Have you done something appalling lately, anything? Has there been something you did that so shocked you that it feels like your hair is standing on end when you think about it? Has what you did meant that some aspect of your life was so devastated, that it is in utter ruins? Keep reading then. The prophet Jeremiah has something to say to you.
Jeremiah 2:9-13 is a “lawsuit” that the Lord brings against His people. From the island of Cyprus in the west, to the land of Kedar in the east, nothing like this has ever happened before. No nation has ever been disloyal to their gods, even though those gods are not really gods! Yet God’s people exchanged the God of glory for gods that cannot help them (Jer. 2:10-11).
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
So be appalled; be shocked and utterly devastated. The people of God—His people—have committed two evils. First, they have abandoned the Lord who brought them into the promised land—He who is the spring of Living Water. Second, they have hewn out cisterns for themselves. But these were broken (cracked) cisterns that could not hold water (Jer. 2:12-13).
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
The metaphor of fresh flowing water here is contrasted with that of a self-made cistern with cracks in its plastered sides. The captured, brackish water in the cistern would then seep out through the cracks and be lost into the porous limestone. The broken cistern couldn’t hold water. Yet it was preferred to the living waters. To a desert people, this would have been complete and utter foolishness, making it a powerful image of senseless waste. Despite the example of Israel, Judah was making the same idolatrous mistake that brought about the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Ezek. 16:44-52; 23:1-48).
I first studied Jeremiah 2:12-13 in seminary, where I wrote a paper on how I believed Larry Crabb misused the verses. In his book, Inside Out, Crabb said the text suggested that while “God assumes His people are thirsty … He never condemns them for that thirst.” My professor, who knew Larry personally, agreed that the verse didn’t really say what Crabb said it did. He then proceeded to give me three or four other passages in Scripture that did.
One of those passages was Psalm 42:1-2: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Here God does not condemn us when we thirst after Him, the living God. And we can also say that God assumes His people are thirsty. But we have to ask, what am I thirsty for?
In Jeremiah 2:9-13, the answer was that Judah, the people of God, had thirsted after other gods. They forsook the fountain of living waters and exchanged Him for “that which does not profit.” So God does condemn His people when we thirst after other gods. Believers today don’t exchange Christianity for Baal worship. But we will idolize just about anything else. John Calvin commented that: “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” What have you made an idol in your life? “Such are not gods!” (Jeremiah 16:20)
Returning to Jeremiah 2:13, we see that the second evil done by God’s people was to try and capture the fountain of living waters in self-made cisterns. So you can thirst for God, and even turn to the living waters to slack your thirst, but sin in trying to capture or store it. God does not slack our thirst from wells or cisterns that we fashion by our own efforts. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.” He invites us to drink from the fountain of living water and never be thirsty again. “The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:9-14)
Now ask yourself: How do you slack your spiritual thirst? Do you return to the fountain of living waters or try to drink from a self-made cracked and broken cistern?
Do not abandon the spring of Living Waters. Whether you have devastated or ruined part or all of your life; when you have behaved in an appalling manner; when the hair on your head stands on end in thinking about what you have done, return to the fountain of living waters in Jeremiah 2:13. Drink the living water from which you will never be thirsty again.
Where have you abandoned the spring of Living Waters?