Broken Cisterns (Sermon 8-28-2022)

Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NASB) Yet, for some reason, we seem to always strike out on our own path and leave behind the path of God. Some may think this is a modern phenomenon. However, when we read our scripture for today, we find that it is a problem that has existed for some time. Let’s open our Bibles to Jeremiah the 2nd chapter as we begin reading in verse 4.

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord,

“What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty? “They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?’ “I brought you into the fruitful land To eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, And My inheritance you made an abomination. “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit.

“Therefore I will yet contend with you,” declares the Lord, “And with your sons’ sons I will contend. “For cross to the coastlands of Kittim and see, And send to Kedar and observe closely And see if there has been such a thing as this! “Has a nation changed gods When they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory For that which does not profit. “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 2:4-13 NASB)

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, asked what injustice had their fathers found in God so that they would leave Him? Indeed, by leaving God, they found only an unfilled hunger and thirst.

God reminds them of the journey through the desert and brought them to a plentiful land. Yet, they turned away from God. In His words, the people had changed their glory for that which does not profit.

The final portion of this passage is God’s assessment of what has happened.

“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.

Perhaps the first truth we see here is that we are all thirsty. We all have deep legitimate thirsts and longings in our life. Those thirsts and longings are placed in us by God. We long for our lives to have meaning. We are searching for a purpose for our lives. We are searching for love and intimacy. We are searching for joy, happiness and peace. We desire freedom. Sometimes we may not even understand the nature of the freedom we desire.

We are created in the image of God and we need to understand that these longings are in line with the things God wants for us. Having these thirsts and longings is not a sin. Sin may enter the picture in the way or method we choose to satisfy these thirsts.

It is not a sin to desire love, but how we decide to meet our need for love may be. It is not a sin to want meaning and purpose in our life, but when our life’s central purpose and meaning does not line up with God’s will for us it is wrong. It is not a sin to desire freedom, unless we are wanting to be free from God and all moral restraints. It is not a sin to want to be happy, but trying to meet our longing for happiness outside the will of God is not only wrong, it is destructive.

So, how do Christians react to these thirsts? First, we need to recognize the thirst come from God. God made us and the natural thirst we feel are from Him. They are legitimate. Second, we must understand that God has designed a way for each of these longings to be met. However, we must not turn away from the fountain of living waters.

We have needs, but we seek to satisfy those needs God’s way rather than our own way. We understand that we are inadequate to meet these needs. Third, as Christians, we understand that our needs and thirsts can never be fully satisfied in an imperfect world. Since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the world has been less than God designed. We are promised that there will be a renewal. A new world is coming, as promised in the Bible. But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13 NASB) We are people of faith. We await this perfect new earth as promised. As Paul said; But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:25 NASB) There may be times when we are not patiently waiting, but we wait.

There is a second truth revealed in this passage. People are busy digging cisterns. We are not too different from the people during the days of Jeremiah. The one thing that is different is that we have more things available to us with which we try to satisfy the deep longings and thirsts of our lives. We pile up possessions and seek for pleasure. We treat ourselves; entertain and amuse ourselves. We are still playing the absurd game of trying to build our own cisterns while the streams of God are flowing right next to us. God is calling out to us inviting us to come, but we don’t hear what God is telling us. We have too many outside diversions. We are afraid of silence. We cannot allow time for silent reflection. We need a laptop, tablet, cell phone, or television to keep stimulating our minds. We no longer can function without some outside stimulation. We have built cisterns that are broken. The cisterns we build may have some water but they are broken and the water soon escapes. We have managed to fill our days with these diversions, yet the benefit soon fades and we find our cisterns are empty.

What is it in us that makes us prefer to do things our way rather than accept God’s way? Why do we insist on building broken cisterns rather than drinking from the spring of living water that will never run dry? Why do we run from one thing to another, never finding satisfaction, but never running to God? The word is rebellion. We may be ruining our lives, but at least no one is telling us what to do — including God. It does not matter that his way is the path of life and fulfillment, we see it as interference.

Blaise Pascal is a well-known mathematician and theologian, whom I have quoted before, said; “Human beings are peculiar in that they pursue ends they know will bring them no satisfaction, gorge themselves with food that cannot nourish and with pleasures that cannot please.” There are many people like that today. They settle for pretend relationships. They look for intimacy in pornography. They seek thrills vicariously. They try to escape reality to live in a virtual reality. Instead of living water they search for a drug to anesthetize them. They protect themselves from really feeling. They avoid thinking. They live in fear. But they seem to be more afraid of God than they are of living an empty life. Whether they are poor or affluent, they are broken cisterns. Or as the Bible describes them,

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13 NASB)

C. S. Lewis describes their situation as unappeasable want. They live with a hunger that is never satisfied. What makes it so tragic is that it is all so unnecessary.

This brings us to the third truth found in this passage from Jeremiah: We have a choice to make. We can go on trying to supply the desires of our lives, or we can come to God to have our deepest longings met. We can try to make our lives work by our own effort, or we can ask God for his presence to fill our lives. We can do it our way or God’s way. We can follow our plan or God’s plan. But understand this: either way there is a cost. Jesus said, So, then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33 NASB)

If you want eternal riches, it will cost you everything you have. But which is worse: giving up everything here to get everything there, or giving up everything there to get something you want here?

What will happen when you stand before God? What excuse will you offer when you have the final audit of your life? How will you explain to God that you were so busy doing trivial things that you never became involved in eternal things? How will you explain that you were so busy repairing and refilling your broken cistern that you never took advantage of the fountain of life he was offering? Some of us will have to explain why we never committed our life to anything. Or we will have to explain why we were committed to a hundred things that weren’t important. I offer one final quote from C. S. Lewis: “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.”

Christianity is not just one of the things in our life. It demands to be the only thing in our life. As we choose, we must know the cost of completely surrendering to God? But then, we need to consider the costs of not surrendering to him.

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