Jeremiah 2 begins by describing a time when the nation of Israel was devoted to the Lord. The people faithfully followed God, trusting His lead and relied on His provision. It recounts how God led them into a land that hadn’t been inhabited, literally through the wilderness and how sweet the relationship was between God and His people. God protected Israel from its enemies and punished anyone who came against them. And then in verse 5, God asked the Israelites, “What fault did your ancestors find in Me, that they strayed so far from Me?”
Did they get mad at God and blame Him for something? Did they just get bored with Him? Or were they intrigued by the ways of the world? At some point they took another path. Instead of trusting God, they trusted themselves to lead their own lives. Verse five continues on saying, “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Let that sink in.
They no longer sought God, the One who had successfully led them out of slavery in Egypt, who supernaturally parted the Red Sea so that they could cross and never have to worry about their enemy coming after them once the waters went back together, the One who led them through the wilderness, through a land of desserts and ravines and droughts and utter darkness, a land of desolation. He had gotten them through every harsh and hostile condition, and they dumped Him. He goes on in verse 7 to say, “Not only did I get you through all of that, but I brought you to the Promised Land, a land of rich resources, a place where you could be established and prosper, and then you dumped Me.
Not only did they turn away from God, but they turned to worthless idols, something God says in the second part of verse 7 caused the land to be defiled. I want to pick up the Scripture reading with you in verse 8: 8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ (That’s a problem.) Those who deal with the law did not know Me; (That’s a problem.) the leaders rebelled against Me. (That’s a problem.) The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. (That’s a problem.)
So, the priests no longer sought God. Listen, when spiritual leadership becomes complacent or compromises, those they lead will often follow suit. The people who were supposed to handle the law, probably folks from the priestly class as well, weren’t God-fearing people. The civil authorities of the people like princes and kings rebelled against God. And the prophets who were supposed to be like a moral barometer for the people, weren’t seeking God for their messages but were pursuing worthless idols.
So, the Israelites had created problems for themselves on every level. Spiritually, they were in trouble. Legally, they were in trouble. Politically, they were in trouble. Morally, they were in trouble. Anybody drawing a parallel? Sound familiar to anyone? I would say there are some similarities between the condition of ancient Israel and our country today. There had been a deliberate turning away from God and a deliberate turning to false gods. So, God brought charges against Israel.
9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. There were going to be long-term consequences. He said in verses 10 and 11 that pagan nations were faithful to their false gods, but those who had been led by the One, True Living God, who knew Who He was and what He would and did do, they weren’t faithful to Him. In other words, the pagans were better at commitment than the people of God. In verse 11, the second half, God says, “My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
The image here is one that Israel would have understood. God chose water because it is essential. We need it every day, and we need a lot of it. Without it, life cannot be sustained. God was drawing a picture for them, helping them see that they had forsaken what they needed, what would sustain them, for broken pursuits and systems that could never offer real security or satisfaction or spiritual well-being.
Listen to the end of verse 13 again. They have “dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” God didn’t say, “You turned to something that worked for a while, and then it broke.” He didn’t say, “You had a good run on your own, but now you are in trouble.” No, He said, “What you got involved in was broken to begin with. Those cisterns that you spent time and effort to dig, never held any water. They never had what you needed.” He wasn’t talking about cisterns that just wore out over time or cracked because of some catastrophic or unfortunate event. No. He said, “What you went to when you abandoned Me was broken from the start.”
This is true of every idol, every worldly way, every self-guided effort. It will be broken from the start. Do we have a DIY mindset that now permeates every aspect of our lives? What does that stand for? Do it yourself. Right? If we can google it, if we can watch a Youtube tutorial, we believe we can do it ourselves, whatever the home project is. Anybody ever gotten in over your head trying to DIY it? It happens, right? Satan is continuously encouraging the DIY mindset. He wants us on our own, pursuing things that can never satisfy or sustain us.
There are many reasons we are told to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding, but to trust God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we do that, He will make our paths straight. The Israelites were slow learners. I am afraid we are an awful lot like them as we see so much brokenness around us. If our way is broken to begin with and we see brokenness everywhere, we know that is the result of doing things our way.
Allow me to suggest some broken cisterns, some broken wells we, as a society, and perhaps as individuals, have turned to instead of God.
New Age religions that relegate God to Karma or an impersonal force are false gods that have duped many into believing they are spiritually OK. People are teaching that Hell isn’t real, that a loving God would never send someone to Hell, that truth is relative and as long as you are a good person and do what is right for you that you will be good to go. No one wants to hear any bad news like the fact that sin is wrong or hell isn’t real, so they just deny the bad news. And without embracing the reality that there is bad news, people see no need to embrace or follow the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pluralism, the idea that we are all God’s children or that all religions lead to God is fake news from the pit of Hell, friends. Folks say that as long as you have a higher power, no matter what that higher power is, you are OK. How could a false god be a higher power? Higher than what? False gods have no power. The only higher powers are Satan and God, and God is the highest power which is why He is called the Most High God. There is nothing and no one higher than the Lord. He is the final authority. The new buzz word is “spiritual.” People say, “I’m spiritual” as if that is something to be admired and applauded. Spiritually what? If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, it won’t matter how many candles you light, how many positive vibes you give off, how much incense you burn, how many self-help books you read or how many good works you do. Without Jesus you aren’t spiritually anything except dead. I’m just keeping it real today. These New Age philosophies are broken cisterns yet many people cling to them like the Israelites clung to the worthless idols of the pagans around them.
How did it happen? I would submit to you that a preoccupation with the world will lead to a preoccupation with the idols the world worships.
Now y’all are in church today or are watching this message online, so it’s likely that you have already put New Age ideas to rest, but what else could be tempting to cling to, to put in the place of God, to turn away from God and to rely on? Are there broken cisterns we are digging that are causing us to turn from God as our Source? Would God have a reason to bring charges against us?
Have we turned to false gods for comfort? Taking medication differently from what is prescribed, taking drugs that aren’t prescribed, using alcohol to numb pain and distance ourselves from difficulty, those are broken cisterns. It’s not that they even work for a minute or a week or a month, but they start taking life from us the moment we start taking them. Scripture tells us that God is our Refuge and Strength. He is the One who will be present in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) He is the “God of all comfort.” (II Corinthians 1:3) He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) Psalm 147:3 actually says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Drugs and alcohol won’t bring healing or bind up anything. They will numb the pain for a second, but they won’t bring healing. You will still be left with open wounds when the buzz wears off. God, however, will heal your wounds. Why go to a broken well when you can have the Living Water of healing for your soul? How many meals have we consumed this year and called them “comfort food?” There is nothing wrong with wanting to be comforted, it is how we go about acquiring it that is the issue. And let me just say that if comfort has become a god, do we avoid doing Kingdom work when it is hard, uncomfortable and inconvenient? It’s interesting that the god of comfort is opposite of the Jesus way which includes sacrifice at times.
Have we made an idol out of technology? How much screen time is consuming our lives? How much are we invested in what other people say about what we post or how our pictures look? Are we adding filters and editing everything to try to improve our image? Are we constantly making an effort to gain a following in order to feel good about ourselves? Is our emotional wellness, our affect tied to what we see and experience or don’t see and experience on Facebook? Is our phone always in our hand? Do we ever turn it off? Do we crave instant and affirming feedback? When we notice that our battery is only on 20% do we start to have anxiety and need to get to our charger?
Have we made idols out of people like celebrities and sports figures? Do we have to buy their brand? Do we have to follow them and adopt their mannerisms and expressions? Do we study how they pose for pictures and try to recreate the same vibe in ours? Are we spending money to try to look like other people by wearing our hair, our makeup or our clothes like they do? Are we obsessed with the way we look because we have allowed celebrities to define what beauty is? Has admiration turned to adoration? Perhaps there are even pastors, TV evangelists and Christian artists that have been elevated to a god-like status in our minds.
Have we made idols out of TV shows? Has binge-watching on Netflix or Hulu become another form of escapism in our culture? Spending hours on end devouring the lives of our favorite characters…has that reduced our productivity? Are our emotions being manipulated as we become overly interested in some character’s next move? Are we jealous of the lives of those we see on the screen, wishing we could have the adventure, the romance, the wealth that their lifestyles depict?
Have we allowed sex to take a place in our minds that God has never intended for it to become? We know our culture has. A few weeks ago, I saw an advertisement for migraine medicine and the woman who was doing the commercial was wearing an extremely low-cut top. I don’t know what any of that had to do with migraine medicine! Seriously, nothing was left to the imagination, but it was obvious that the company was trying to hook people into trying their product through a sexual image. Why would they do that? Because it works, and they know it. I sent the company a Facebook message, along with the picture I took from the TV commercial asking what her body and migraine medicine had in common and interestingly got no reply. Our culture is obsessed with sex. Seeing what we shouldn’t see, experimenting in ways we aren’t supposed to experiment…These are all broken cisterns that are broken from the beginning. They lead to broken trust, broken marriages, broken reputations, broken emotions. Sexual experimentation will leave you with a broken image of yourself. God says, “I know the thoughts I think towards you,” (Jeremiah 29:11) and those are the thoughts He wants you to think about yourself. But broken pursuits, ones that never satisfy, will leave you with broken thoughts.
Some have allowed Science to become a god. There is nothing wrong with Science, with facts, with understanding the world around us. We have two Scientists sitting in the front row this morning who have made a living out of all things Scientific. We can and need to learn through Science. There are times, however, when Science is wrong because of the human error involved, and if Science contradicts Scripture, it’s wrong, every time wrong. We have heard multiple times this year that we need to trust the Science. I am more than OK with Science, but this pandemic has offered us conflicting Science at times as well as Science that is changing or evolving, so what are we to make of that? You can find a Scientific article to support whatever your viewpoint on just about anything is. My confidence will never ultimately be in Science, but in the Creator who has made all things and knows how they are to function.
I could list other things that have the potential to become an idol like money, physical fitness, work and more, but for time’s sake I’ll stop with what I have developed. The problem with broken cisterns is that they will lead to spiritual dehydration and when you become spiritually dehydrated, every other part of your life suffers. Just like when we are physically dehydrated we open ourselves to a host of complications like having muscle cramps, heat stroke, complications with our electrolytes which can lead to seizures, low blood volume shock, kidney failure, a coma and even death, spiritual dehydration will create complication after complication in our lives.
Today, I want you to picture God standing by a stream of Living Water, inviting you to take all of the water you need, pure water, healing water, water that will satisfy you, fortify you and sustain you spiritually and in every other way you need it. It’s water that won’t run out or ever be contaminated, but instead of taking His offer you turn to Him and say, “No thanks, I’ll just keep digging. I’ll just keep trying to create my own well here.” And God replies, “But aren’t your shoulders hurting? Aren’t your hands blistered? Isn’t your back breaking? Aren’t you exhausted? Aren’t you thirsty?” and you reply, “Yeah, but I’m gonna keep digging.” That’s insane, right?
Our theme for 2021 is the Year of Wellness. I want to help us investigate ways we can live well, and foundational to living well is looking to the Living Water of Jesus Christ above all as our Source. When we look to broken cisterns, we are trying to find what we think we need, but when we look to Christ, we will receive all we truly need and more.
Jesus said in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus said we don’t have to look to external things to satisfy us. He will fill us from the inside. The things we have talked about might give us a momentary feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment like one glass of water, but it will never be enough to truly meet our needs. Jesus described a spring of water that wells up to eternal life, a spring of water that has no end to it. John reiterated this message in John 7:37-38 where Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
You can keep digging if you want to, looking for something to keep you going, something to give your life meaning and purpose, something to get you from one moment to the next or you can start receiving what Jesus has said is available. Living Water isn’t exhausting to come by. It’s simply received.
One added benefit of this Living Water is that it is something you will be able to share with others. Those broken cisterns, those broken wells, are things people look to, to catch and consume water for themselves. However, Living Water is meant to be received and shared. Broken cisterns leave you tired and broken. Living Water will leave you refreshed and ready to help others find the same Source for abundant life.
Broken Wells or Living Water? What makes the difference? Living Water. Jesus. Take a drink today.