“The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” – Jeremiah 10:11
Our text is literally true. In the opening verses of the chapter from which the text is taken we are told of those who made idols, the work of their own hands, and worshiped them. Spiritually this is the setting up of human intelligence, attributing power to man, whereas the Lord alone has power. All history – the history of nations and of individuals – is but the fulfillment of the Word. The blessings of the Word are bestowed upon those who learn and keep its precepts, for the Lord’s power is in these. And its curses fall upon those who turn to themselves for guidance.
We read, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength,” and again, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
At one time idolatry was widespread throughout the earth. Men made images fashioned in the likeness of themselves or of animals of the earth, fishes of the sea, or creeping things – images which had neither eyes to see nor hands to handle nor ears to hear – and bowed down to them and worshiped them. Such was once the worship in Nineveh and Babylon. Where now are their gods? These great cities have long since been overthrown and their ruins buried in sand.
In later days Greece and Rome had their gods, but who today worships Zeus or Aphrodite, Jupiter or Neptune or Saturn? They have passed away. No longer do any burn incense on the altars of these gods. Their great temples remain at Athens and Rome, but no one worships in them any more.
Rulers have set themselves up and have been worshiped. Nebuchadnezzar boasted, “Is not this great Babylon that I have builded?” But he was driven out from men and humbled until he could “bless the Most High who is able to abase those that walk in pride.” And to Belshazzar, who profaned the holy vessels of the Temple, there appeared the writing on the wall, and his kingdom was taken from him.
Also there are those who have claimed to be wise and that their systems of thought would endure forever. But their systems have passed away. We have such wise men today, who think that the mind of man can solve all the problems of the world. But all systems based solely on human wisdom pass away, for the Lord says, “I am God, and there is none else.”
The Church too needs this lesson. Israel forgot it, and bowed before other gods; therefore the Lord raised up mighty enemies against them, who finally took them away captive. And the First Christian Church set up human wisdom above the Word of God, and its priests claimed powers that belong only to God, making necessary the Second Coming.
The most important idea in everyone’s life is his idea of God. This is the standard by which he appraises all values. It is according to this – his concept of God – that he judges his own purposes and deeds, and those of others. From this he visualizes the image of the man he wants to be – or at least acknowledges he ought to be. By this he takes the measure of his present state, approving or condemning as he sees it moving toward or away from the character which he visualizes in God. Here is the voice which says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Our concept of God is the measure of all our values. It enters into every question affecting our life and our dealing with others. And today there is a growing feeling of the need of a power greater than ourselves, that the world may be saved from disaster.
When man lost knowledge of the true God, the Lord came into the world to make Himself known. The Gospels are the record of His life, given that we may know that all power in heaven and earth is from Him alone. He is the Savior, and His truth alone can save the world and bless it with amity and peace. Of His coming it was prophesied, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” And at the same time it was prophesied that men would “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks,” and that they would not “learn war any more.” Consider the age and times in which this prophecy was made. And even today some scorn it. The Lord came at the pivotal moment in the world’s history, when it was caught in its downward course and turned upward.
The progress of the world since the Incarnation has not come about by chance. It is due to the Lord’s presence and power. From the Word and from history we should be able to see that the internal of all history is and always will be the unfolding of the Word, by which all things were created. This applies to individuals as well as to nations. The Apostles felt the power of Rome; they were opposed by the learned, the rich, and the influential. Yet the teachings which they brought to the world uprooted the prevalent religion and inaugurated a new era.
In the Gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” He came to be the light of the world. He was “the Word made flesh.” The Scriptures surpass in insight, foresight, wisdom, beauty, love, and practical value any and all of the works of men. They surpass the learning and wisdom of all the ages combined. The Word of God will last forever, and every generation will find new light in it.
The Lord came as the Word. There are many today who worship Him as God. They have put His teachings to the test and have found that they are true. They have made the discovery that in every truth of the Word there is the power of its fulfillment. They have felt the Lord’s personal presence and His spirit sustaining them throughout the various experiences of life. Moses writes, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.” The Word throughout teaches the necessity of worship of the Lord. The Israelites were slow to learn this, and one of the great errors of the Christian Church has been to imagine that there is any way of salvation apart from recognition of the Lord and obedience to His laws.
In the Garden of Eden men had peace until they began to look to themselves. Even the highest angels cannot direct their own ways. That is why the Word was given. That is why whenever a prophet spoke, the burden of his message was obedience to the Lord. “Woe unto the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, but that they may add sin to sin.”
Today we have our humanists, who think they are the only intelligent people – who believe that religion deals with purely imaginary things, that science and faith are in conflict, that science deals with facts and that the only sensible thing to do is to look to science for whatever salvation is open to men. Yet there are many questions which natural science cannot answer. It can neither prove nor disprove that life is worth living. Nor can it determine moral values. The central purpose of life is not to “get on in the world.” The central issue in our lives about which we must make decisions is beyond the competence of natural science, which can know nothing of God, of the purpose of life here, or of the life after death. Natural science cannot tell us what happiness is. Of those who look to themselves and to their own powers it is written, “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings.”
Of the Lord’s coming Isaiah writes, “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” The Lord’s purpose in coming into the world was to show us the way of peace, because we cannot find it for ourselves.
The Scriptures are directed to the question of the ultimate meaning of life – our relation to the Lord. They are always up-to-date – they always apply to modern conditions. The Lord alone reigns on earth and in the heavens, but His reign in our hearts must be freely chosen.
“The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.”