Summary: Why would the Israelites accept stale stagnant water rather than the living water God offered them? Did they just wake up one morning and say "I don’t want to follow God"? Consider these intriguing thoughts.
OPEN: How many of you have ever bought “generic” products? Many of us do. We’ll go to the pharmacy and we’ll ask for the “generic” version of the medicine the Doctor has prescribed. Or, we’ll go the grocery store and purchase the store version of whatever product Kellogg’s or Seyfert’s or Land ‘o Lakes may have on the shelves.
And we don’t feel bad because there are times when accepting “substitutes”… SEEMS to make sense. Sometimes there’s ALMOST NO DIFFERENCE between the name brand and a substitute.
But, of course, that’s not always true
Centuries ago, when food production moved from the home to the factory, and the pressures of large-scale manufacturing and marketing prompted merchants to resort to… shortcuts.
Cash-hungry bakers got more dough for their dough by adding alum and sulfur of copper.
Dairymen sold cream thickened with flour, watered down milk and often added chalk or plaster of paris to perk up the color of milk that came from diseased cows.
To stretch sugar, grocers routinely added sand.
Buying butter could be an exercise in futility. Merchants would sometimes put together a collection of calcium, gypsum, gelatin fat and mashed potatoes that they passed off as butter
But oleomargarine - which was known as "bogus butter" - could be even worse. It was distilled from hog fat, bleach and other unsavory substances.
One of the most blatant cases of food adulteration occurred as recently as 1969, when a man in England was charged with selling phony grated Parmesan cheese. What he was really selling was ground up umbrella handles.
APPLY: Like I said, sometimes substitutes can be as good as the original - but sometimes not.
I. The Israelites had gotten into the habit of accepting substitutes for God
In Jeremiah 2:11 complains: “Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.”
Israel had accepted substitutes for their God.
The verse that really caught my attention in our text this morning was Jeremiah 2:13 "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.”
When I was a boy, my family owned a trailer resort on Silver Lake, up by Angola, Indiana. Down by the lake, there was an artesian well. Does anybody know what an artesian well is? It’s a source of water that literally shoots up out of the ground without any need for pumps or any artificial assistance. It’s literally “living water.”
I remember that the water from this well came out of a pipe in the ground and filled a metal horse tank. From there, it spilled out thru a hole into a little stream that fed into Silver Lake.
On hot summer days, you could cup your hands under the stream and splash the water over your head. Or you could put whole head underneath and feel the freshness of it cool your body.
And the taste???? I’ve never tasted any water since that tasted as good the water from that pipe.
Now, underneath our house, there was a cistern.
Does anybody know what a cistern is?
It’s hole in the ground, an underground tank that is designed to hold water. The eave spouts from the house emptied into the tank, and you could access the cistern from a trap door just beside the garage.
I once asked my mom once what the cistern was for and she told me the girls sometimes used it to wash their hair.
Unlike the water from the well, this was soft water.
To my knowledge, we never drank the water from the cistern. The water would have been stagnant and not exactly appealing on a hot summer day, but it was useful.
Likewise, Cisterns were a useful in many parts of the middle east. Springs weren’t always abundant, and so the people would dig wells and cisterns to catch rain water and hold whatever water they might be able to carry from other sources to be their source of drinking water for the family and their herds and flocks.
But when push came to shove, any man in his right mind wanted “living water” not cistern water.
Oddly enough, here in Jeremiah 2, we find that God is accusing Israel of preferring the stagnant waters of a cistern to the cool refreshing living water that God wanted to supply them.
II. Why would they do that? Why would they prefer stagnant water to fresh?
Well, I believe the key can be found right here in verse 13 - “they… have dug their own cisterns…”
These were “THEIR” cisterns
They owned them… it was THEIR water
They didn’t have to ask anyone… let alone God… for permission to use this water.