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A Lesson from Anathoth: Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

Jeremiah reminds us we never outgrow God

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It’s tough to work hard at something, only to see your efforts eventually leak out through life’s cracks. Sometimes, however, that frustration can turn into a surprising blessing.

A Lesson from Anathoth- Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

(Photo: Anathoth looking east toward the wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Standing in his hometown of Anathoth on a wet, wintry day, the Prophet Jeremiah could look east and see grain fields lush with life. But just beyond those fields stretched the bleak and barren Judean wilderness—a land not sown with seed.

The Lord used a similar image when He told the Israelites how they had started out as a devoted people: “following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2), but then had turned from His ways.

The lesson Jeremiah wrote about from these simple elements is one we must never forget.

But too often, we do. Here’s how we can remember it.

Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

Like many villages thereabouts, Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth had no natural spring flowing with “living” water. So its residents dug cisterns—deep holes with plastered walls to catch and keep rainwater.

God used this as a metaphor for their spiritual lives:

They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters [for] broken cisterns that can hold no water. —Jeremiah 2:13

Example of a Cistern in Ataroth

(Photo: Example of a cistern in Ataroth. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As a young nation, Israel had left the lush Nile delta to follow God through the desert to a new land. But once in Canaan, where rain literally meant life or death, the Hebrews abandoned God and followed the Canaanites’ worthless idols that supposedly gave rain.

In other words, the Israelites had traded the best for the worst.

The soul of man bears the image of God; so nothing can satisfy it but He whose image it bears. —Thomas Gataker

A Lesson from Anathoth: We Never Outgrow God

It sometimes feels tempting to view God as good for salvation but a lacking what we need for real life. But God isn’t a set of jumper cables we remove as soon as we’re up and running.

Jeremiah teaches us our own efforts cannot hold water—a beautiful metaphor pointing us to trust in the Lord alone for all our needs. How many cisterns have we dug just to watch our lives leak through the cracks? How wasted are all our efforts apart from God.

Let’s follow Him as we did at first—and delight to do His will today.

Tell me what you think: What keeps you close to God as you were when you first followed Him? To leave a comment, just click here.

Going Places with God- A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the BibleLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.

• These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith.

• You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.

After going places with God, you’ll never be the same.


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