Fresh Water in Jeremiah: The Fountain of Life

Fresh Water in Jeremiah: The Fountain of Life

Fresh Water in Jeremiah: The Fountain of Life.

“The Lord gave me this message: ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, I’m too young, for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, ‘Look, I have put my words in your mouth!’” (Jeremiah 1:4-9).

Success or Failure? Spiritually speaking, Jeremiah was an astounding success story. He remained faithful to God’s calling during his entire forty years as prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. Humanly speaking, though, Jeremiah was a dismal failure. Despite his consistent prophetic efforts as God’s spokesman, the nation refused to listen throughout his ministry. The people stubbornly refused to turn from their sins of idolatry and immorality. The people ignored his words all forty years, and the consequences were dire. He prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of their sinfulness, and his prophecies came true. Tragically, Jeremiah was witness to the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the people exiled into enemy territory. But all was not lost. Jeremiah also predicted that after the destruction and captivity, God would send a Messiah with a new covenant and an eternal hope. Despite his frequent gloom and doom, Jeremiah’s faithfulness and hopefulness makes him the ultimate success story.

Jeremiah began his holy foolishness as a young man in Jerusalem, and he continued there for 40 years. He was routinely rejected by everyone in his prophetic ministry: Friends, family, neighbors, religious leaders, and even the kings who he served under in the palace. The only king who welcomed Jeremiah was Josiah, a staunch reformer. Otherwise, Jeremiah was rebuffed or ignored through the three remaining kings of Judah during his ministry. Nobody listened to Jeremiah as he preached about God’s judgment, the need for repentance, the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He was treated accordingly, having had to endure whippings, being put in stocks, thrown into prison, lowered deep into a dry well. While in the well he was miserable, and he was finally rescued by an Ethiopian eunuch who pulled Jeremiah out of the well with ropes. He was also taken captive and forcibly removed to Egypt after the fall of Jerusalem. It’s difficult to take a light-hearted approach to Jeremiah’s ministry. He wasn’t called the “weeping prophet” for nothing.

“The Word of Yahweh… ‘My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters; and they have instead dug for themselves broken wells in the ground that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Yahweh Speaks a Hard Word. The Lord doesn’t waste any time getting into the point of His outrage. In chapter 2 we find a God who is brokenhearted over the unfaithfulness of His chosen people in Jerusalem. God deeply laments their disloyalty and spiritual estrangement. He mourns over the loss of the relationship He had with them in the wilderness, when Israel was His selected bride and with devoted love held Yahweh up as their spiritual husband (2:2). The Lord even suggests that their time in the wilderness together was like a spiritual honeymoon which has completely vanished.

Yahweh continues speaking like a rejected lover, and it is difficult for us to read… What did My people find wrong with Me? What made them turn their backs on Me and walk away without a backward glance? They chased after nothing, and they foolishly became nothing in the process. They didn’t even bother to ask where I was or where I went. But of course, I didn’t leave them. They left me! After all I’ve done for them, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, guiding them by the hand in the wilderness, bringing them to their own fruitful promised land. And their short memory breaks My heart. The priests don’t ask about Me, the scholars of my Word don’t know who I am, the leaders continue to rebel against Me, and even my beloved prophets now speak for Baal! This is dreadful and tragic! My own people have exchanged Me for worthless, empty gods! They have unthinkingly traded me, the Glory of their nation, for something of no value whatsoever!

Shocked and Appalled. Yahweh continues to express His outrage in verse 12… “This is horrifying!” The word Jeremiah uses here is the Hebrew word “sommu,” and this is such a dramatic utterance that this is the only time it is used in the entire Hebrew Bibe. Sommu means feeling absolutely desolated; shuddering in absolute horror; astonished; awestruck; shocking; appalling; causes one to throw up one’s hands in disbelief; aghast; trembling with dismay and disgust. Sommu…  The very heavens above shrink back in horror and are shocked at such a thing! The sky itself is astonished at this display of disloyalty and rebellion, such brazen unfaithfulness!

The Flowing Fountain and the Broken Well. Yahweh then inspires Jeremiah to offer this insight: My people reject Me, a naturally flowing fountain that will always provide fresh spiritual water for them, and they have chosen instead to dig a pit in the ground for rainwater that has cracks, and will leak, and thus become absolutely worthless. In other words, Yahweh is the only source of living water they will ever need, and they instead exchanged it for a cracked pit that will hold no water and is utterly worthless. The Lord your God is a fountain of everlasting life, and all these gods you are chasing are empty, pointless, and deal only in death.

Inspired Imagination. Yahweh, in 2:20-29, continues to express His astonishment at Israel’s impudence by inspiring Jeremiah to offer a variety of comparisons. Jeremiah told the people what their disloyalty looks like, and compares Israel to: an ox that has broken out of its yoke; an unfaithful spouse enticed by other lovers; a noble vine that has turned into a degenerate plant; a man who washes with soap but still can’t get clean; a lost camel wandering with no direction; a wild donkey in heat, sniffing everywhere for sex; a thief who is ashamed only after being caught.

Idols and gods. Can any of these comparisons be applied to us today? Of course it can. It’s quite possible we are being enticed by other lovers, digging wells that hold no water. Broken cisterns can be found just about anywhere… obsessive addictions; the compulsive need to be entertained; selfish ambition to be a worldly success; the feeding of a ravenous ego; grasping at power and control; the acquisition of adult toys and material things; beauty; youthfulness; fame. And there’s a lot more where that came from, and all of them are simply contemporary nicknames for Baal. The problem is that all of those wells are cracked, they won’t hold water, and the only supply of living water come from our merciful, wise and almighty God.

“How priceless, how extravagant, God, is your mercy and grace!

Both high and low of the children of Adam, all of humanity, can find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Everyone can feast on the abundance at your table, the rich bounty of your house.

All may drink their fill from your delicious river, your refreshing stream, the delightful springs of Eden.

For with you is the fountain of life.”  (Psalm 36:7-9).

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