When I was an English teacher, I loved teaching about contrast in literature and helping my students to understand what happens when we consider together a pair of two strikingly dissimilar objects, things, or persons. The created juxtaposition often serves a greater literary purpose, and we find such an example in full at the end of today’s reading from Jeremiah.
Speaking through the voice of the prophet, God claims the moniker, “the fountain of living water.” God is a naturally flowing spring whose sustenance is always enough. A cistern, on the other hand, is made by humans. When God’s people choose to ignore the living water springing up before them, they miss the point of God as water. Their best efforts result in broken cisterns, worthless things. The contrast between a naturally flowing spring and shattered vessels that cannot profit their makers is blatant from our twenty-first-century perspective: as one theologian said, it’s like “digging a canal alongside a navigable river.”* The people of Jeremiah’s time could not recognize the gift of God directly in front of them.
Today, Christ springs up all around us. The gifts of God beckon us to take notice, to breathe in the aroma of pine trees on a walk around the lake, to chew slowly the tomatoes and lettuce from the backyard garden. Whether in nature, in people, in scripture, or in silence, God offers life abundant. Too often we overlook this fountain of living water as we seek to make our own way. May we heed Jeremiah’s call and not miss God’s bountiful, evident gift of enough.
*Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Isaiah and Jeremiah (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1906), 250.
God, give me the eyes to see, the ears to ear, the mouth to taste, the fingers to feel, and the nose to smell the gift of you already all around me. Amen.
Jeremiah (the “weeping prophet”) is not very popular in his time. In this passage he relates a message from God that the people have forsaken God (living water) and put their trust in things that can never satisfy (leaky cisterns). The psalmist expresses similar frustration from God. Israel will not listen to God’s voice or receive God’s provision, so God allows them to experience the unfortunate consequences of their choices. The author of Hebrews provides practical advice for living the Christian life: showing hospitality, caring for those in prison, honoring marriage, and avoiding materialism. This ethical living is an offering to God. Jesus reinforces this in his parable of the banquet. We should be generous to those who need it most, not just to those who can provide us some benefit in return.
Read Jeremiah 2:4-13. When have you missed the fountain of living water springing up before you?
Read Psalm 81:1, 10-16. How is God seeking to provide for you? Are you willing to accept God’s satisfying provision?
Read Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16. How do you or your faith community share hospitality? Do you distinguish between friends and strangers?
Read Luke 14:1, 7-14. Whom do you invite to your home and to your church? Do you invite those who cannot repay you or only those who can?
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