Sunday, June 26, 2022

“Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch” [Matt's Messages]

“Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 26, 2022 :: Jeremiah 9:25-10:25 

Last week, we just looked at two verses, verses 23 and 24, which taught us to not boast about ourselves–our smarts, or our strength, or our stuff, but instead, to boast about this–that we know the LORD and know His heart–how He delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness.

Well, sadly, the nation of Judah was not very interested in following that teaching. No, they were tempted, instead, to talk up and trust in everything but the LORD Himself including the temple of the LORD, the Law of the LORD, and even the Circumcision given by the LORD.

Everything but the LORD Himself!

And they were also enamored with the gods of the surrounding nations and tempted to put their faith and their fear in them.

And so, therefore, judgment was coming upon Judah, and the Prophet Jeremiah had been sent to tell them. To warn them. These words in Jeremiah 9 and 10 are meant to be a warning to Judah, warning them about what not to do and showing them the better way that they ought to take.

And you and I can learn from these words for our lives today.


So here’s the question I want to start with this morning. It’s not a trick question, but it might be a little tricky. Here it is:

How powerful are idols?

I-D-O-L-S. How powerful are they? How powerful were the other gods that the nation of Judah was so tempted to worship? What do you think?

They were certainly tempted to worship them, weren’t they? In this section, Jeremiah has only one major command for the people of Judah. I just read it in chapter 10, verse 2, “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them.”

And he’s talking, again, about idolatry. The ways of the nations were the ways that they worshiped other gods than Yahweh. The ways that the nations bowed down to Baal and Ashtoreth and Molech and the Queen of the Heavens. The other nations lived in terror of the gods of the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. The nations lived in fear of astral deities. They read their horoscopes daily and studied astrology. And they made idols and worshiped them.

And the people of Judah were sorely tempted to be jealous of the nations and want those gods for themselves.  And then, they gave in, time and time again.

So, how powerful are idols?

In chapter 10, Jeremiah uses incredibly funny satire to answer that question. Jeremiah pulls out some sarcasm with an image that will really stick in your mind. He says in verse 5, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’” Does that answer the question?

You might put it this way: Idols are powerful to birdbrains.

(No offense to birds, of course, and their brains. They are supposed to be that way.)

If this translation is correct, and there is ambiguity in the Hebrew, Jeremiah likens idols to scarecrows in a melon patch. Or some of your translations might say “a cucumber field.” Same difference.

Idols are scarecrows at a fruit farm. 

How powerful is a scarecrow? Well, if you think it’s powerful, it’s kind of powerful. In that sense, it has the power you give it. Scarecrows are powerful to crows. They have the power to scare them.

But it’s all just appearances. When you actually study a scarecrow, you find out that they don’t do anything. Because they don’t have a brain, right?  If they only did.

They don’t have anything. They aren’t alive–unlike the one in the Wizard of Oz or the one in Batman, scarecrows in the real world aren’t very scary if you know the truth about them. V.5 again.

“Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’”

I’ve got two simple points of application this morning, and this is number one:


Do not fear others gods than Yahweh. Do not fear idols instead of the LORD.

Now, of course, that is just so basic, so rule number one, right?

In fact, it’s rule number one and rule number two from the Ten Commandments.
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:2-6 NIV84).

This is basic stuff. Do not fear idols.

And by "fear" we mainly mean "worship." Do not trust in them, do not bow down to them, do not build your life around them, do not do what they tell you to do.

Do not fear them. This is basic stuff. 

And, yet, the nation of Judah had been continually tempted to do this and repeatedly succumbed to the temptation.

And so Jeremiah and many other Old Testament writers repeatedly took them to task. This disdain for and satire about idols is a regular feature of the Old Testament (see Isaiah 40:19-20, 41:7, Psalm 115 and 135 for some examples).

Idols are something that it is right and good to poke fun at. Because an idol is like a scarecrow in a melon patch.

Let’s back and up and see just how Jeremiah gets to that scathing simile. Back up to chapter 9, verse 25 and 26. The point of these two verses is to lump Judah in with the other nations that they so desperately wanted to be like. But it’s not going to turn out good for them. V.25

“The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh–Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places."

Did you know that some other nations practiced some kind of circumcision? They did. Their circumcision didn’t mean what Israel’s meant. Israel’s meant that they belonged to Yahweh. They were His people.

But they had begun to trust in the outward sign of circumcision just like they had trusted in the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD. And Jeremiah says that outward circumcision without inward circumcision is worthless. Did you see how Judah just got lumped in with Egypt? And Edom and Ammon, and Moab?!

You want to be like those guys? Well, I guess you are. V.26, “For all these nations [including Judah!] are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.’”

Why? Because they were worshiping idols from their hearts.

Jeremiah says, “No!” Chapter 10, verse 1 again.

“Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. [Why?] For the customs of the peoples are worthless...”  

I think that Jeremiah has a least 3 reasons here why Judah should immediately stop and repent of fearing idols.

First off, they are worthless. The Hebrew word there is the word that Ecclesiastes uses to describe the vanity and emptiness of life without God (“hebel”). And it basically means “nothing” or “empty” or “hollow” or even a “vapor.” 

Here’s what Jeremiah thinks of the worth of idols. They are worth about as much as a belch.

And then he gets really satiric and begins to show just how silly idols are. Verse 3.

“...the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”

You get the picture? To get an idol, you have to do a lot of work. You take your saw out into Blackie and pick out a tree you like and cut it down. Then you get out chisel and take off the bark and shape it into the form of whatever so it looks more human or at least more “godlike.” And then you take your hard earned cash and buy silver and gold to deck it out. And then you have to nail it in place so that the wind doesn’t knock over your idol.

You see just how worthy they are? It’s the worth you give it! If you pour out your sweat and your cash, they are receiving worth from you, but they don’t give any true worth to you.

Because they are not just worthless, they are powerless. V.5 “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’”

That’s double powerlessness. Do not fear idols because they are completely and utterly powerless on their own.

You have to carry them from place to place! You have to pull up the nails and then move that scarecrow to another field if you want it to do anything about the crows.

But don’t, for a minute, be scared of them yourselves. Do not be afraid of the scarecrows in the melon patch. They can’t do a blessed thing. Against you or for you.

Do you believe that?

We all say we do when it’s other gods like Baal and Ashtoreth and Molech.

And I don’t think that any of us here are building physical idols like these in our backyards. If you are, the elders of the church need to have a word with you!

But idolatry is sneaky, isn’t it?

The New Testament says that God’s people are still tempted to fear idols, but they have different names.

Names like “Money.”

You cannot worship both God and Mammon. Covetousness is idolatry.

Or “Pleasure.” Our culture has made an idol out of all kinds of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. Or “Autonomy.” You can’t tell me what to do!

Or here’s one that really tempts me. I’ve said it before. “Approval.”

I like to be liked.
I love to be loved.
I crave approval.

And I can make it my god. It becomes an idol for me. I find myself fearing it.

What is it for you? What idols are you tempted to fear?

You can tell by how they make you act. When you fear something, it changes how you behave. It shapes your choices. If you find yourself sinning, you are probably trying to serve some idol erected in your heart.

If you find yourself obeying and practicing wisdom, you are probably fearing the LORD. Because the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.

When I am worshiping the god of “People’s Approval,” I find myself tempted to not say and do the things I should say or do because I might not get Approval’s blessing.

I fear it. It controls me.

But Jeremiah would say to me. “Do not fear “People’s Approval”, Matt, it can do no harm nor can it do any good.” That’s not where the power lies.

Remember: False gods never fail to fail.

False gods never deliver on their promises. They are powerless like scarecrows in a melon patch.

Let me give you the third reason that Jeremiah gives Judah to not fear idols before we get to the last point this morning. Jump down to verse 8.

“They [the nations] are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.”

Idols are not just worthless (same word there) and powerless. They are senseless.

And that doesn’t just mean that they don’t have senses, like they can’t see or hear, but they are stupid. They are dumb. Like the scarecrow, they don’t have a brain.

In fact, they are blockheads. They are made of wood, so why would you want to be taught by them?/!

If you are taught by a block of wood, you become a blockhead yourself.

The nations were blockheads. And Judah wanted to be a blockhead, too.

Which is just so foolish when they have a God like Yahweh!

And that’s point number two and last this morning:


Look back up at verse 6. “No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

“How great is our God! ... And will see how great, how great is our God”

The LORD alone should be feared because He is all alone in a class by Himself. The LORD is incomparable! “No one is like you.” 

There is a reason we call idols “false gods.”  It’s because they lie, but also because they are nothing like the real God!

Jeremiah has to pray this to God. He can’t help but break out into praise.

“No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not [FEAR] you, O King of the nations? [Everybody ought to.] This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

Search the whole world over, and you will not find a god like Yahweh.

He is incomparable. The idols are worthless. He is incomparably valuable. In a class by Himself. 

Secondly, He is powerful.

The idols are powerless. But God is powerful. “Your name is mighty in power.”

Idols have to be made, but the true God is un-made and makes everything else. Look at verse 8 again.

“They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple–all made by skilled workers. [Very impressive, but you have to do all of the work. V.10]

But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.”

“Who made God?”

Sometimes a little kid will ask that question. “Well, if God made everything, then who made God?” And some philosophers think that it’s stumper of a question, too.

But the answer is very simple and mind-blowing–nobody did. Nobody made God. He is the true God, the living God, the eternal King. He always was and always will be. 

Yahweh is everything these idols are not. Judah was taken with them because they were tangible and right there in front of them, and they were jealous of the other nations, and because they believed the lies that came with them.

I mean, who doesn’t want a bright and shiny thing? Silver and gold and blue and purple. Regal! No doubt. Idols are impressive in the moment.

Did ever shop for something and be totally swayed by how shiny it is? “Ooo. Shiny.” The internet is great at this. It makes everything looks awesome. But then you get the product home, and it’s nothing like what you hoped for? That’s what idols are like.

But not the LORD. 

He is not worthless. He is true.
He is not powerless. He is mighty. 

In fact, He made everything that there is. V.11. This verse is in Aramaic in the original. V.11

“‘Tell them this [Judah!]: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.' [They are so temporary because they are a part of the creation. But God is the Creator! V.12] 

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

He is not just powerful. He is ALL powerful! Everything you see came from Him.

And not from Baal. Baal was the supposed storm god. Jeremiah says that Baal doesn’t control the weather. And neither does The LORD controls the weather.

Don’t be “terrified by signs in the sky” (v.2) 

Fear the One who made the sky!

And did you notice how He made it? With wisdom and understanding.

The idols are senseless and foolish, but the LORD is wise. He is no blockhead!

Do you see the contrasts?

Idols are worthless. The LORD is incomparably valuable.
Idols are powerless. The LORD is the powerful Creator of all.
Idols are senseless. The LORD is unimaginably wise.

Idols are scarecrows in a melon patch. The LORD is the Portion of Jacob. Look at verse 14.

“Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish.

He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance–the LORD Almighty is his name.”
Fear the LORD alone. Mock your idols if that helps you repudiate them, and fear the LORD alone.

I love that title, “The Portion of Jacob.”

[I almost entitled this sermon, “The Portion of Jacob,” but I couldn’t pass up the melon patch.]

The Hebrew word for “portion” (“chelek”) is the idea of an allocation of territory parceled out to someone, often as their precious inheritance.

But Jeremiah says that the LORD did not just give them land. He gave them Himself. He is the “Portion of Jacob,” of Israel. He belongs to them.

That’s amazing language, isn’t it? We tend to think about the second part of the verse, that God’s people belong to Him. Israel is “the tribe of his inheritance.”

And that’s right, too. But the LORD says that He gave Himself, in a special way to His people.

He was their Portion. He was to be their Precious Possession. That’s what it means to fear Him. It means that He is yours, your precious possession. “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.”

We own Him, so to speak. He is the most valuable thing in our hearts. Our treasure.

Is the LORD your treasure?

Idols cannot be that for you. They cannot give themselves to you in any satisfying way because they, really they aren’t real! They can’t do anything. If they are valuable to you, it’s all in your mind.

But “He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance–the LORD Almighty is his name.”

Fear the LORD alone. And you will be satisfied forever.

But sadly, Judah would not.

Judah refused to fear the LORD alone and instead continued to fear the gods of nations. They chose to worship the scarecrow in the melon patch. They refused to heed this warning, so the LORD would bring His judgment. V.17

“Gather up your belongings to leave the land, you who live under siege. For this is what the LORD says: ‘At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.’”

The LORD was supposed to be their most precious possession, but now they will have to gather up all of their possessions because they are going to be uprooted. They are going to be be “hurled” or “slung” like from a slingshot into exile out of this land. They are going into captivity.

And, boy, is it going to hurt. V.19

“Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, ‘This is my sickness, and I must endure it.’ [I think that Jeremiah is speaking for Judah and Jerusalem. He is lamenting the pain that is going to come. V.20] My tent is destroyed; all its ropes are snapped. My sons are gone from me and are no more; no one is left now to pitch my tent or to set up my shelter. [Judgment has come because of our failure to fear the LORD alone.] 

The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.  Listen! The report is coming–a great commotion from the land of the north [Babylon]! It will make the towns of Judah desolate, a haunt of jackals.” 

It could have all been avoided. But now there is nothing more than lamentations and supplications to be made. V.23

“I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, LORD, but only with justice–not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing. [I think he’s still speaking for the whole nation and lumping himself in with them. He’s asking for wisdom still and for God’s justice and not full anger. Because He knows that the LORD delights in justice. But he is asking for God’s anger to be poured out on those who are coming to destroy them. V.25.] Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name. For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him completely and destroyed his homeland.”

We will see this theme again and again, as well, as time goes on. Yes, Judah will be judged, and the LORD will use the sinful nations around Judah to do it. But those nations are not safe from God’s judgment either. In time, the LORD will judge them for how they treated Judah–even though He used them to bring justice. That’s another amazing part of His wisdom. And another reason to fear Him.

But did you notice those familiar words in verse 23 that Jeremiah says about what he knows? What does it sound like to you? 

To me, it sounds a lot like Question #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. I’ll bet those German Christians had been reading Jeremiah 10:23.

“I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” 

You are not your own.

I do not belong to me.

The life I live is borrowed. I’m just a steward of it.

My life belongs to the Lord.

And if you are a Christian, yours does, too.

We might make some decisions along the way, but the Lord directs our steps.

So back to our original question: How powerful are idols?

They are powerful to birdbrains and blockheads. They have just as much power in our lives as we give them. They were powerful enough to take down the entire nation of Judah and catapult them into exile. But the idols didn’t do that themselves. They are just like scarecrows in a melon patch. Worthless, powerless, and senseless.

Do not fear them! As the apostle John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

The LORD, on the other hand, is incomparably valuable, incomprehensibly powerful, and incredibly wise. Fear Him alone.

Make the Lord your portion. Trust in Him with your whole heart.

Give Him your whole life. It doesn’t belong to you anyway.

And fear Him alone.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24