Looking For Water


According to Wikimedia “a cistern is a tank for storing water, usually covered. It may be as small as a toilet cistern or large enough to be essentially a covered reservoir.”

God, through the prophet Jeremiah used cisterns as a metaphor to show His people’s relationship with Him.

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 2:13)

696415_mountain_waterfallI don’t know about you, but if I were in need of water and had to choose between “living water”–the kind that flows freely, abundantly, cleanly–and water stored in a cistern, I’d take the former every time.

But God didn’t just accuse His people of choosing cistern water over living water. They were making for themselves broken cisterns—ones that couldn’t hold water at all. In other words, since we need water to live, they were abandoning the source of life in favor of their own empty effort.

What a great picture of Humankind’s attempts to make it without God. We dig and work and build and produce and save, but in the end we go out like we came in—alone.

Our own efforts to provide the love, security, purpose, sense of belonging that we all need, net us muddy ground. Furthermore, one person’s attempt to do religion is no better than another person’s rejection of religion.

Water isn’t found in man-made activities. We can’t give up enough for Lent or fast often enough or serve in homeless shelters frequently enough to get the water we need.

The Jews who Jeremiah was talking to had left worship of the LORD their God and were serving false gods, made with their own hands. They couldn’t see how silly it was for them to pray to a statue that they had carved from a block of wood, one that could not walk or talk, and certainly could not give them Living Water.

But people in contemporary Western society aren’t any smarter. We think happiness will come if we just have enough money, just get the right job, just marry the right person, just have freedom or protection or safety or health. We go all in on things that are temporary, ephemeral, over which we have little control.

God tells us that He’ll provide. But like little children we say, No, no, let me, I want to do it myself. So we’re hacking away to dig out these systems we think will make life make sense or fill up our loneliness or at least get us through to the weekend. It’s a sad way to live, trying to squeeze water out of the muddy mess we make.

Especially when we can turn and enjoy Living Water in abundance.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in April, 2013.

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Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 4:49 pm  Comments Off on Looking For Water  
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When There’s No Water


July officially started the new rainy season, though for SoCal, that is kind of like saying, each year we start with two months of 0 inches just so we can put down figures for 12 months. This kind of “dry spell” is actually normal. The problem manifests itself if November comes and goes and we still have not had significant rain. Or if January, February, and March don’t give us some meaningful moisture.

A good year for us is around 33 inches. Compare that to the Carolinas which likely received 33 inches in this last storm.

All this to say, I know what it’s like to live in a place with no water. Except, we have technology now that allows us to bring water in from places that have more than they’re using. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. But that’s not the point of this post.

The real subject is waking up and realizing there is not enough water to, you know, live. Because water is one of those commodities that we actually can not do without.

The descendants of Jacob, the Hebrews newly escaped from Egypt, came to a place where there was no water. And they were well over 600,000 people. The men of the age to fight number 600,000, so add in the elderly, the women, and the children, and there are probably twice as many people, conservatively speaking—all without water. And don’t forget the animals. These folks were shepherds. They had their flocks and their cattle to take care of, too.

So when they’d been on the road for a while and they didn’t come upon any water, they were concerned. Rightly so. This was not a minor issue, a little inconvenience. This was a life-and-death matter.

So what did they do? You’d think they would cried out to God. What else could you do? I mean, He’s omniscient—He’d know where they could get water. And He’s omnipotent—He could bring rain at the drop of a hat. Crying out to God would seem like a wise, intelligent thing to do.

But the Hebrews? They decided to grumble against Moses instead. You should have left us in Egypt, they said. We told you this journey was not a good idea, they said. We want to choose another ruler, someone who will take us back to Egypt, they said.

Remember. Egypt was a mess. Dead army, dead firstborn sons, dead or diseased cattle, devastated crops, people who were afraid of Moses and had driven the people of Israel from their land.

Remember also. The Hebrews had cried to God because of the harsh treatment they were receiving. The Egyptians had ordered their baby boys to be killed. Not just the first born. All of them. For how long? We don’t know for sure, but obviously long enough that the people of Israel would no longer outnumber the Egyptians. They wanted zero population growth, at a minimum.

And most of all, remember that God had promised to take them out of Egypt, so clearly that Joseph charged his descendants with taking his bones, his mummified carcass, along with them when they went.

Not only did God give them this promise, but remember He gave them His protection. When darkness fell over Egypt, it did not fall in Goshen where the Hebrews lived. When hail wiped out two crops and killed the livestock left in the field, it didn’t fall in Goshen. When the locust came, when disease attacked the Egyptian animals, when their first born sons were taken, the Hebrews escaped unscathed. They saw God’s power first hand, and they experienced His protection.

I could go on. They were receiving manna every day, they had quail to eat when they asked for meat, they’d been without water before and God surprised them by giving them miraculously and then leading them to a place of abundance.

But none of it was enough.

When is enough evidence of God’s direction, provision, protection, ever enough? Sometimes the people who cry the loudest have the most evidence in front of their faces, but they simply choose to ignore it. Instead, they decide they want to go their own way, choose their own leader, deal with their own problems.

Seems silly to me, because if they had turned around at that point, they would have continued for days without water before they arrived at that place where God had taken them before. How many of them would have survived?

But God is so merciful. Despite their grumbling and complaining, God gave them what they needed. He did so miraculously and symbolically so that centuries later we could see the Rock who is Jesus, struck to provide Living Water to a wayward people.

God had a reason for testing the Hebrews. He had an example to paint for generations who would come after them. He wanted them to see His power and trust Him, but He also wants us to see His power and trust Him.

Their need for water was real and serious. Their reliance on their own “solutions” was foolish. But our God isn’t limited by weak people who keep on doing the wrong thing. Peter could deny Jesus three times, but God was able to turn him into a pillar of the Church. Paul could chase down Christians to persecute them, but God was able to turn him into a vibrant evangelist.

In fact, none of Christ’s followers can ever boast that we have life figured out, that we’re on the road to heave because we are clever enough or strong enough or good enough to make it on our own. Rather, we are the army of second chances. God saved us because we need to be saved. We are out of water, and we can’t make it on empty. So He does the impossible. He provides Living Water so that we will never thirst again.

Published in: on September 11, 2018 at 5:11 pm  Comments Off on When There’s No Water  
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The Key To Life


Christ as Lord 2The book of Jeremiah has a small verse toward the beginning that is the key to life. It either describes what is true of us or what was true of us but is not true anymore. It’s such a key verse that a counselor has made it the root of his teaching about our emotional health. But that’s for another day. The verse is Jeremiah 2:13.

For my people have forsaken Me the fountain of living water
To hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

I’ve been watching a YouTube video one of the atheists from the Facebook group posted. He’s explaining his journey from a teen who believed he was gong to become a pastor, to the atheist he is today. In the first part he describes how he was involved in church and how he was known at school as the Bible guy.

So what happened that brought such a radical change? The verse in Jeremiah explains. First there’s a point where people turning away from God forsake him. For some it comes sooner than later, but it manifests in a rejection of what God has said.

Next comes turning to our own resources which, like the broken cistern, can’t work.

Lot thought he could move from the fertile valley where he’d gone to live after separating from Abram, into the godless city of Sodom, and he did, but at a cost. Moses thought he could bring water from the rock by striking it instead of speaking to it, and water came, but at a cost. David thought he could hide from Saul by going over to the Philistines, and he did, but at a cost. Peter wanted to fight the soldiers who came to take Jesus and crucify Him, but he failed utterly.

Whenever man goes his own way, there’s either outright failure or great consequence later. Our schemes don’t work.

Eve wanted to be like God, ignoring the fact that God had actually made her in His likeness and had breathed life into her so that she became a living soul. She forsook Him, though, so she could go her own way and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What’s more, Adam followed her, knowing full well that God had said eating would result in death. He dug his own cistern presumably because he didn’t want to trust God to fix the problem Eve had created. He thought the only way for him to hold onto Eve was to do what she’d done.

At any rate, the schemes the two of them concocted did not work. They certainly didn’t become so very wise that they were like God—except, perhaps, in their own minds. That’s really the problem.

People who turn from God are basically saying they are wise enough in and of themselves to determine what’s right and wrong. The don’t what an authority telling them what to do, which is why some of them refer to God as a tyrant. In their minds, they are the top authority, and anyone who wants to boss them around has overstepped his bounds. He’s taking from them what they’ve determined is their right—to call the shots for their own lives.

Christians often talk about the throne of our lives and the struggle, an ongoing struggle, to let God sit in the place of authority where He, being sovereign, belongs. But those who forsake God have basically declared war on Him and have pushed Him off the throne and out of their lives. They have no struggle. They’ve decided they are in charge, and the only issue that comes up from time to time is how to make it work.

It won’t work. Not in the long run, and often not in the short run. But that’s not a fact you can argue people into believing. Most often people need to come to an end of themselves. They try and try and try and life is still falling apart, in one area or another. Many times in multiple areas.

That’s precisely what happened to Judah when Jeremiah was prophesying to them. God sent prophets and they ignored them. Then He sent adversity, but they went their own way. They thought God was the one letting them down, not rescuing them when trouble came. They didn’t understand that He wanted them to turn to Him and repent.

Here’s how God through Jeremiah described them:

“For all of them are adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” declares the LORD (9:2-3).

A few verses later, God declares His intent to punish His people for their waywardness:

“I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
A haunt of jackals;
And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”

Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? The LORD said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them” (vv 11-14).

What God wanted was for them to repent, turn back, and worship Him, but they weren’t willing. Nor are many today willing to give up going their own way. They don’t want to let God call the shots.

This atheist who made the video said as much. There came a day when he started dating the girl he said had a reputation in high school as “the party girl.” Eventually, he, the Bible guy, decided they should move in together. People in his church tried to tell him he shouldn’t but that didn’t matter. And then, shortly afterward, he started drifting away from church. And besides, God wasn’t answering his prayers about the things he didn’t understand in the Bible.

Well, sure. He’d already made up his mind about what he thought about the Bible, about God’s authority in his life. God says clearly that our sins make a separation between us and God and because of them, God’s face is hid from us so that He does not hear.

He’s not going to continue giving us living water when we’ve forsaken Him, when we’re off trying to dig our own cisterns, broken though they are. Not until we get on our knees and repent.

Water!


622860_the_rushPerhaps no one in the US today appreciates the value of water like those folks in West Virginia whose water source was contaminated by an industrial chemical leak. Their water, officials were careful to explain, was poisoned, so no amount of boiling or purifying would make it OK. Not for drinking, brushing your teeth, laundry, cooking, or bathing. Presumably the only thing it was good for was flushing toilets, and that’s at least something.

But think about it. What a horrific loss of a necessary element we largely take for granted. Schools closed. Hotels closed. Restaurants closed. The business area of downtown Charleston was as good as a ghost town.

The Governor issued a state of emergency, and the National Guard was called in to provide residents with water and food. All for the lack of water.

People in other countries and in other times understood the importance of water much more than does the average American living in the 21st century. We water our lawns and fill our swimming pools (yes, I know it’s winter, but I live in SoCal, so these are year round activities), with little thought about the precious commodity we are using.

Until we hear news like we did last week about thousands of people no longer able to use their water.

We’re in the midst of a drought here in SoCal–we had just under four inches of rain for the entire meteorological year. And this year (which started in July) isn’t shaping up to be any better.

So the issue of what it’s like to be without usable water is one we should pay attention to.

Perhaps the physical shortage of something so necessary can help us understand more clearly the metaphor God used for Himself–the Fountain of Living Water.

Here are a few passages:

But 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. (Jer. 2:11)

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)

Psalm 1 creates a picture of a flourishing tree planted by “streams of water” which bears fruit. And of course we know that a lack of water is the chief characteristic of deserts.

I’ve seen drought conditions before. When I was growing up there was a year when the stream that runs by our cabin in the mountains of Colorado dried up. That was the source of our water. Now it was a muddy ditch with pools of stagnant water attracting swarms of mosquitoes. It wasn’t a pretty place to be. What had been a relatively easy task of carrying water up to the cabin now became a search for a new source of water and an arduous job of hauling it up hill. But we still had some water.

What would it be like without any?

The most amazing truth is that God will bring water to the desert.

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.” (Isaiah 43:20)

Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion;
He will comfort all her waste places.
And her wilderness He will make like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the LORD;
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. (Isaiah 51:3)

But I think the people who don’t know they have no water will not look for Him to supply it.

How about those people in West Virginia–before they could receive the water the National Guard brought in, they first had to admit that the water coming out of their kitchen tap was not usable. They had no source of water they could use unless someone else provided it for them.

So too are we all in need of spiritual water but to receive what we need, we first have to be aware of our need.

Published in: on January 13, 2014 at 6:48 pm  Comments (2)  
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Broken Cisterns


Cistern_getting_waterAccording to Wikimedia “a cistern is a tank for storing water, usually covered. It may be as small as a toilet cistern or large enough to be essentially a covered reservoir.”

God, through the prophet Jeremiah used cisterns as a metaphor to show His people’s relationship with Him.

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 2:13)

696415_mountain_waterfallI don’t know about you, but if I were in need of water and had to choose between “living water”–the kind that flows freely, abundantly, cleanly–and water stored in a cistern, I’d take the former every time.

But God didn’t just accuse His people of choosing cistern water over living water. They were making for themselves broken cisterns–ones that couldn’t hold water at all. In other words, since we need water to live, they were abandoning the source of life in favor of their own empty effort.

What a great picture of Humankind’s attempts to make it without God. We dig and work and build and produce and save, but in the end we go out like we came in–alone.

Our own efforts to provide the love, security, purpose, sense of belonging that we all need, net us dry ground. Furthermore, one person’s attempt to do religion is no better than another person’s rejection of religion.

Water isn’t found in man-made activities. We can’t give up enough for Lent or fast often enough or even serve in homeless shelters often enough to get the water we need.

The Jews Jeremiah was talking to had left worship of the LORD their God and were serving false gods, made with their own hands. They couldn’t see how silly it was for them to pray to a statue that they had carved from a block of wood, one that could not walk or talk, and certainly could not give them Living Water.

But people in contemporary Western society aren’t any smarter. We think happiness will come if we just have enough money, just get the right job, just marry the right person, just have freedom or protection or safety or health. We go all in on things that are temporary, ephemeral, over which we have little control.

God tells us we can’t do it, that He’ll provide. But like little children we say, No, no, let me, I want to do it. So we’re hacking away to dig out these systems we think will make life make sense or fill up our loneliness or at least get us through to the weekend. It’s a sad way to live, trying to squeeze water out of the muddy mess we make.

Especially when we can turn and enjoy Living Water in abundance.

Published in: on April 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm  Comments Off on Broken Cisterns  
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Chick-Fil-A And Deflection


By now I suspect most people have moved on from the Chick-Fil-A uproar. I’m sure I could add my voice to the cacophony, but undoubtedly whatever I say would garner more groans than Tweets.

It’s the way of our culture. An issue is hot, hot, hot, until everyone is sick to death of it, and then it is buried, at least for a time. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t allow for much thoughtful, researched consideration. But I digress.

One thing I learned from this flap: the issues aren’t always the issues.

I’ve heard this before in connection with an encounter Jesus had, but I don’t think I ever saw it played out in contemporary society so clearly as I did during an number of verbal exchanges over Chick-Fil-A.

The situation in which Jesus found Himself, put Him face to face with a Samaritan woman looking to draw water. In their exchange, Jesus ended up declaring to her that He could give her living water. When she realized that He was no ordinary man, however, she deflected His offer and tried to pursue a side issue.

You’re a prophet, I can tell, she said. So what do you say about this debate the Jews and Samaritans have over where to worship God? Are we right or are you?

Jesus refused to get sidetracked. There actually was a right answer. God had given clear instructions in the Law of Moses, and Jesus could easily have set her straight. But He did not follow the rabbit trail she tried to lay out for him.

Clearly her bringing up the matter could have deflected the conversation from her personal need to what would be the religious thing to do. Jesus skillfully sidestepped her attempt and brought her attention back to Himself.

[Finally] the woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26)

No debate about the Law or the history that led to Samaria’s worship practice. Not even any recrimination for the woman’s own sinful lifestyle. He didn’t tell her to clean up her act or to move out of her “common-law” husband’s house. Instead, He invited her to drink of Living Water so that she would never thirst again.

As I see it, the Chick-Fil-A incident can be a deflection. In fact the whole same-sex “marriage” issue can be a deflection.

God does not ask anyone to clean up his act before coming to Christ. Instead, Christ died precisely because none of us is able to clean up our act. But listening to some of the chatter surrounding Chick-Fil-A, you’d think that Christians actually cared more that people didn’t engage in same-sex “marriage” than that they came to Christ for forgiveness of their sins.

Did the woman at the well continue to live in sin? The Bible doesn’t tell us. We do know that the Samaritans who believed the woman’s testimony that Jesus was the Christ asked Him to stay, so He spent two days with them. Then this:

Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:41-42)

The Savior of the world! All because Jesus ignored the woman’s attempt to deflect the conversation from her personal need to religious practice.

We know from other Scripture such as James 2 that if the woman’s faith in Christ had substance, it would show itself in actions. We also know that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). All that to say, it’s a safe bet that the Samaritan woman turned from her immoral ways–not as a condition for coming to Christ, but as a result.

If Christians really want to stand for Biblical marriage, I suggest we stop getting sidetracked and start preaching Christ. He’s the One who can cleanse the vilest heart. And that’s what sinners, gay or straight, need.

Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm  Comments (10)  
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