Well, it’s been over a year, so I suppose I should write something to keep up the pretense that I blog. (Actually, I have a pretty faithful weekly blog in Portuguese, but don’t have the time to translate it for my two or three English readers. Sorry, Mom. Oh wait, Mom can read the Portuguese blog. Sorry, other reader.)
Jeremiah 2:1-13 is a haunting passage. It is well worth reading and understanding the stunning things God says to Israel (and to us through His message to them). For this post, I just want to focus on the last verse and make a possibly strange, but perfectly valid application.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13
Without going into all the details, the verse above makes something very clear: God has a complaint against His people, and brings two accusations against them:
- They had abandoned Him.
- They were worshipping other gods (see vv. 9-12).
But instead of expressing Himself as I just did, He put it to them in a water metaphor. And what a metaphor!
He was telling Israel He is a fountain of living water, i.e., an unending source of a substance humans desperately need. Water is not optional for us; we need it like we need air and food. It is so fundamental that science says we are what, 60% water? Even so, the metaphor isn’t meant to point to a physical reality, but a spiritual one. Humans desperately need God. He is the essential spiritual substance we cannot exist without! And His accusation against Israel was that they—His own chosen people!—had abandoned Him, this fountain of essential, irreplaceable sustenance!
But they didn’t stop there.
In abandoning God, they did the unimaginable: they turned to other gods. He challenges them to search out the pagan world around them (whose gods they undoubtedly were choosing to follow) to see if there was any other nation swapping gods. Not even among the heathen was there this level of disloyalty. But Israel was doing just that.
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. (v.11)
The water analogy summons the image of people turning their back on a gushing, bubbling fountain of crystalline, refreshing, nourishing water and setting about the back-breaking work of digging out their own cisterns. The problem is that the cisterns are broken, so they don’t hold water. It drains out, leaving nothing but brackish, muddy residue as it seeps through the cracks.
The image is so rich! God is the Fountain—the Source of spiritual nourishment that gushes freely to His people. But, rejecting Him, they turn and must toil (hew, or carve out) and make their own spirituality, only to find that their efforts are pointless, and can’t sustain them. They didn’t just abandon God, but they turned to gods that had no sustenance to offer.
It is very easy to read this and say, “Silly Israelites! Don’t they get it? How foolish!” (And that’s putting it nicely.)
My question is: how are Christians any different?
We witness daily evidence of this happening in a seemingly innocuous place: our Facebook newsfeed. I’ve been known to make weird connections between things that don’t seem to have any correlation, but as I looked at my Facebook newsfeed today, my mind immediately went to this Jeremiah passage.
Facebook has gone through all kinds of trends over the years—remember the buttons? the quizzes? the clickbait? the videos?—but one trend that is deeply saddening is the number of Christians posting memes that simply don’t have biblical messages. Oh, they’re inspirational, pithy, sometimes funny, sure, but they don’t reflect biblical truth.
It doesn’t follow automatically that people who post these things are abandoning God; but their posts demonstrate that they are not measuring the truth claims or presuppositions of what they post against the Truth of God’s Word. And by abandoning God’s Word as a fountain of God’s Truth, they are, in essence, drinking from broken intellectual cisterns made by human minds. Cisterns that just don’t hold water.
I am going to be ambitious for one who hasn’t written in over a year. I am going to commit to writing a series of blog posts on the same subject. Actually, I have a friend to thank for this idea; my original post was well over 2000 words, and he suggested I break it up. If we know anything about today’s culture, it is that we have the attention span of a goldfish (sorry, goldfish). We even sum it up with the expression “tl;dr” (“too long; didn’t read” for those of you who were about to Google it).
So in order to not go too long, this post will serve as introduction. I will refer to it in the upcoming posts, as I apply the teaching of Jeremiah 2 to the kinds of things Christians are posting on their timelines.
And, hopefully to pique your curiosity, here are three areas I have already considered, and will be posting in installments shortly.
- Content that expresses vengeance and malice toward those who hurt us.
- Content that expresses loneliness, sadness, disappointment, etc. without hope.
- Content that defends sinful actions and attitudes through “new” interpretations of Scripture.