Gleanings in Jeremiah : 8: The Two Sins
Jer 2:13 “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.
We have seen in this chapter so far, the Lord referring back to Israel’s origins and reminding them how He had looked after and provided for them, how they had been His people knowing His blessing, but then He asked what had brought the change to what they are now and in so doing He lays a charge before them of their guilt and He does it in two ways, The first way, we saw, was to ask a question, is there any other nation that has changed its gods? This brings us to the second part of the charge He lays before them.
He simply states their sin in the most simple and general way possible: “My people have committed two sins.” Please note this, not just one sin, but two, and they are like two sides of a coin.
The first sin is that “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water.” God is the author of all life, the provider of all the resources we need, material or spiritual. Notice He calls Himself a spring of living water. A spring is an origin of water supply and the inference when you speak about a spring is that it is an ongoing supply like a tap that is always on. God’s resources are always there, His supply never stops. And note also He is a source of ‘living water’, vibrant, life-giving water. Jesus spoke of such water to the woman at the well in Samaria referring to the Holy Spirit who is the source of eternal life. God is thus the source of all life, now and into eternity. In this He is unique, but these people have turned away from Him.
But the other side of the coin is the second sin: “and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” i.e. instead of relying upon His resources they have tried to provide their own resources, but in fact what they provide never holds on to the needed resource but continually falls short, is inadequate, and fails to provide all that is needed, so they is always demand for more, their resources are never adequate and never satisfy.
Look around you in our largely godless society and see this so plainly. Go into any big book store and see shelf after shelf of books telling you how to have a satisfying life, what technique to use to get the most out of life, what the next thing is to run as a course for the thirsty. The latest fad which has even penetrated the Christian world is the Eastern concept of ‘mindfulness’. Book after book is coming out about mindfulness but if they are not focused on God, they are godless and just another human attempt at creating a cistern of supply but, like every previous substitute cistern, they will hold initial fascination but soon run dry and its adherents will move on to the next substitute.
What the Lord is giving Jeremiah to say here goes to the heart of modern society and indeed often to the heart of the church. Sin is self-centred godlessness leading to unrighteous acts. Forsaking the spring of living water is godlessness and flows out of self-centredness, yet it doesn’t cover up the ongoing desire we have for ‘life’ and we are left hungry and thirsty and so we look around to see what we can create to act as a substitute to replace His source of life, but find nothing satisfying. That is at the heart of modern Western society. But we do it in the church as well. The enemy challenges us to do ‘good church’ and so we strive harder, we plan harder and we take on things that others have tried and found successful, and in so doing we become godless, because we did not pause up, wait on Him, seek Him until He showed us the path and the way to proceed. Thus we end up doing lots of good things but they can be godless things when we do the same thing year in, year out, and when we copy other people and fail to be led by the Holy Spirit.
Even last weekend I heard a preacher acknowledging that he was using the structure of a sermon out of an old book of sermon structures. It was all truth but it lacked the life of the One who longs to supply us week by week with living water sermons and teaching. I know of another preacher who similarly mentions the author of the book his teaching comes from. Again and again we must acknowledge good teaching but it lacks the life of the Spirit who brings living water. Or there is the aged visiting speaker who is invited because “we have always invited him” and who looks back over all his sermon notes of the past fifty years and picks one to reuse.
Truth but not life. Not the spring of living water. Or there is the preacher who denies the work of the Holy Spirit and so relies on his intellect. Truth but lacking life. Don’t be mistaken this is truth being imparted and indeed some will always be blessed by it, but ‘life’, life transforming life, is not being conveyed as it should be. Where we do not rely upon the Holy Spirit, the spring of living water, then whatever else we do have will be a substitute and not the real thing and we will never be satisfied. Is this why people jump at ‘mindfulness’ in church because they are only being fed a lifeless diet of sterile information and so remain hungry and thirsty?
Be honest, it is risky relying upon the Holy Spirit and it takes an effort to sit alone with the Lord for His resources. Yes, that is strange isn’t it. How easy it is to use a set of Bible notes each morning that give you five lines of brief comment and then dash on into the affairs of the day. Even reading these notes can be a substitute for the Lord. May that not be though. I feed me by writing these notes; that is my first reason for doing them, but then went to publish them at someone’s suggestion but felt, no, I will give them away on the Internet. So yes, I get fed by them and I try to ensure that I pray briefly about them before I start, but that is only after I have had half an hour alone with the Lord, not looking to achieve anything beyond knowing Him.
Whatever we do in the spiritual world can become a substitute for knowing Him. Meetings of any kind in church, when we worry more about their structure than about the Lord can become substitutes, whether they be prayer meetings, Bible study gatherings or whatever else. Unless we put knowing Him at the top of the agenda, whatever we do can be a religious substitute, while all the time the source of the living water is waiting there to pour out His life into us afresh. All these other things can be good and we can get things from them, but unless we ensure The Source is there at the heart of whatever we do, we may be missing out on life, the stuff that changes us and changes the world, which may be why either we or the world around us changes so little. May it not be so.