Reading the News in Wonka’s Factory (Jeremiah 10:1–16)

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“Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD:

‘Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good’ ” (Jeremiah 10:1–5).

The Babylon Bee has recently demonstrated the inability of many to read satire. Reality is often so ridiculous that satire is assumed to be fact. Because many don’t see what’s wrong with the king having no pants on, they’re left scratching their noggin as to what the story is about. When you’ve lived in Wonka’s factory all your life, satire is easily mistaken for news.

While some cannot read satire, others question whether we should write it. Satire is thought to be a dirty bomb, off limits to those seeking to wage a just war. Don’t drop any s-bombs; they’re not polite. Evidently such super saints fail to remember Elijah and the showdown with the prophets of Baal when he mocked “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). Douglas Wilsons’ insight is penetrating.

“When Jesus looked on the rich, young ruler and loved him, it is very easy for us to say that we should be loving as He was. When preachers make such applications, no one thinks anything of it. But when Jesus looked on the rich, old rulers and insulted them, why do we tend to assume that this is never, ever to be imitated? It is conceivable that such a division is defensible, but why does it never have to be defended? Some might say (and do say) that we are not Jesus, and so we do not have the wisdom to insult properly. Fine. So why then do we have the wisdom to love properly? Can’t we screw that up too?”

Perhaps the reason we cannot read and do not like satire is often the same. Frequently, the real issue isn’t that we’re loving, save that we too love the idols and we cannot bear to see them shamed.

Can you laugh? Not the whimsical laugh of fools. Can you laugh at the idols as YHWH does at the nations who rebel against Him? Concerning those kings and rulers who seek to break free from the rule of YHWH and His King we are told, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). Can you laugh at the idols of this world and hold them in derision? You may laugh at the idols of others, but can you laugh at the idols you’ve bowed before? It’s easy to laugh at Buddha or Allah, but can you guffaw over the ridiculousness of the idols of sex, politics, leisure, sports, luxury, travel, family, entertainment, success, intellect, nature, fashion, health, diet, exercise and self-righteousness? Read that list again. Real slow. Pause. Contemplate.

If you want to identify your idol, what is that thing, that created thing, that if it were cut off, if it were pushed down before YHWH and put in its place, if it were tossed into the dumpster and lit up, would cause you grief? If you have now swallowed your laugh, then will you pull some nails and push the idol down before the Lord so that you may laugh at its decapitated head (cf 1 Samuel 5:1–4)? 

Many idols are good things that we have made god things. A felled tree makes a horrible idol, but it is great for fire. Can you offer that idol up as a sacrifice unto YHWH? What is your Isaac? If God were to ask you to take it up Mount Carmel and plunge a knife into it and set it aflame unto Him, could you do it? What is that thing you cannot imagine living without? If you can live without your arm, you may keep it, but if you insist you must have it, amputate it, for it is better to have no arm unto Christ than to have two and be plunged into hell forever. Laugh at the things of creation as gods and you may enjoy them seriously as gifts.

Idols Croak (Exodus 8:1–15)

Frogs! Everywhere! That’s funny (when the joke isn’t on you). It’s also meaningful. “In jest, there is truth,” wrote Shakespeare. There is always a grain of truth in humor. This wonder is more than a humiliating joke and contains more than a grain of truth.

By these wonders, God was executing judgment on the gods of Egypt (Numbers 33:3–4). Heqet was a goddess who had the body of a woman, and the head of a frog. She was the spouse of Khnum, the protector of the source of the Nile who recently fell asleep on the job. Together they were responsible for human life. Khnum fashioned the bodies, Heqet breathed life into them. When the Nile would flood, it would teem with frogs, a symbol of the fertility Heqet gave the Egyptians. Frogs thus were a protected species. Protected not like bald eagles in the States, but similar to a brahma cow in India. They were religiously protected. Egypt is made to hold her gods in contempt.

Recall why Israel was oppressed. They multiplied (Exodus 1:7–10). Yahweh multiplies in faithfulness to His covenant to Abraham. Yahweh causes frogs to swarm, and then kills them. Heqet smells like death (Exodus 8:14). Behold a proper monument to the honor of Heqet: a pillar of rot, stench, and death. Yahweh gives life and takes it away. He has multiplied Israel. He will kill Egypt’s firstborn.

All man’s idols are frogs; not one is a prince, and by no magic we can conjure can we make then so. Frogs they will always be. So many of the ancient gods seem ridiculous to us today. We laugh at Heqet, Khnum, Osiris, and Hapi—and they are laughable—but we too are blind, fashioning our own gods. We just think we’re better craftsman.

Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’ They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ —Isaiah 44:10–20

How lame the created god. How awesome the creator God.

Laugh at the idols lest the joke be on you. Ridicule them, mock them, destroy them. Take your cue from Elijah. When the prayers of the challenged prophets of Baal met deaf ears he mocked saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened (1 Kings 18:27).” Elijah then has the offering to Yahweh soaked with water, three times, till the trench about the altar is filled. Fire falls consuming the offering, wood, stones.

Mock the idols. Repentance is sacrilegious. Repentance profanes and defiles the gods of this world. Repentance desecrates the idols as gods, and turns in faith to the one true God.