Monday, October 11, 2010

Springs and Cisterns

In a discussion in my Bible Study class yesterday morning, these verses came to mind. I remember discovering them a couple of years ago in a Bible Study and being convicted, so I thought it might be good to remind myself of what I learned then.

I always love doing Old Testament studies. So many people have the impression of the God of the Old Testament being the angry judgmental God, as opposed to the grace and mercy He demonstrates in the New Testament. But oh, how much mercy & grace He continually pours out on the wayward Israelites! Over and over they turn away from Him until they are in a fix, then they run complaining to Him and He rescues them. (Sounds a lot like me!) After awhile (as in a few centuries!) though, He gets a "little" weary (read: fed up, grieved, heartbroken) of this:

They say to wood, 'You are my father,' and to stone, 'You gave me birth.' They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, 'Come and save us!' Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! Jeremiah 2:27-28

And as I think about what a poor substitute a man-made idol is for the incomparable God of the universe, this verse pricked my heart:

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.
Jeremiah 2:13

From what I've read, the cisterns of that day were dug in the limestone rock, and they would smear plaster on it in an attempt to keep the water from seeping out. What a visual: ignoring a bubbling spring of fresh, clear water and instead choosing to sweat and dig and have only trickling, leaking water for your efforts.

Yet I realized, so many times I do just that. My best effort can only devise a poor substitute for what God abundantly provides. Mere drops compared to Living Water. Crumbs instead of the Bread of Life.

I dig my own cistern by serving the god of my own self-sufficiency instead of Him.

Yet even as He is unleashing His judgment on them for their continued hard-heartedness and idol worship, as they are being taken into captivity by the Babylonians, He tells Jeremiah regarding the remnant of Judah:

My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:6-7

Sounds an awful lot like mercy and grace to me.

Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

For the rest of the lyrics & tune of this wonderful old hymn by Charles Wesley, click here.

Originally posted January 13, 2008


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sara said...

good words, Linda!

that last verse from Jeremiah warms my heart. I am so thankful that my God never turns his back on me, even when I am busy digging my own cistern, but always watches over me and lovingly shows me how vain those attempts are.

Cathy said...

Excellent post Linda. My husband is currently preaching a series about the children of Israel and their captivity in Babylon. I'm gonna send hubby a link to read what you have to say. Very well written.

quilly said...

After I taught a Sunday School lesson on idols, one child said to another, "Where were you last week?" The other child replied, "The VCR was broken so I had to stay home and watch ___." And the first kid said, "And there's your idol." That is why I do not allow myself to use my computer for Bible Study. It must be off. If there is something I want further info on, I write it down and look it up after my prescribed "quiet/focus" time has passed.

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

The idol of self-sufficiency is one with which I struggle daily. I often pray as an afterthought, instead of as a first line of defense! Enjoyed reading your thoughts about this...