Have any of you ever had to deliver bad news? It isn’t an easy experience. I know because I’ve had to deliver bad news. The prophets in the Old Testament often had to deliver bad news to the people. We see a good example of this in the passage we heard from Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s preparation was over. God was ready to give Jeremiah the word of the Lord for the nation-first an indictment and judgment against Israel for worshipping other gods, and then a call for the people to turn from their sinful ways before it is too late. God leveled several accusations against a people who did not find it easy to keep their faith in the mundane, day-to-day world.
Jeremiah pointed out two reasons why Israel was accused. First, Israel acted against common practice. Never in their history had the people forsaken the Gods of their inheritance. Second, they acted against common sense. Why did they take something of great value and exchange it for something worthless? They had forsaken God, the fountain of living water for cisterns of their own making. The Israelites gave up everything and went after nothing.
Cisterns are reservoirs dug into the earth. They are usually made of solid rock and are designed to hold water. On the other hand, a fountain is a spring that bubbles up from the earth with an unending supply of fresh, pure water. Instead of choosing God’s living water, we often choose to make our own cisterns. When we choose our own way instead of God’s way, we realize that our own way doesn’t work because it is broken.
The people’s ingratitude moved to idolatry and then to indifference. Hearing God’s Word, the people didn’t even ask, “Where is the Lord?” God was not absent. The people and their priests ignored the God of Israel as they pursued other, pagan gods. The priceless heritage of the Promised Land was ignored in favour of idolatry.
We do the same thing today when we get caught up in our daily worries. We resort to coping strategies such as finding a distraction. Unfortunately not thinking about something doesn’t make it go away. Our broken cistern is a cheap substitute that is not better than the living water. We can choose between doing what we think will help us cope and drinking the water of life that can deal with the issue.
When we exchange God for an idol, we are changed. We become what we pursue. If we pursue something that is empty, we will become empty. If we pursue vanity, we will become vain. If we pursue darkness, we are assimilated into the darkness. What pursuits or ambitions lead us from the source of living water? Technology has made our lives easier, but it is a broken cistern that can’t hold water.
Israel had been given the privilege of God’s glorious presence. The people had known God as their glory, and yet other nations had demonstrated greater faithfulness to their pagan gods. No one can blame God for their sin or for their wandering habits. As an old saying goes, you made your bed, and now you have to go and lie in it. Any severe and prolonged pattern of sin, especially if it is practiced by people who claim to be devoted to God, leads to punishment from God.
Jeremiah warned that God’s people were trying to quench their cravings for salvation and significance in the wrong places. They committed two evils by turning away from the only true source of living water and by creating cisterns that could hold no water-even if living water was available. We always make a bad deal when we exchange God for anything else. If we choose something such as money, fame, power, sex, pleasure or influence instead of God, we end up with nothing but trouble-including death. There is nothing wrong with these things unless they become our focus instead of God. He is the only One who can satisfy us with His Living Water.
Some people argue that religion, which is not the same as Christianity, is a broken cistern. Religion makes us feel better. It gives us the impression that we are good, but it hides our inner evil. Religion focuses on the work of the hands, but it ignores the sin of the heart.
Where is the dryness in our own lives? Where are the parched places that long for living water? Where have we foolishly looked to our own resources for life and turned away from the true source of living water? What false gods are we worshipping in our lives? What false gods are worshipped in churches today? Where are we tempted to “own” the earth and control the future? We are not immune to pride, rebellion, and replacing God as the centre of our lives. We were meant to fly in a relationship with God, but we’ve traded His power and His strength for boring lives that can offer us little.
God cares about what we do. He feels the pain of the earth and the pain of those who suffer injustice. Our behaviours that cause pain also cause God pain. We can love God best when we love His creatures.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 964-965)
- Guest, J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 19: Jeremiah, Lamentations (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1988; pp. 34-35)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1022-1023
- Jilly Lyon Taylor, “Broken Cisterns.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Stephen Davey, “Drawing From the Right Well.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/a-wisdom-retreat
- Richard Griffiths, “The Water of Life.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Chuck Swindoll, “Cheap Substitutes.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
- Dr. Ed Young, “You Are Meant For So Much More.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Richard Floyd, “Living Water and Leaky Containers.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Anathea Portier-Young, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Alphonetta Wines, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Henry Langknecht, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org