We greet everyone in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful day it is that we can sit at the feet of Jesus Christ.
These days I received a phone call from a dear friend - a Zulu lady. She told me that she had something on her heart and asked whether I could speak about it. What I say this morning is what that lady had on her heart. The main points of the sermon are from her. This makes things easy the key is that the Lord will bless His word.
Today’s text is from Jeremiah 2.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 2:1-3
11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, 13 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 2:11-13.
There is so much depth in this word. This was Jeremiah’s first sermon. People often complain that KwaSizabantu always preaches about sin but this man’s first sermon was powerful and a hard word. We should not speak about sin, it is said, but we should speak about many other things. Ask yourself why are like this? Do not point at others. Man has one problem - his own evil heart. If you do not allow Christ to change your heart, you will need to be woken up many times.
In this text the Lord is crying. He is shaking Jerusalem and saying, “Listen to what I’m saying!” The Lord cries with a loud voice – possibly with tears running down his face, saying, “My children, listen for once!” Why? Israel was His chosen child. He wanted the best for Israel, however, nothing else had helped thus far, so he thought that this message might. If the Lord never forgets his children, how can parents forget their children? Children, children, listen! It broke the heart of God when he saw the state of His children. How much more doesn’t it break the heart of parents when they see the state of their children? It breaks their hearts. Do you hear that children? You often break your parents’ hearts. When you make a mistake, your parents carry the burden, they go through the pain, even if they bless you on your backside. Especially a disrespectful child who speaks like they want to. If you disrespect your parents and cannot honour them, you will reap it in your own children one day. A child has the guts to speak in a disrespectful manner to their parents, who may remain silent in front of them, but then go and cry in the room. God is crying into your ears today.
Listen to what God remembers: He remembers what is dear to His heart. That is also what parents remember - your devotion to God, not the money you make or how good you are at school, but your devotion to and love for God. God says, “My children, this is what I remember of you.” What is it like with you? Must God remind you how you once lived for the Lord and nothing was too difficult for you. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Revelations 2:4. You have left uncultivated and fallow land. Your life is uncultivated, there are only weeds. Once there was something that spurred you on, that drove you but today you need to be pushed, you only do things because you have to. The Lord says this is why He cries. Think of how light you felt and how easy it was in the past but today you drag your feet.
Another translation says: You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Rev 2:4 (NLT) This is why you are cold and indifferent to others. The Bible says, 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. 1 John 4:20 But God says that He can see that you have forsaken even this. If you desert from the army, you turn your back on those you were fighting with and on your captain. Shaka said to his warriors that if he found a wound on a man’s back, he would kill him when they arrived home, since it indicated the warrior had deserted him. Shaka did not like cowards.
Jeremiah says, “Israel, where are you? I still vividly remember that first love.” Now, as you listen to the services at home, you listen with half an ear. Do you recall how close you were to the Lord and how you heard His voice? Remember how you used to pray and tell others about Christ? May God help us, that that fire would grow in our lives.
It is difficult to hear a parent say that they remember your love. Remember how you used to sing in your heart and there would be a song when you woke up in the morning? God remembers it because He loves you and wants the best for you. He cries and says, “My child, you were holy, something that was dedicated.” God had His plans for you but today He cries and asks, “My child, where are you? You have deserted your high calling because the standard was too high for you or because others spoke to you and put you in the wrong direction.” You will go to hell, not because of what others have said, but because you listened. You will be the most miserable person around because you listened to what the next person said - which was not from God. Do not blame others. You should have an ear to discern what others say because the fire of love burns in your ear. You should be able to discern that what you have heard is not what the Lord has taught us in His word. You have chosen, what you say is more scriptural. You run from a gospel that burns your conscience. You desert it. 6 For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 7:6. This is the reason He cries. You are holy. You are set apart. That is why He says that Israel was holiness. Nothing less. Holiness.
If you do not want to go this way, leave it. But God cries in your ears and says, “My child, listen for once!” Peter says in 1 Peter 1:9 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. God wants the best - even if it costs you everything. It is not too difficult because He made a way for us. God said to Israel, “I chose you, you are mine. I wanted to do something through you.” That is why He cries and says, “Oh, Jerusalem if only you would understand.”
11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord…Jeremiah 2:11
This the work of the evil one: He wants us to exchange the glory for something worthless. Will you exchange God’s glory for the filth that you see on the streets of our country? You must be mad! God says, “Has anyone ever done that? Yes, My people are doing that. Not the heathen. My people have done this.” Think of the words God uses. Shrink with horror at the behaviour of these people - My chosen people. The Almighty refers to the heavens, the moon, the sun and the stars. How can they look on man who has fallen to such an extent? It is like a horror film. How can the sun still shine on such evil? It should lose its brightness and shrivel up. When the Lord hung on the cross, the sun hid its face because He carried the sins of the world. How can the sun shine with brightness when mankind has done such things? In Hebrew there is a special word for this, ‘let your hair stand up.’ (Those who gel their hair demonstrate that they are shocked and horrified with their lives.) God asks, “Did I create you for that? Is that my best?”
Creation could not look on its Creator when He carried the sin of the world. But now we let our Creator carry it. It is a horror. It is a shocking thing when man leaves the place that God ordained for him. It is no wonder that the Lord cries. It is as if the Lord cannot speak loudly enough, hard enough. We pray that by His spirit His soft still voice would speak in your heart today.
Now we reach the crux. 13 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. This is the danger today.
There are 2 evils. 2 in the Bible is significant. 2 means unity between Christ and his church, or between a husband and wife. That is one side. Alternatively, it means separation, division. Friends, it should stir our hearts. This which His children went through. Separation from God and then from one another. Which part of 2 do you belong to? What is the fruit of your life? No wonder God cries because you do not see or understand. You blame others. Instead of bringing unity and love, you have brought dissension between God’s people. You are masters in creating division in your own homes. You think you have the right to do so because you are the mother. God cries in your ears and says, “My child, I don’t know that - especially from you.”
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 They have forsaken me the living water and secondly, they have made their own cisterns. God says, “You have deserted me who knew best and secondly you have taken hard solid rock to hew out cisterns.” Your heart has become rock hard and yet in this heart you want to create a cistern to hold water. It will not hold water. What you are doing is useless. It is cracked and it will not hold water. The Lord says that He is the fountain, the place where the water bubbles out. But now there is no longer living water bubbling out, only evil.
A cistern was made to collect surface water which could be dirty. No wonder God cries and says, “Don’t you see that it doesn’t work?” Before God punishes a person, God warns him and cries in His ears saying, “It’s not my desire, I’m warning you. Turn from your ways. If you do not, God’s wrath will come down on you.”
Grace in Christ is compared to water from a fountain. This refreshing water is the grace of Christ that comes to a person. How can you neglect it? Recall how that grace worked in your life, but where are you today? You think things are the same, but if you are honest, things are different. It cannot be the same. The water from this fountain is cool. When it is hot and difficult, it cools. It refreshes and gives new strength and hope. You have forsaken what you had. It is no wonder you find yourself in a hopeless state. This water cleanses. You cannot wash in dirty water because you will not be cleansed. The fountain that comes from the deep refreshes and cleans. It makes you fruitful. Living water quickens dead sinners. It brings dead people to life again. It revives drooping saints. It revives you like a child. This water maintains your spiritual life. It always flows and it will flow out of your life. Why do you want to forsake that which God showed you in the beginning? Is there something better?
One of the reasons you forsake God is because you neglect God’s word and take it lightly. Other things are more important to you. You should read it because it is a fountain of life. Instead of it exercising your faith, you neglect it and other things become more important like your cell phone. You carry it on you all day, but what about God’s word? No preacher or counsellor can change things for you. You need to do it yourself. Do you understand why you have become cold and why things have become so difficult for you? You must be self-controlled. If you are not, you will go down a route you should not. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. We all need that in our lives. In Amos 8:12 we read 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. Now you have started wandering up and down in the desert, seeking but not finding. That is why God is crying in your ears. You are busy with your own cisterns which you think are important and right. God says, “What? You spend your time hewing things out of rock. I have something much easier. Just come and drink. You are trying to dig your own cisterns, forget about that, come and drink of the living water.” You have tried everything. Only one thing will help - God alone. Your cistern is leaking. Rev Stegen has preached to us about being strong and standing but you are leaking.
Before the revival there was something shook Rev Stegen: he used God’s word as a mirror which says: 38 Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38. How can you believe the Scripture if it is not your best friend? God’s word is like dew. It falls when it is the darkest. When it is the most difficult, the dew should be there. Dew requires two things to form: The temperature must cool down and it should be dead quiet. There must be no wind. Then the dew falls. A heart confused with sin will not experience this. When Rev Stegen and the group read this word - streams of living water - they reached the fountain that they teach us about. They took time to drink from this fountain.
Friend, do you have that living water that can refresh others? Your fountain brings division and disunity. Is that the true fountain? How can you believe in something you do not take seriously? You hear it, but it is not good enough. Go and study it. Ask God to speak to you and use the word in your heart. When Rev Stegen started putting aside what was wrong and not excusing things ‘because we are just human’, the waters started flowing. Go home. Take your time. Ask God about these living waters.
…broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 Broken cisterns cannot hold water. You are sinking. We will know the truth and it will set us free. Is the truth still setting you free or are you returning to where you came from - a hole or a well?
When Jesus came to the well, He found the Samaritan woman. She had to draw water every day, work every day. The Lord addresses her life. How can I give you this precious water if you live such an immoral life? Hollywood or Bollywood has told the world that it is normal to live like the Samaritan woman, but God says it is not. What the world creates as normal is the greatest evil. God says, “My child, do away with it in your life. Why do you hold onto it? If you do away with it, my grace will reach your heart and suddenly you will find refreshing water flowing from your life.” You have your own ideas, and you listen to those who bring division in the name of the Lord.
The Bible says that not only will you create your own cistern but it will also be full of cracks. Imagine carrying water with a leaking bucket. People will think you are crazy and say, “But don’t you see that your bucket is leaking?” This is why people attack the gospel Rev Stegen preaches and say the standard is too high. He had to pay a price which you are unwilling to pay. You say the standard is too high – after all we live in this world. After years of living years on the mission you have the guts to call it a cult! Do you know what you are saying? It is no wonder you are digging your own things because you are neglecting what you should take seriously.
God cries and says, “Be quiet!” In the beginning your heart was on fire and there was love. What a wonderful place you said it was but now you slander it. Remember the devotion of your youth. Now that you are older, you say that it is mainly the older people who talk in this manner and they teach the young. You say that we will lose the young people. We will not lose young people because of the gospel but because of their own sinful hearts. They have hewn out leaking cisterns for themselves.
You compromise in such a spiritual way. You cannot not take a stand and say, “Children, this and this is wrong.” At home you are like a bullfrog and everyone must sing like you. If the child does not croak like the bullfrog, it is evil and wrong. Parents, is that a living fountain? You are the only one who can do anything right, no-one else can. Remember this: the people who come to the well can see that it is cracked. Children are not stupid. They can see a cistern that is cracked and leaking. Instead of giving life, you create it by force. You make it. You make your rules. No wonder you are like you are. You have your rules and regulations which are not from heaven. You speak so piously and softly but your heart is hard. Every Sunday you fetch water but on Monday it is empty. Where are your children? They become sick. Have you asked them why? If you have living water, it revives. Not by force, but by life. There are so many ways in which we can make rules but there is no life.
19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. Jeremiah 2:19
Children, do not go down this route. An 80-year-old can carry a burden of sin from youth. She might have aborted a child. Christ forgives, but can she just forget it? My grandfather used to smoke, God forgave him, but he died from it. Become still, listen, and drink living water. This is why we say do not look at pornography. It will hurt you. It will make you vomit and if you vomit, the devil will be there.
Arthur Rubenstein, a great pianist said, “If I omit to practice one day, I notice it. If I don’t practice for 2 days, my friends notice it. (People around you notice there is a wrong note coming from you. A fountain cannot have good and bad water.) If I don’t practice for the third day, the public notice it.
This is why it is so important to let that refreshing fountain work in our lives, every day so that it washes away that stink. The blood of Christ and the truth leads us to it and it cleanses us, heals and makes us new. 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 Joshua said that they should consecrate themselves, make an obvious decision that this is the way I want to go. God wants to do wonders. He wants to give us the best, but he needs you and me. He says, “Give your life, consecrate it, put it on the altar where it belongs, and you will feel God working in your life.”
God wants to bring heavenly rain. Just look at how the desert has bloomed. Do you want to give that up? That water will flow from your innermost being and will change the desert. Don’t you want your life to be like that? There was nothing there. Only desert sand. It was deserted. Even though you have deserted the Lord, He says, “This is what I want for you.” God says, “You have deserted your first love, but if you return and do what I say, your life will be like that revived desert and everyone will marvel at what I have done through your life.”
Conclusion: Albu van Eeden
Friends, what makes this place so special is that we have people from different places, nations and cultures together. They are united because they did not fall into the trap of hewing out their own cisterns. They have stayed faithful and dependant on the well of living water in everything they do. This is the foundation we have received from our older people. I do not know how often I have gone for advice and received the answer, “Go and pray about it and see how the Lord leads you.” To hew out a cistern can be to have your laws. You have all the measurements. In this situation, I do this because my laws say this. In that situation I do that because my laws say that. This is what happened in many revivals and many people have left this place because they fell into the trap of making and using their own laws. The laws are not bad. They were laid down years ago by men of God who followed Him. I too, followed their rules and theology, but it robbed me of contact with the living God, that living fountain, which is so deep, and I can scoop answers that I could never have thought of with my own mind. As collapsible as it might look in the eyes of people, it stands firm today as it has always stood. People have left from time to time, sometimes a few, sometimes a hundred but what we have learned from Rev Stegen remains standing. What a blessing it is for, a white man, to go to a black brother or sister who is standing firm and scoop from this fountain and ask for advice. This is the foundation on which we stand.
Those who leave accuse us of having laws, but it is because they are living by their own laws. It is easy to slip away from God’s grace and to trust your own cistern, but by God’s grace there is nothing like that amongst us. Rev Stegen said: My prayer is that those who follow me will be more on fire that I have been. I trust that God will answer that prayer.
Let me invite you, friend are you not tired of scooping from your own cistern - your same old rules and laws? Come to the living water. We heard about the lady who came to the Lord and had to rid herself of the sins that stopped her from getting that water. It is more precious than gold and by God’s grace I am willing to die for it.