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Home : Articles :
Where is the Lord

 

Where is the Lord
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 of men.

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 disorders.

"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 living waters."

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 earth.

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?"

George Davis

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