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 2:13
One of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar. The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out. The warden is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor. The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”
As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background. “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover. I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.” Really?
I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing). In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else. That thing becomes our driving force to what we do. Then we become idolaters.
I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots. Like someone should have said: “Wake up! How did we fall so far? Get rid of these idols!” Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.
If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’ The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging natural pleasures for unnatural ones. Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it. Again, that’s not us! Or is it?
I don’t have a shovel in my hands. Or do I? When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge. How could they? God had just parted the Red Sea. Do they have amnesia? God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long. How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly? It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it. I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.
My broken cisterns cost me. They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water. They don’t deliver. I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.
I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves. I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms. I’m not so good at spotting my own. Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are. When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car. I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.” It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.
Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s. I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s. I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was. I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it. Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain. Is my job and my position my broken cistern? Is money my golden calf? Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?
Brad Bigney: “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously. In that moment, He’s coming after you. He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols. Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure. Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139: 23-24