Jeremiah 2: 9-13 (NIV)
9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the LORD. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD.
13 “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.”
Newly commissioned by YHWH as his prophet (Jeremiah 1: 5), the young Jeremiah nevertheless boldly delivered to the people of Judah the words given him by the LORD. God used a rhetorical device to make a point: “Has a nation ever changed its gods?”
Such would have been unheard of among the pagan nations surrounding Judah (and nearby Israel before the exile). Yet it is clear that God was holding his own people guilty of apostasy. His chosen people had exchanged faithfulness to the LORD for worthless idols. They had committed not one sin but two: they had forsaken YHWH and had then fabricated idols that were no gods and had preferred to place their reliance on these!
In the same way that this timeless passage spoke to Judah before the exile, it speaks to so many Western democracies today. Our nation has been built on Christian principles and has developed as a consequence of a rich Christian heritage. The roots of this heritage date well before colonisation; they are evident in the institutions of law and governance introduced by the colonising authority.
Today, a large proportion of the people of this nation has forsaken the God of our forebears, preferring instead to devote its attention to other pursuits. These pursuits, including self-indulgence, materialism, individualism, even devotion to the created order rather than its Creator, are a form of idolatry. People have forsaken the spring of living water. They have preferred to draw contaminated water from polluted sources in the faulty belief that human imagination, reason and will can exercise some “control” over these ineffective sources.
Implicit in the declarations of the LORD pronounced by the prophet Jeremiah are calls to repent and return to the “spring of living water”.
Today we who trust in Jesus as our Lord recall his metaphors referring to the same “living water”:
- Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 13-14).
- On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7: 37-38).
Remain with, return to, the source of this living water, regardless of the phony temptations of this world.
O Lord, we gratefully accept the salvation you have given us in Jesus through your divine grace. Preserve us from any temptation to try to work out our own salvation through idolatry or the works of man. Amen.