Living Water (5th Sunday Combined Worship, WPPC & FBCWP)
We Baptists and Presbyterians believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. It was written by men but breathed into life by God himself. We also believe, that as God’s Word, the Bible is authoritative… and wholly sufficient. It contains everything we need in order to live a life of faithful obedience to God.
Of course, being God’s Word… the Bible is filled with beautiful, poetic language and wonderful literary images. It takes such poetry and imagery to even begin to express the glory of God (and even then, it barely scratches the surface)!
One such image, is found in our scripture lesson, as Jeremiah refers to God as “the spring of living waters.”
We know a little about waters here in West Point! After all, we do have a 56,000 acre lake in our backyard… and we live in a river valley. Water is abundant here – sometimes too abundant. In fact, a few years ago when the Governor was calling on all Georgians to pray for rain because of drought… and as many communities across our state faced the very real threat of running out of water… we had millions of gallons literally flowing through our city limits - every hour. Which is simply to say… we’re blessed. We know little of water scarcity here, because we live in the midst of God’s abundance!
And that flowing, life giving river, that we so often take for granted… serves as a reminder to me (and hopefully to you), of the living water of God.
Of course, a fountain of living water refers to a source of fresh, flowing water… not unlike our river… because a spring (or fountain) of living water is always available… it doesn’t run dry during times of little to no rain.
A cistern, on the other hand, is a manmade object used to store rainwater. Cisterns are sometimes needed when a fountain of living water - such as a river, or a deep well, is unavailable. If you’ve ever visited a Civil War era fort (Fort Morgan, Gaines, Palaski or Sumpter) they have large cisterns for collecting rainwater.
But cisterns can be problematic… The water stored in a cistern has to be used, and replenished, fairly often… because it’s not flowing… and can become stagnant. On top of that, cisterns can break, and the stored water can seep out and be lost… making the cistern useless.
In the second chapter of Jeremiah, the Prophet is comparing God to idols. The Lord is the fountain of living water, while idols are broken cisterns. The point couldn’t be more obvious. Blessings will come upon the people if they trust in the Lord. God brings showers of blessing… abundant resources… even victory over enemies. The Lord Himself is the source of life - and sustenance. Idols, on the other hand, can provide nothing, and are as useless as broken cisterns.
An illustration of this truth is found in Jeremiah 14. The people had turned to their idols for rain and a great harvest… and by doing so, they’d turned their backs on God. Their actions led to a drought… their crops were destroyed. The idols they prayed to were like broken cisterns. In fact, Jeremiah says that during the drought, the people went to literal cisterns, hoping to find water, but none was to be found (Jer 14:1-6). The whole land suffered! The image of idols being like broken cisterns was being lived out, as the land was littered with empty cisterns.
With as bleak a picture that Jeremiah paints of idols, and the futility of trusting in false gods (who are no gods at all)… he paints a stunningly beautiful picture of the Lord. God is the One who provides. When His people are thirsty, or have any other need, God is their source of help. God is ever-faithful, a steady dependable supply… a fountain of living water.
Jeremiah’s desire, his purpose and hope, was for the Israelites in his day to see the greatness of their God. In their land, a fountain of living water was rare and precious… a blessing. So, Israel should look to God, and God alone, for strength and sustenance… and abandon useless idols.
Of course… my guess is, when most of us in church today hear of Living Water, we think of Jesus! Right? Jesus knew the power of this image from Jeremiah and used it during his conversation with a woman at a well.
He told her – very clearly, without mincing words - that He had a fountain of living water. He would give it to her if she believed in the gift of God, the gift of everlasting life… and the Giver of that gift, Himself, the Messiah (John 4:10-14).
And as great as the picture of God is in Jeremiah 2, the image that Jesus offers… is even greater! The water He speaks has nothing to do with broken cisterns or providing plenty of water during drought… or even ample water to avoid daily visits to a well.
Jesus offers to satisfy our greatest need and thirst. The water Jesus offers springs up into eternal life (John 4:14). Before we believed in Him, receiving his offer of living water, we did not have such life. But when we believed, we received, at that moment, the unending, eternal, everlasting life that we have now… and forever. This Living Water is so satisfying, as Jesus told the woman, she only needed to drink it once. She could never lose it or be thirsty for it again.
Of course, we can’t find the Living Water in broken cisterns! The government can’t give it – our bank accounts can’t – our churches, pastors can’t offer it… our politicians are useless. To trust such things, to look for life in such things… is as futile as trusting a broken cistern in a time of drought.
Our only source… is the Lord… Jesus himself.
He took Jeremiah’s beautiful imagery about the grace of God… and made it richer, fuller, more meaningful!
Jesus is the Living Water of eternal life! And, as the Word of God says, “whoever drinks the water (Christ gives) will never thirst again. Indeed, the water (Jesus gives) will become… a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Thanks be to God, for his abundant blessings!
For this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.