Read Deuteronomy 9, Jeremiah 2, and 1 Corinthians 8 today. This devotional is about Jeremiah 2:13.
This second chapter of Jeremiah began God’s complaint against his people. The immediate audience was the population of Jerusalem (v. 2a) and God recalled in glowing terms the exodus of all the tribes of Israel from Egypt (v. 2b-3). Starting with verse 4, God turned to the spiritual problems of his people; as usual, the main problem was idolatry.
Here in verse 13, God charged them with rejecting him and choosing their own way. He used an image related to water to visually describe his complaint. Forsaking him meant rejecting “the spring of living water” (v. 13c). This refers to the gift of spiritual life that comes from trusting God by faith. Jesus also used this image in his conversation with the woman at the well (Jn 4:14), promising that those who believed in him would never thirst again.
The other watery image here in Jeremiah 2:13 is in line d which says that they “…have dug their own cisterns.” Cisterns are holes in the ground that hold rain water. In the desert, where lakes and streams are rare and and springs of underground water are hard to find, these cisterns are useful. The rain water they retained could be used to irrigate crops and hydrate animals and, if necessary, provide drinking water for people.
But rain water lacks the good taste and refreshing nature of spring water. You would drink it if you had to, but you would long for spring water and look hard for it.
God used this image to tell his people that he offered them an endless supply of life and refreshment but they chose the dirty water left over from rain and runoff. This water could not replenish itself; instead, once the cistern was dry (from use and evaporation), it would remain empty until the next rain–which may not come soon in a desert climate like Judah had. The spiritual image here is that God’s people traded the life God gives to those who believe his word for spiritual leftovers gathered by human ingenuity. Water like that offered some refreshment but it was also contaminated and limited in supply. Furthermore, the collection methods people used to get it were flawed; verse 13e calls them “…broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Other religions contain some truths that God’s word also teaches. They may teach morals and ethics that our faith also teaches. They may offer the hope of life after death and may even hold to one God instead of many. Human philosophy and psychology also offer truths that correspond to some of the teachings of God’s word.
But even when these alternatives to biblical faith are right, they are at best severely limited, unclean and even contaminated, ultimately unable to satisfy with eternal life. Yet this is what we imbibe when we look to political solutions to human problems or to psychology or to other religions, even those that claim association with Jesus.
Consider the sources of information you consume. How much of it is the collected runoff of philosophy or spirituality verses the genuine spiritual life God gives us by grace? Drink deeply from God’s word and let it refresh and satisfy your soul; don’t settle for the dishwater swill of this world.