Is Jeremiah 10 really talking about a Christmas tree, or something else?
[Darris McNeely] The question has come in from a Beyond Today viewer regarding Jeremiah chapter 10 and what it says about bringing a tree in and decorating it with gold and silver, and whether or not that is talking about a Christmas tree.
[Steve Myers] It says some interesting things when you actually read what it says there in Jeremiah chapter 10. And it starts out I think in an amazing way in verse 2 by saying, and this is God talking, “Thus says the Lord, 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.'” Some versions say heathens. And then He goes on to say, “The customs of the peoples are useless. They're futile. One cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with an axe. They decorate it with silver and gold. They fasten it with nails, hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright like a palm tree. They cannot speak” (Jeremiah 10:2-5 Jeremiah 10:2-5 2 Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
American King James Version×). So what exactly is it talking about? Some of those things, especially if you look at the holiday decorations start to sound pretty familiar.
[Darris McNeely] Matches up pretty closely, doesn't it, to what might, what is a Christmas tree and what Christmas decorations of gold and tinsel on a tree that's been cut down from the woods, at least in the traditional way, brought into a home, set up, and around which gifts are spread. It is very, very plain, and matches up with this. Now, some commentators on Jeremiah chapter 10 say that this is talking about a form of idolatry where a tree is cut, but then it is cut into a totem or an idol from that, and the axe is actually a skilled artisan carver that makes this into something different from and therefore cannot be applied to the idea of a modern Christmas tree. But I think that the fact that Jeremiah here is talking about avoiding the practices of the heathen that then become idolatry and a part of worship that replaces something that is truthful was something that is wrong and pagan in place of God. I think that it still refer to what is being described here.
[Steve Myers] Absolutely applies in the sense that if you look into some of the practices of the pagans during this day, they did worship trees. They worshipped all kinds of things. They had a god for just about everything you could imagine. So when you look at the trees, especially at this time of the year, they're looking at the life that a green tree would bring. And that was a common practice back in that day as well.
[Darris McNeely] Yeah, they were cut. They were used in the middle of the winter time because they supposedly didn't die, still had life in them, and to represent the life that people wanted to gather around at this time of year in the darkest part of the winter. Those trees were a part of the practice of the ancient world, and yes they did migrate into other parts of the world including Northern Europe from which our modern customs in the United States and the Western world regarding a Christmas tree eventually were adopted. And yet they were still connected with pagan ideas and worship that did migrate from the exact part of the world Jeremiah is talking about where anciently green trees, evergreen trees, were even used in the winter time as a part of this type of worship.
[Steve Myers] And I think that's such an important point. Can you adopt a pagan principle? Can you adopt something from the Gentiles or heathens, those that don't know the true God, and somehow try to use that to honor God? Well, He says right here don't learn that way. Do not do that. That is not a way to honor God by adopting some other practice, and try to call it Christian. He says that's unacceptable. You can't do it.
[Darris McNeely] And so you're left with the question: does it really matter? And the answer is it does matter. And truth does matter and our worship and our relationship with God, we should worship Him in spirit and in truth and not according to the ways that are adopted from heathenism or paganism. That's what the scripture says. It does matter.
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