Where is the
By George Davis
God called Jeremiah to bring a redemptive word to
Israel. Jeremiah remembered the glorious days of the godly king
Josiah, who stood in the temple, in the midst of the people, and made
a covenant "before the LORD, to walk after the LORD…" (2 Kings
23:1-25). The death of King Josiah marked the beginning of the
Prophet's trail of tears. For those who would succeed Josiah would
make no such covenant. Therefore the land was ravaged by the ambitions
The condition of the present-day-Church is
amazingly similar to what Jeremiah faced, and as we look around us
today, we cannot help but realize that the words of Jeremiah are as
relevant today as they were then. And if by God's grace we are allowed
to see the true condition of His heritage in our day, we also, with
tearful eyes, will lament for the wholeness of Zion—knowing a similar
burden to that of Jeremiah.
In the following pages we will briefly compare the
condition of pre-captivity Israel, to that of the present-day-church.
It is important to note the condition of Israel as
God saw it. God revealed, through Jeremiah, His perspective of their
true status. We cannot read the book of Jeremiah without concluding
that God's assessment, was not Israel's assessment. Therefore Jeremiah
met with great resistance. Those who most benefited from Israel's sin,
were among his chief adversaries. Eventually the princes, in their
anger at such a message, cast Jeremiah into prison, where he stayed
until BC 588 when the Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem (37:15-38:13). In
Jeremiah 2:7 we see God's damage assessment; "…you defiled My land and
made My heritage an abomination." How had Israel defiled God's land?
How had they made His heritage an abomination? Although many of
Israel's failings were enumerated, and many of their grievous and
harmful acts recorded, amazingly, God saw only two evils. And those
two causal evils were, and are, a prelude to every evil work. Israel's
many sins were purely symptomatic—a sign or indication of two greater
"For My people have committed two evils: They have
forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves
cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water. (v13)
To God there were only two evils. And in the
committing of these two evils there followed a host of other
consequent sins, which resulted in the overall corruption of the land.
The same two root evils remain today, as the headwaters of apostasy,
and are the driving force behind a host of defiled and abominable
acts, which still plague God's people. Many self-appointed
sin-busters, while standing on their soapboxes with finger pointed,
beat at the leaves rather than lay the ax to the root of the tree.
Preoccupied with a host of sins they fail to see the greater evils.
Therefore, let us not make the same mistake—let us consider what we
shall call "the two root evils."
The first evil—forsaking God "the fountain of
Let us seek to understand what this really means.
Israel had not forsaken their religion, but they had forsaken God.
They celebrated the feasts of the Lord. They still afflicted their
souls with fasting. They yet spread "sackcloth and ashes" under them (Isa
58:5). In the midst of the religious hubbub however, they forgot the
weightier matters. They would not let the oppressed go free. They
would not loose the bands of wickedness. Nor would they undo the heavy
burdens. They refused to deal their bread to the hungry, and to bring
the poor and outcast into their homes—feeding and clothing them (See
Isa 58: 6-7). Although Israel lived for selfish and private interests,
they offered, as appeasing sacrifices, their modified versions of the
Lord's feasts. Those things that were dearest to God however were
ignored. In failing to see that God had placed them in that glorious
land for reasons far greater than their individual prosperity, Israel
defiled and polluted it with their ambitions. Accordingly, they
exhibited an utter disregard for God's eternal purpose. They sought
their own inheritance, not God's. Forgetting that the land was God's
heritage, and that He had placed them there that they would be a
peculiar people unto Him, Israel had forsaken God and consequently had
lost the burden for His glory. And in living for themselves—for their
own ambitions, His glory was no longer seen in the earth. All was
defiled and abominable. Consequently God, as a form of discipline,
withdrew His presence and blessing. As amazing as it may seem, even
the priests did not think to ask, "where is the Lord?" (Jeremiah 2:9)
Which brings us to the second root evil.
The second evil—digging cisterns
Because of their sin God withheld His blessings. He
withheld the rain required to bring the crops to fruition. (Jeremiah
3:3) It was then that Israel committed the second evil. They busied
themselves by hewing cisterns, the act of which God viewed as
defiance. And the business itself served as an ongoing distraction
from the reality of their dryness. Accordingly their hope shifted from
the Lord of heaven who sent rain in its season, to their own ability
to dig and amass reservoirs so they would not have to dependent upon
heaven for rain. So when the latter rain did not come they would have
their own store of water that they might manually water and bring the
crops to fruition. They would do their own irrigating. They were
trying in their own efforts, like a child resisting discipline, to
overcome the judgment of God.
Having forsaken "the fountain of living waters"
things were getting mighty dry. But rather than return to the
Fountain, they attempted to solve their own water problems. So the
second root evil is to compensate for the lack, resulting from the
absence of God's presence and blessing, by one's own means. This kind
of compensation is evil! Why? God sends lack and dryness to encourage
men to return to the Fountain. However, like Israel, many today have
resorted to digging their own cisterns. And those cisterns are the
spawning waters for every hateful and hurtful deed. But most
disconcerting to many, is the fact that, no matter how pretty these
cisterns look they won't hold water. Religious man would rather dig
than repent. And if you ask him why he digs he'll most likely hit you
with his shovel.
Digging is religious man's analgesic for the pain
of the haunting awareness of God's absence. He digs in hope of a
harvest. He often calls his digging "faithfulness." Meanwhile,
overhead, there is not a cloud in sight and the crops wither in dried
The first grievous symptom of the aforementioned
two root evils is a lack of attentiveness to the presence of God.
God's presence was no longer regarded with pleasure and wonder, but
was devalued to the degree that when He withdrew, no one thought to
ask, "where is God." Not even the "Priests" missed Him. "The priests
did not say, 'Where is the LORD?'" They had become so busy with their
religion (digging) that when God pulled back they didn't even know He
was gone. They did not say, as had David before them, "…let us bring
the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since
the days of Saul." (1Chronicles 13:3) David had a heart after God.
David missed God, but it did not enter the minds of the priests of
Jeremiah's day to inquire after Him. Unlike David the presence of God
was not important to them, so, they did not pine over the loss. So I
ask you my dear brothers and sisters "where is the Lord." As you look
around in your gatherings do you see Him? Or do you see cisterns,
cracked cisterns that will hold no water? Do you dig in hope, only to
see one failed harvest after another. Do you partake of the Fountain
of living waters, or drink from the cisterns of men? Have you like
Israel, come to trust in religion rather than God? Here once again the
Prophets words are relevant. "Do not trust in these lying words,
saying, 'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of
the LORD are these.'" (Jeremiah 7:4)
Rather that return to the Fountain, do we trust in
our temples? Do we trust in our denomination? Do we place our trust in
some new program, in hopes that life will result? Do we put our trust
in men, like the princes of Israel, who because of their vested
interests will not hear the Lord's plea? Who trust in their cisterns
more than the Fountain of Living Waters? Do we compensate for the lack
of God's blessing and presence by digging? Having begun in the Spirit
are we now attempting to finish in the flesh? Do you yearn for the
return of the ark? Do you look back on former days, days of the
nearness of God's presence—days of refreshing, brought by the rain of
heaven? Is your heart crying, "where is the Lord?" If so, listen
carefully to the words of the prophet Amos.
For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
"Seek Me and live; But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass
over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And
Bethel shall come to nothing. (Amos 5:4)
Do we seek Bethel (the house of God) or El-Bethel
(the God of the house of God)?
Do we trust in lying words, saying, 'The temple of
the LORD…?" Do we seek Bethel or the Fountain of living waters?
Please don't think that I am judging anyone here,
for I have dug many a fine cistern, only to watch in dismay as the
water leaked out. It is embarrassing to recount all the times that I
went back to the drawing-board to engineer the new and improved,
leak-proof cistern, and would leave the drafting-room with a newfound
zeal, heralding the cry "come on boys, let's dig." But before long the
weary diggers would fall out one by one until all that was left was a
cistern, which despite our efforts to the contrary, looked and leaked
exactly like all the others. Ashamedly, I must admit, I was not a
quick study. It took quite some time for the Lord to rend the shovel
from my hands. So please, consider all that has been said here, as the
plea of an ex-digger attempting to spare all would-be-diggers the
misery and grief he has known. I spent many years seeking Bethel. O
how I thank God, that in His mercy he withdrew any sense of His
presence! He shut up the rain of heaven! He seemed to dry every brook,
until all was parched, causing my thoughts to return to the Fountain.
And then, weary and bankrupt from all my fruitless digging and amazed
that I had not thought to do so sooner, I ask, "where is the Lord?"
"Where is the Lord in all that I have done?" His answers slowly began
to wash upon my heart. Whereupon I began the journey of discovering
that He is neither in Bethel, nor in Beersheba or Gilgal. He is not in
this mountain or that. He is not in the temple but is himself a
Fountain of living waters springing up from within.
I would ask you now dear reader, a question that
should govern all that we do—a question that will test every work and
ambition of our hearts. A question, that if answered honestly, will
set one's feet on the path to the Fountain. It is the question that
the princes and the priests of old failed to ask. And so I ask it
now—more a prayer than a question—"where is the Lord?"
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