
and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
worshiping and praying to it.
“Rescue me!” he says.
“You are my god!” – Isaiah 44:15-17 NLT
And Jeremiah provides us with a vivid juxtaposition between these lifeless, helpless idols and the one true God.
But the God of Israel is no idol!
He is the Creator of everything that exists,
including his people, his own special possession.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! – Jeremiah 51:19 NLT
That statement should bring us joy and create in us a sense of quiet confidence and growing trust. Our God is real. He is not the byproduct of man’s fertile imagination. He is not created. He is the creator! Everything that exists is due to Him. Even the wood that sinful, foolish men use to make false gods. Even the precious metals and stones they use to decorate their lifeless deities. He is unmade, eternal, all-powerful, and in complete control of all things. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is incomparable. He is without peer. And, once again, the prophet Isaiah provides us with God’s declaration of His unmatched, unequaled status as the one and only God of the universe.
“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?
Some people pour out their silver and gold
and hire a craftsman to make a god from it.
Then they bow down and worship it!
They carry it around on their shoulders,
and when they set it down, it stays there.
It can’t even move!
And when someone prays to it, there is no answer.
It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” – Isaiah 46:5-7 NLT
Idols can’t answer prayers. Idols can’t rescue those in trouble. Idols can’t move from one place to another without human help. Idols can’t do anything. But God can. He is incomparable, totally reliable and completely without equal.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.