O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. — Jeremiah 10:23-24
I was blessed to grow up in a home where my siblings and I knew we were loved. My parents also wisely established boundaries and guidelines for our behavior. We knew that we were expected to mind our parents, but being typical children, we did not always obey as we should have. When this happened, we knew we faced consequences.
When Mom and Dad dealt with an issue of disobedience, they often would ask the offenders what they thought should be done in terms of correction. Even back then, it impressed me that we often identified a punishment more severe than what was meted out by our parents. I think we realized that we usually deserved more than we got! My parents were merciful in their corrective measures, and were guided by the principle that good discipline would result in our learning and modifying our behavior appropriately.
As I look back on how I was raised, I appreciate the fact that my parents established rules, giving us guidance on what we needed to do. We certainly benefited by their clear instructions. In our focus verse, Jeremiah also saw the necessity for God to direct his steps and the steps of Judah as they responded to threats of invasion. Jeremiah accurately stated that we are not able to plan our own course — we desperately need direction from God in our lives.
Jeremiah’s prayer also included a request for mercy. He knew that correction was in order and deserved, but he asked the Lord not to discipline in anger. If correction was given as deserved, Jeremiah indicated he would be “brought to nothing.”
How grateful we should be that God deals with us in mercy, and that He is willing to give us guidance on how we are to live. We will fail miserably without God’s help. Like Jeremiah, we must recognize that we cannot direct our own lives successfully without God’s intervention. We need to look to Him to direct our steps, and do our best to respond rightly to His merciful correction.
This chapter concludes Jeremiah’s third message, known as the “Temple sermon.” Some Bible scholars believe that Jeremiah may have been addressing the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was already in Assyrian captivity at that time, while others think that Jeremiah could have used the name “Israel” in reference to Judah. In either case, Jeremiah’s exhortation was to refrain from becoming educated in the religious customs of the heathen, whose carefully crafted graven images lacked the ability to speak or move. The word brutish in verse 8 meant “of a stupid nature; unfeeling; unintelligent.” Tarshish was located in Spain or Sicily and was well known for its silver. The location of Uphaz is uncertain, but it may have referred to Ophir, noted for its gold. Blue and purple dyes were rare and very costly, and denoted royalty. Although skilled workmen used these precious materials to fashion magnificent sculptures, their work was in vain because these false deities were futile and would ultimately cease to exist.
In contrast, Jeremiah declared that none were comparable with the living God, the “King of the nations,” whose wisdom far surpasses that of any man. His wrath would make the earth tremble, and no nation could withstand it. God created all that is in the earth, and the elements obey the sound of His Voice. Both the makers and worshipers of the graven images were foolish to prefer their false gods because when trouble came, their idols could not help them. The God of Jacob was different from the gods of the heathen nations. His name is “the Lord of hosts” and Israel was the tribe of His inheritance.
Jeremiah urged the inhabitants of Jerusalem to pack their possessions in preparation for exile. Although Jerusalem was thought of as an impenetrable fortress, God warned that the inhabitants would be forcefully removed from the land all at once, as a stone flung from a sling. The “tabernacle” in verse 20 may have referred to the dwelling places (tents) of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, although some scholars believe it may have alluded to the Temple. The “pastors” were the religious and civil leaders who had neglected to seek the Lord and properly care for their “flocks” (the people). The pastor’s foolish behavior would cause their flocks to be scattered. The word bruit meant “rumor,” and indicated that the rumor of the enemy’s invasion was soon to become a reality.
Jeremiah concluded his message with the acknowledgment that man cannot uprightly order his own steps, and is in need of God’s divine guidance. He cried out for God to render correction, but to temper it with His mercy, for justice alone would bring total destruction whereas mercy offered hope. He then petitioned God to pour out wrath on the nations who did not worship Him, and who had been guilty of persecuting Israel. While Jeremiah understood that Judah had provoked God to anger, he apparently felt that the heathen nations deserved the greater judgment.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
3. The third sermon: Distortion of worship
c. The review of Judah’s idolatry
(2) The contrast of idolatry and God (10:1-16)
(a) The folly of idolatry (10:1-5)
(b) The glory of God (10:6-16)
(3) The judgment upon idolatry (10:17-25)
Just as Jeremiah stayed true to his mission and allowed the Lord to direct his life and guide his steps, so must we also. Even in the face of adversity, we must not waver from God and His direction.