On Sunday (Sept. 1), I preached at two churches, the first at 10 am and the next at 11:15. I love the pulpit at the second church because it has a large surface area to put all your stuff! Here are a couple photos:
The red Bible is my beloved NIV Proclamation Bible (for preachers and teachers) in the Allan Highland goatskin. This is a “premium Bible” that I purchased through: evangelicalbible.com
I previously reviewed this Bible here.
And here I am before the service enjoying all the space and getting situated…
My message was on Jeremiah 2:4-13, which was in the lectionary for Sunday. However I changed the other readings to better coordinate with my message, and they were Psalm 36:5-10 and John 4:7-14.
The audio link to my message is HERE. It is about 20 minutes. Consider listening to it! I always appreciate feedback.
I will later add my transcript so you can read the message, but maybe its absence will – for now – encourage you to listen to it!
Update: I am finally adding my manuscript/transcript. I use those 2 words interchangeable. Since I follow my manuscript so closely, it is my transcript too!
Before I read this passage from Jeremiah, I want to give a bird’s eye overview of OT history.
We all know Abraham. He was called by YHWH, that is God, and God promised to make him a great nation and that the entire world would be blessed through that nation. That worldwide blessing came through the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But I jump ahead in the story!
Abraham and Sarah had Isaac.
Isaac had Jacob and Esau.
Jacob had those 12 sons, and because of the family dysfunction surrounding Joseph, they ended up in Egypt.
In Egypt, they grew into a great number, and eventually fell out of favor with the Pharaohs. They had to flee Egypt in that great Exodus. After some detours, they reached the Promised Land.
There were more detours, but Israel was in its glory days under the reigns of King David and King Solomon.
But after Solomon died, the Kingdom split in two: the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And the people began to drift from YHWH.
The Northern Kingdom was bad from the get-go. All their kings were evil and promoted pagan worship.
The Southern Kingdom was a mixed bag. They had some good kings that brought spiritual revival, but there were also mediocre kings and evil kings.
During this time of the split kingdom, God raised up prophets. Prophets brought God’s Words to the people — Warning them that they would be exiled, conquered by other nations and lose their own nation, if they did not repent of their sin and return to God.
Even though the words of the prophets were tough and challenging
– the prophets were not popular! – in them we also see God’s great mercy, love, and faithfulness. God gave the people advanced warning. He graciously gave them time to repent. The judgment could be averted. They did not have to suffer exile, if they’d only return to YHWH. But the people as a whole would not listen to the prophets.
At the time of Jeremiah, the Northern Kingdom had already been conquered by Assyria. And the Southern Kingdom was sadly in its final days. But even then, God did not give up on his people. And Jeremiah prophesied during the reign of the last several kings of Judah.
-READ PASSAGE- Jeremiah 2: 4-13
In verses 4-8, Jeremiah asks some rhetorical questions to remind them of their history as a nation. It was common in the OT to review and recite their history as God’s people. This was done to remind them of God’s faithfulness, and to foster humility and thankfulness for all God had done for them. And to help them learn from the past, so they could avoid repeating former mistakes.
Forgetting can be dangerous.
We can forget God, and become focused on ourselves. We can lose perspective. But there are also passages in the Bible that tell us to forget.
Philippians 3:13-14 says: “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
– So which is it? Are we to forget or remember? It is both.
Our problem is that we often forget what we should remember, and remember what we should forget. For example, we can remember hurtful words and betrayals of people in our past, but forget about the kind and good things done for us by others. You can confer with my husband afterwards; I can be very guilty of that. We need to pray that we will forget and remember the right things.
But in the passage in Jeremiah, it is contrasting the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of Israel. In verses 10-12, it makes a surprising contrast between Israel and the surrounding nations. The pagan nations are, in essence, praised for something. At least they are faithful!
Verses 10-11 state: “Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.”
We don’t know Middle Eastern geography very well. But Cypress was in the west, and Kedar was in the east. So by referring to these opposite locations, it was referring to the entire pagan world of that time. Like we might refer to the entire United States, by saying from New York to California.
The heathen nations surrounding them were at least loyal and faithful to their idols, their false gods. This is quite bad, when God notices a quality we lack that even the outright pagans possess. Imagine some nation today that we may look upon in a negative light – maybe Cuba or a Muslim nation like Saudi Arabia or Iran – and God notes some positive quality in them that we lack. We’d likely be miffed.
In the Psalm we read today, it said “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”
And here in Jeremiah 2 verse 12 it says that the heavens are appalled and shudder with horror at the faithlessness of God’s people. “My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.”
This is a strong indictment, but the sad truth. And just in case the passage wasn’t clear enough so far, verse 13 gets specific: “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.”
Back then, they would dig cisterns into the limestone hills and divert rain water into them. A cistern was like a reservoir that stored water for future use. Using this illustration involving water would have been extra meaningful to people living in a dry Middle Eastern climate.
And it is making a spiritual point. They had forsaken the one true God YHWH, described as a spring of living water. A spring is a fresh, flowing, perennial source of water.
And instead they dug cisterns which held rain water that would soon become stagnant. They turned to idolatrous objects of trust.
They sought alternative sources of spiritual life, like Baal – mentioned in verse 8. Baal was the ancient Canaanite fertility god. Trusting in these other things was compared to a broken cistern. Any water collected would leak out through the cracks. A broken cistern is worthless.
If you were carefully listening when I read the Jeremiah passage, the phrase “worthless idols” was used 3 times. Why would they dig their own cisterns, worthless ones, when they had access to a spring of living water? We are not like that. Or are we?
I offer you this quote from CS Lewis:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Lewis described us as half-hearted creatures. And I mentioned a difference between the decline of the Northern and Southern Kingdom. The North was evil from the get-go, while the South had a slower decline.
It was not that the South out rightly rejected God, but they were half-hearted worshipers. And in Jeremiah chapter 3, there is a surprising comparison. Verse 11 says “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.” (Repeat) Israel was the outright evil Northern Kingdom and they are more righteous? How can that be?
Well, at least faithless Israel wasn’t half-hearted. They lived in open rebellion, and weren’t even trying to look as if they were obeying God. They were consistent.
But unfaithful Judah maintained an appearance of faith. Jerusalem was located in Judah, and they had the Temple where a semblance of worship still took place. They still had priests and prophets, supposedly of YHWH, but they were mixing in Baal worship and speaking falsehoods.
They were going through the motions of worship, but it was insincere. They were hypocrites. Let me read to you from Jeremiah 2:8… “The priests did not ask, Where is the Lord? Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.”
We need to pray for godly leadership in the church today. For leaders with the courage to speak biblical truth, even if it is not popular.
**funny Baal story** [Listen to the audio to hear it.]
Again, we could think these things don’t apply to us. We aren’t doing something so overt as mixing our Christian worship with worship of Allah or a Hindu god.
But we can be half-hearted worshipers in subtler ways. And subtle things can be dangerous, precisely because of their subtle nature.
But we too have neglected the spring of living water, and dug our own cisterns – that are nothing but broken, worthless cisterns. CS Lewis mentioned drink and sex and ambition. What’s your cistern?
Where are you looking for satisfaction or fulfillment outside of the Lord Jesus Christ? That could be a whole other sermon.
But I will mention one thing. We live in an age of distraction. It started in the 20th century with the invention of motion pictures and television. An entertainment industry developed. Then we got the internet and social media and cellphones.
We are being entertained and distracted to death, diverted away from what really matters. Christians are diverted away from Christ and eternal concerns, and God gets distracted, half-hearted followers.
I once heard it said years ago that if the Devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy – and I will add distracted. If Satan can’t make you bad, he will make you distracted. You end up in a cistern of distraction, and you lose your focus on Jesus, the living water.
Jesus is that living water mentioned in Jeremiah 2. Our Psalm today also spoke of it. It said “you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life.” We worship the eternal Triune God. God has always been the 3-in-1.
Even though Jesus had not yet been revealed in the Old Testament, he was nonetheless there. We can see Jesus in the OT if we have spiritual eyes to see it. Remember that the nation promised to Abraham was to bring blessing to the world, and it did through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.
And even though all of Israel, the northern and southern kingdom, ended up in exile – God remained faithful. He preserved a remnant of believers. Even though the nation as a whole had abandoned YHWH, there were still some who were faithful to him. They returned to the land after exile, and through this remnant Jesus would come to us.
When God makes a promise, he keeps it. Even though it may seem like a long delay from our human perspective.
In the passage from John 4 today, Jesus talked about special water. If you drink of the water Jesus offers you, you will never thirst, and the fresh, bubbling spring gives you eternal life. Note the passage said that we have to be given this water. It is a gift. We can’t earn it or deserve it.
If we could earn it or deserve it, Jesus did not have to come into this world for us. He came because we needed a Savior from sin, and we could not save ourselves. All we must do is believe, take a drink of the living water, and we have new life in Christ.
I trust everyone here today can look back to a time when you first drank this living water. Maybe it was a dramatic experience or maybe it was something that slowly dawned on you. Not everyone’s salvation experience is the same, but we must have some type of encounter with Jesus as this woman at the well did that day. If you are not sure that you have drunk of this living water, please speak to me after the service or to pastor Brian when he is back in town.
As Christian believers, we have this water of life inside of us. Jesus said we will never thirst, but we need to understand that in the right way. Thirst and hunger is a good thing. To lack thirst or hunger, whether physically or spiritually, is a sign that something is wrong. Jesus said in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
So it is not that we will never thirst, but that we have a bubbling spring to draw from that will never run dry. We have only to access it.
It is our on-going source of spiritual life.
It is not just something we need at the beginning of our walk with God, but as we continue to walk with God. We never cease to need Jesus.
(Pick up my water.) We don’t only drink water one time, we continue to need water. It is essential to life.
Avoid broken cisterns. Don’t settle for making mud pies in a slum.
Be careful that you aren’t being distracted from the living water.
Pray to be thirsty, so that you can be filled.
Pray to be a faithful worshiper and follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.