"The works of your hands" indicates something that comes from man's mind, not the Creator's. Their gods were their own creation, even as their standards were their assessment of right and wrong. Regardless of how men approached life, whether religious or irreligious, atheistic or agnostic, their gods and standards came from minds not in contact with the true God.
This has interesting and devastating ramifications. The nature of idolatry is such that its effect is more subtle than with other sins. The trauma it produces is usually obscured by the penalties brought on by other sins that spring from the original idolatry. Sometimes, the penalty comes so much later that it is virtually impossible for the carnal mind to connect it to the idolatry that began the process.
But the effect of breaking commandment number one is to break number two. Once a person is no longer worshipping the Creator, he must put something else in His place. Man will worship something, and as we have seen, what he worships is almost invariably himself! Even when he is worshipping the works of his hands, he is worshipping himself because he created his idol.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)
Jeremiah was God's prophet at this time, when Judah was just about to suffer captivity. He was God's last major prophet—the last one He sent to appeal to the Judeans before their society, their civilization, came to an end. What was Jeremiah's complaint? "For twenty-three years I've been speaking to you, and you're not listening." And because they did not listen, by the time of Jeremiah 25, the nation had already been defeated, and a small group of refugees was on the run trying to save their lives. So Jeremiah made it very plain: "You didn't listen."
This is typical of why Jesus admonishes us to listen. They heard, but they did not listen. The direct result was ultimately the pain of warfare, but also all of the disruptions in society before the war actually broke out—the kind of things that our culture is struggling with now—things similar to the drug scene, rampant murder, all kinds of disease, and so forth. God said if they would only repent, He would heal them.
They did not listen. They did not repent. They did not get healed. Instead, they went through war and into captivity, and these few had to flee for their lives. God is saying what almost any parent would say to a child in a similar situation: "I told you not to do that, but you wouldn't listen." How many times have we said that to our children?
Why did Judah not listen? The answer is not difficult. They did not listen because, to them, the word spoken by God's prophets carried no authority. They dismissed it as a little thing, of having no consequence. It carried no authority with them because the people had no faith in God's sovereignty.
Because these people had made the covenant with God and had been taught by one of God's prophets, if asked if they believed in God, these Judeans would have replied, "Yes, I believe in God." But the practical reality is that they had no faith in God; they lived as if He were nowhere around. They did not have faith that He had the power to do what He said or that He cared enough about them to do it. In a word, they did not have living faith.
Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because it is to those who listen and believe the message that God's summons comes and through whom God's work is done.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part One)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jeremiah 25:5: