The Bible offers us a profound understanding of the human problem, and a profound solution to the human problem. Yet we are so prone to be superficial on the problem. And simplistic on the solution. How often we think that the issue is something that we can fix, and so we strive to put things right in ourselves and in others. But the problem is heart-deep, and the solution is something only God can do…heart surgery.
I know Ron has probably blogged on Jeremiah 2 before. What a passage. It begins with reference to the wilderness years as the good old days(!) when Israel was devoted to God as a bride. If those were the good old days, how far they must have fallen by Jeremiah’s day!
It goes on to ask why they went away from God. The people didn’t seek the Lord, they didn’t ask where he was. They didn’t seem to be gripped by the grace of the God that had given them so much. And it wasn’t just the people, it was the priests! The professional religious leaders didn’t seek the Lord either. They handled the Law, but didn’t know God, wow. So God sends them on a hypothetical field trip to see if other nations have ever changed their gods. They hadn’t, but the people of the one true God had.
God gave a vivid image for their error. They had turned from the fountain of living water and poured their energies into digging cisterns that couldn’t even hold water. That is a double sin. Turning from God. Pursuing an alternative.
We can imagine the work involved in digging a cistern. Breaking the rock, lifting out the rock, etc. Back breaking and sweaty work, to say the least. All the while the fountain of living water gurgling in the background, its offer of life giving refreshment going to waste in the parched sand. Then after all that work, the rains come and the worker discovers it has all been in vain. Cracked cistern.
It is easy for us to transpose such passages and immediately speak of the emptiness and vanity of the world around us. Oh how they go after everything but God. Oh how futile it all is. If only they… Hang on. This passage was speaking of the opposite. Not the worldly tribes, but God’s people.
Can we relate to this? Can we ever! How easily our desires turn from God and give enthused energy to pursuing some alternative. It could be a relationship, a hobby, a fantasy, a sin. We can chase and chase, giving all the effort of the people described in Jeremiah 2. And when we step back and look at the fruit of it, we find it to be cracked and worse than useless. Not only does it fail to serve its purpose, but it stands as a testimony to the work put into the foolish project. How many cracked cisterns are left in our wake as we live this life?
And all the while there is the fountain of living water, still giving away. It gives and it gives. Yet we turn. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
One thing is clear in Jeremiah 2, just as it is in our experience. The problem is a profound one. It isn’t just about behaviour and conformity to standards. It is a heart-deep issue that influences us in the most illogical of ways.
And the solution to this kind of heart problem? It takes a divine heart surgery that God describes later in Jeremiah 31.
I am so thankful that God doesn’t ask me to fix my own heart. The vestiges of the old heart desires, experienced from my flesh, is enough to make me despair. Yet with my God given new heart I rejoice in the good of God’s work.
(And if past experience is anything to go by, I will soon feel drawn to start digging a cistern…pointless, fruitless and empty pursuit. Hence the need to continuously look to God for the application of His salvation. For when I turn to myself, I quickly turn away from Him.)