Jeremiah 10:1, Do not learn the way of the nations. This passage is familiar to a few people, but unfamiliar to the majority. After YHVH’s admonition to his people to not follow the idolatrous customs of the heathen nations, Jeremiah describes one of their “futile” or “vain” (literally, empty or meaningless) customs—one with which we are all familiar! What follows is a perfect description of a Christmas tree minus the star on top, twinkle lights and a few other garish ornamentations. Some ardent devotes of Christmas aver that Jeremiah’s tree is not a Christmas tree, since this passage was penned long before the birth of Christ. This is true. However, much later (in about the fifth century AD) the church simply added “Christ” to a pagan custom that long pre-existed the birth of the Messiah. Therefore, as the expression goes: If it looks, acts and sounds like a duck, it must be one!
But what is the greater message of this passage in the larger context of the surrounding scripture verses? This is often overlooked. Understanding context is perhaps the greatest key to understanding the truths of the Bible!
Before and after Jeremiah’s description of the modern Christmas tree, are numerous lamentations about YHVH’s people abandoning his Torah-laws for heathen and carnal practices (e.g., 8:9; 9:13–14). They have backslid spiritually (e.g., 8:5–6) by turning to the idolatrous practices of the surrounding pagan nations (e.g., 8:19; 10:8–9, 14–15). Even their shepherds (spiritual leaders such as pastors have become brutish or dull-hearted in this regard and have turned away from YHVH (e.g. 10:21).
In the midst of Jeremiah’s woeful lament over Israel’s spiritual declension are warnings from the Almighty about the judgments that will come upon Israel if it fails to repent and turn from its heathen ways (e.g. 8:13, 15–19; 9:7–12, 15–22, 25–26; 10:10–11; 17–25).
Perhaps YHVH’s greatest accusation against his people comes in the last verse of chapter 9, just before the description of the Christmas tree. YHVH accuses the people of Israel of being “uncircumcised in heart.” This is a biblical expression that means that a person’s heart is hardened or calloused to the truth of YHVH as revealed in his Word. Such a person is more inclined to follow the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil than to love YHVH Elohim by obeying his commandments (see John 14:15) whether it’s convenient, expedient or popular or not (note what Yeshua says in John 12:43).
We’ve all heard the excuses… “I can’t give up Christmas because…. Our family… My mother-in-law… My kids… What will people think if…” You fill in the blanks. More Importantly, what does YHVH Elohim say about this? Well, he tells us quite clearly and unmistakably in Jeremiah 10 and the surrounding chapters!