"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 waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Jeremiah 2: 12-13
This is not a totally random set of verses because they come from last Sunday's Lectionary. I preached a little bit about the broken cisterns, but it has been bugging me all week that I didn't say more about this imagery and how it relates to our relationship to God. To me, it seems obvious that God is telling his people, through the prophet Jeremiah, that they have come to rely far to much on themselves and on their own abilities. The Living Water, a recurring image in Scripture, refers to God's continued provision for the welfare of his people and to the promise of redemption and heavenly renewal contained in the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Yet, we have a tendency to look for ways to collect or manufacture our own provision and even to seek our own way to the Father.
Unable to shake this image, this morning another account from Scripture occurred to me. When God lead his people out of bondage in Egypt and into the desert of Sinai, he heard the cry of the people in need and provided them with food and water. God provided manna from Heaven each day for the people, but he warned that no one should collect more than their portion each day (twice that for the Sabbath), and that no one should store up the manna from day to day for it would not last. God promised to feed them, and to take more than their share or to store it up implied a mistrust that God would continue to give them everything that they needed. When the people grew tired of the manna, God provided quail so they would have meat. The message is that God provides us what we need, and it is not up to us to second guess or to doubt that he will continue to do so.
Other passages about widows with bottomless jars of flour and oil also come to mind. Then, there are a couple of places in the Gospels where Jesus provides food for some people - several thousand at a time, I believe.
There is nothing wrong with digging a cistern, as long as that is what God desires. There is nothing amiss about making plans and executing them, as long as the Holy Spirit is the author of those plans. There is nothing erroneous about believing, as long as the focus of that belief is Jesus Christ. We have everything to fear when we dig, plan and believe according to false gods and lifeless idols. Our God is a jealous God, not because he needs our undivided attention to support his flagging ego, but because he knows what is best for us, and he wants us to be righteous in his sight and present with him in the life to come.