Two things are true about humanity: we were created with needs and we were created to worship. Under the master craftsmanship of a sovereign and holy God, it is revealed to us that our needs and our worship are actually tied together. What, or who, we worship will determine where we go to have our needs fulfilled. These needs aren’t limited to only physical needs. Things like intimacy, security, satisfaction, happiness, joy, hope; all of these and many more will be sought after at the places we worship. And we can find out what, or who, exactly we worship by noticing where we turn when these needs arise.
God is revealed as Jehovah-jireh (YHWH-Yireh) in Genesis, right after providing a ram en lieu of Abraham’s son Isaac as a burnt offering. This name means The LORD will provide. And throughout the narrative of the Old Testament (and eventually the New Testament, as well) God shows Himself true to that name. He provides for His children out of famine, out of slavery in Egypt, out of the wilderness, and out of captivity. But without fail, like us, Israel always turns to other gods to provide for them. Their rebellion is not simply amnesia or a lapse in memory; it is deliberate treason, intentional rebellion, and grievous adultery. This is where we find ourselves in Jeremiah 2, listening to the Lord speak through the prophet Jeremiah to His people about why they turn their backs on Him. The Lord questions His people as to why they would consistently turn their backs on the same God who has saved and provided for them time after time, asking them “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?”(Jer. 2:5).
Notice the connection God makes between what we worship and what they make us. He says Israel’s fathers pursued worthless things, and in the process became worthless. There is a direct connection between our identity and our g/God. You are as valuable as the person/thing you worship. Which brings us to the true nature of the sin the people committed against God: “for my people have committee two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13). Cisterns were essentially wells dug out of the ground that could only hold a limited amount of water; and being “hewn” out the earth, they probably tasted and looked like their surroundings, muddy, dirty and bitter. This is the indictment God has brought against His people. Instead of choosing to partake in the fountain of beautiful, clean, clear, crisp, cold, and captivating waters known as Yahweh, they preferred to drink from cisterns that could only provide unclean, filthy, sickness-inducing, muddy, dirty liquid. And, whats more, these man-made cisterns have holes in them; they cannot even hold the water! The very thing the cistern is made for is the very thing it cannot perform.
Friends, this is a most beautiful picture of idolatry. Choosing to worship anything, and anyone, other than the true and living God is choosing to put the weight of our existence, and our existential needs, on a figment of our imagination. I’m not saying false gods don’t really exist; they are just really useless. Think back to the golden calf made by the Israelites in Exodus. What exactly did they think this golden calf could do? I doubt they thought it could part the Red Sea, or that it could call down hail from Heaven. Then why did they make it? Because idolatry is pride. It is a prideful statement that says “Not only is there another in existence worthy to be called god, but this new god can also do for me what the original could not”. We turn to false gods because we refuse to believe, trust, wait, and obey the only true God. We are idolaters because we are selfish and prideful. Only pride could make a people choose to drink muddy, dirt water simply because they can do it on their own terms. The reality is that false gods will never provide what they say they can. And after expending our time and energy worshipping them, we will come away further from what we need and just as empty as when we came.
Let us be a people who repent of worshipping at the altars of false gods. As stated earlier, you will know what your god is by where you run in times of need. Let us be a people who, through the grace and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, ask for hearts that burn only at the altar of the Living God. Let us be a people who look to Christ, God the Son, who point us to God the Father. Let us ask the Lord for strength to close the lid on the cisterns which only make us sicker every time we bend down to fill our cup with its poison. And let us remember, we WILL worship; we must decide at which fountain we want our cup to be filled. You were made for living waters; it’s time to start drinking…