Clear Springs, Or Muddy Water?

If you have spent any time around farm dogs, you have probably noticed something peculiar about the water they choose to drink.  You could put out a bowl of fresh, cool water, and though the dog knows it is there, he will more often than not go lap water from the murky, stagnant puddle across the yard.  Often, we just shake our head and ask ourselves how they could be so senseless.  They had the best thing in front of them, but they turned to filth.

Yet according to the prophet Jeremiah, we condemn ourselves with such a judgment.  In Chapter Two of his book, the prophet is recording an oracle about the backsliding apostacy of Judah.  A repeated theme is how the people of God turned from the Lord to serve sin and self.  The Lord reminds His people how He delivered them, cared for them, provided for them, but they stubbornly chose to follow “emptiness” and “things that did not profit” (Jeremiah 2:5, 8, 11).  He had done them no wrong, but they refused to serve Him.

Beginning in verse Twelve, the Lord calls the heavens to witness, charging Judah with two sins.  The first we have noted briefly, but the word picture of the second is striking—

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord.
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:12, 13

I had read that passage several times before, but the imagery the Holy Spirit used really stood out to my attention this time.  To state the general premise another way, the two sins God is calling Judah to account for is the sin of forsaking God and the sin of looking for fulfillment, worth, and satisfaction in something else. 

But notice what God compares Himself to.  He calls Himself “the Fountain of Living Waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).  A fountain always produces fresh flowing water.  It does not become stagnant.  Although we cannot see its reservoir, it appears to have an endless supply of water it freely offers.  Creeks and streams can—and often do—dry up, but fountains draw their water from deep in the earth, having a vast supply that is not dependent upon surface runoff.  It is pure, it is clean, it is life-giving.

Cisterns, on the other hand, are different.  They have to be dug by man and a contraption has to be made to draw the water out.  And when a cistern’s wall becomes broken, the water leaks out, and what does remain is contaminated by dirt and mud.  Debris can fall into it, bacteria begins to grow, scum forms on its surface.  It is basically worthless for anything.

That is the exact point God is making in Jeremiah 2.  He is telling His people that they saw everything He was and had given them, the fountain of water, but they chose to turn away and serve their own pleasures and sin, cisterns that were broken and could hold nothing but a little muddy water. 

But what exactly did Israel turn from, and what did they turn to? From the context, we know that the “Living water” God is talking about here was fellowship with Himself.  As long as the people were obedient and served Him, they had fellowship, they were in a right relationship.  However, the Jews stubbornly turned away and said “I will not serve” (Jeremiah 2:20).  They turned to idols and worshipping creation (Jeremiah 2:26-28).  Instead of being satisfied and having life, they became in want and oppressed.  They thought they were turning to something better, but instead, they turned to death.

And sadly, this is exactly what so many of us still do today.  God has given us all that we ever need “for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).  We are “complete” in Christ (Colossians 2:10).  If we try to find our completeness in anything else, we will come up short each and every time.

Consider the dialog of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in John 4.  She was living a life of immorality, seeking for pleasure and fulfillment in things other than God, but she kept wanting more because she was never made to serve herself (John 4:18).  Using the imagery of water, Jesus compares her physical thirst to spiritual thirst.  She was always “thirsty” because she was getting her “water” from the wrong place.  Jesus tells her that if she came to Him, He would give her “living water,” and promises that it would become in her “a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:10-14).  When someone drank of that water, Jesus said, their thirst would be quenched.  They would have found what they were made for.

Whenever we try to live for self, for pleasure, for human relationships, for anything other than the Lord, we will never be satisfied.  People who are filthy rich always find that one more thing they need.  When a person lives for a physical relationship, they always crave more.  Those who live for position never stop dreaming of that next rung up the latter.  And if that is what we live for, there will be no strength in us when trouble comes.  If money is what we serve, what happens when we lose it all?  What about when that person we love doesn’t meet our expectations anymore?  What about the power you worshipped when you lose your job?

But for those who fill their life with the Living Water of God, we have the power of God coursing through us to empower us to face whatever the future may hold.  Multiple times in Scripture, the Holy Spirit is compared to water, especially to Living Water (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:5).  It is through the Spirit that God works through us to obey Him (Philippians 2:12, 13).  It is in His strength that we can “consider it all joy” when trials arise in our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; James 1:2-4).  We were made for Him, not for ourselves.

When we step back and look at our lives, considering the eternal consequences, we realize that it is foolish to live for anything else besides God.  We can deceive ourselves into believing the lies of the devil, who whispers to us that sin will satisfy and ultimately please us, but it never works.  Sure, it may feel good in the moment, but there is no substitute for the peace that comes from resting in the Lord and living for Him.  That peace is described as surpassing “all comprehension,” and it is only found by those who “trust in” God (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6, 7).  It cannot be found any other way.

Even beyond that, there is eternity to consider.  When it comes down to the end, the only thing that will matter will be our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Good works or words will mean nothing if we do not trust in Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him (Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 20:11-15).  That can only be found by drawing our water from the eternal Fountain of God and His Word.

So as we consider our own lives, what broken cisterns have you dug?  Have you turned from the springs of Living Water to a broken well of muddy water?  If you have, are you willing to turn back to the only One we were made for? He is waiting, and His water will never run out.  It is time we recognize that truth and prove it by the way we live.

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