I’ve been trying to spend some more time reading the Old Testament and trying to educate myself on what really happened during that period in history. Because the modern Christian church doesn’t seem particularly interested in examining Hebraic historical records, sometimes you kind of have to study it on your own. Anyway I came across a passage today that caught my eye. In the second chapter in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet Jeremiah is recounting the message God has given him to share with the Israelite people. The message isn’t particularly positive, in fact, Jeremiah tells them that God isn’t happy with their irreverence. In verse 13 it says: “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.”
Typically we don’t think of sin applying to much beyond individual acts of injustice. Certainly theft, slander, and adultery are things we consider to be sin, but rarely do we think of something like “forsaking God” in that context. Forsaking means to abandon or give up on something. So in this verse, God is reprimanding the Israelites for abandoning Him. It’s difficult to think of what that would have looked like thousands of years ago, but in a modern context I would imagine that if God was abandoned, churches would be empty, people would be acting out in violence, hatred, and oppression towards one another, and the thought of God wouldn’t even cross their minds. With that being said, it’s not hard to find examples in our own society where we are forsaking God.
The next part of the verse talked about cisterns. These cisterns were essentially underground containers that collected rainwater to be used later for irrigation. They were designed to help farmers deal with long periods without rain. In parts of the Middle East where it rained only a few times a year, cisterns were critical for survival. I think in this verse, cisterns are a metaphor to help those who heard Jeremiah’s message to understand it better. God had provided for the needs of the Israelite in the past and allowed them to survive in some of the harshest situations, much like a cistern would help a farmer and his crops survive a drought. I believe this passage is saying that the Hebrew people stopped depending on their “cistern,” God, and decided to rely on their own devices instead.
I think we can see this kind of reliance on things other than God in our world today. It’s not hard to find examples of people rely on things like money, drugs, sex, alcohol, material possessions, etc. to get them through the day. Although I don’t think this verse is saying anything extreme like don’t rely on food for nourishment, I do think it warns us about replacing God with other things in our lives. With that being said, maybe it’s time that we think about what we’ve replaced God with in our lives and what we’ve depended on for survival. If you’re like me, I think you’ll find it to be quite a thought -provoking exercise.