The Essence of Sin in Two Great Evils

Meditation on Jeremiah 2:12-13

Be appalled, O heavens at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 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

The LORD God has said that he must contend with Israel (2:9). The heavens are called upon to witness the contention that the LORD has with Israel (v. 12). God uses strong language as he commands the heavens to be “appalled”, “shocked”, and “utterly desolate”. This witness is to stand wide-eyed with jaw-dropping shock at what is seen. And what is it that causes such shock? The utter rebellion of Israel against God. But the nations also rebel against God, so why does God consider Israel’s rebellion so appalling? It is because throughout the history of Israel, God has continually proven himself faithful and true to his covenant people. It was he who brought Israel up from the land of Egypt (2:6). He “led them in the wilderness” and “brought them into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things” (2:6-7). God has again and again showered grace upon grace upon his people. He has revealed his glory to Israel. But this current generation has forgotten this. They have forgotten God and are living in deep and dark rebellion against him. It is explained with the imagery of a bride who continually commits adultery against her faithful husband (3:20). This generation came into the land given to them by God and defiled it, making it an abomination (2:7). The prophets, shepherds, and even the priests rebelled against God. This is utterly shocking, appalling, and desolate in light of God’s immense grace and power revealed to and through Israel. Oh, how egregious sin is when the one sinned against is proven to be so sovereign, holy, righteous, just, gracious, merciful, and loving!


Verse 13 continues by reiterating what the egregious, shocking, appalling, and desolate crime is.


“…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


The LORD speaks of two evils here: an abandoning of one source of satisfaction and the taking up of another, clearly lesser source of satisfaction. I believe that this is the essence of sin/rebellion. God is good, great, sovereign, holy, righteous, gracious, merciful, and loving. This living water leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the rebellious sinner. While this fountain of living water will provide the greatest and most fulfilling source of satisfaction, these rebels want no part of it. Instead, they have chosen to drink willfully from hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns at that! What utter foolishness! This is the essence of sin. All of us, outside the saving grace of God, are foolish rebels who believe that broken cisterns of sinful, worldly passions and pleasures will provide more satisfaction for our thirsting souls than the mighty fountain of the living water of God. Sin is rebelling against God. Sin is refusing to trust that God will satisfy us. We simply don’t believe that God and his inscrutable ways, that God and obedience to his holy commands will bring us satisfaction. Therefore, we seek it elsewhere, namely, in broken cisterns. While we think this is the best way, in the end we discover that our thirst persists. However, if left in our rebellion, we will continue to foolishly seek satisfaction in the broken cisterns of lust, adultery, money, and pride. Only by God’s grace can we begin to desire living water. When this grace is showered upon us, we will search for and find the satisfaction our souls so long for. We will drink deeply of the living water from the fountain of God. And through our obvious satisfaction, which is incomparable to wasteful broken cisterns, we will glorify the God who has brought us to the fountain to drink.

Father, forgive us for forsaking your life-giving fountain of soul-satisfying holiness for deadly broken cisterns of sinful passions. And thank you for the gift of living water found in Jesus that you give freely to your sheep to drink from.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)


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