Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, August 28, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, "Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?" I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, "Where is the Lord?" Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children's children. Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
Nobody Likes a Water Main Break
You see, first, they have forsaken or turned away from God, the one he called “the fountain of living water,” an image Jesus used later when he was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. And if we don’t know specifically what Jeremiah had in mind, we can look at what he just said, you know, how they “went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves” and how they stopped asking "where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives." Now that’s one evil thing they did, they turned from God.
And then, second, they “...dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” In other words, as he said a little bit before, “those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. In fact, they “...changed their glory for something that does not profit,” something both appalling and shocking. Now those were the two evil sides of idolatry that the people during the time of Jeremiah were doing, an action that led to something as a worthless as a cracked cistern or, for us, a broken water main.
I mean, sometimes we kind of turn away from God. My goodness, we forget a lot of the stuff he’s already done, and I’m talking about how, through Jesus Christ, we are a new creation, our past has been nailed on the cross and our future is as secure as the tomb was empty. We move that to the back burner. But not only that, we tend to forget what God wants all people to do, namely to love him and love one another. My gosh, it’s not rocket science, but when we’re talking about everything we think we should be doing, loving one another doesn’t generally make the top ten. And so, like those folks from Judah, there are times when we’ve ...”forsaken [God], the fountain of living water.”
Just like there are times when we choose to “...dug out cisterns for [ourselves], cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” And don’t we do that when we turn to other stuff, and start trusting that more health and more wealth and more happiness can guarantee our future, not unlike the guy in a parable told by Jesus that we now call the rich fool? You know the story: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” You see, I think it’s pretty easy to slip into the same kind of thing that tripped up Jeremiah’s friends and neighbors.
But here’s the good news, because Jeremiah wrote this stuff about worthless idols and cracked cisterns, we have it in our power to do something about it. In other words, right here and right now, we can make the choice to reject the idols and to follow God. And we can do it by making two decisions.
And then we can trust, and I’ll tell you, this is really cool. You see, we can decide that we’re going to trust that God has already done everything that it says he did and he’ll do everything he promised to do. Now this is what faith is all about. And like I said it really does come down to a decision. It’s like this famous theologian wrote. Faith is like stepping through a door into a dark room. When you do that, you’ve decided to believe that there’s a floor on the other side. You see, we can do the same thing with God. And I’ll tell you, when we do, something r
eally remarkable happens. Suddenly we see God present all around us. And the shame that we might have felt about ourselves, it gradually melts away, because we start seeing ourselves as we’re seen by our heavenly Father, and I’ll talking about flawed creatures that he loved before he laid the foundation of the universe. And the fear and doubt we might have had as we face the future, that’s replaced with a gentle assurance that in God’s hands, we’re going to be fine. In spite of what’s happening all around us, in the end, we’ll be fine. Now, that’s what I mean, when I say we can turn toward God and that’s the second thing we can do.