Through the prophet Jeremiah, God files grevance against His special, covenant people. He delivers His breach-of-contract complaint in two-lines. "They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and they have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2.13 NIV.)
I said previously that since God Himself calls this two sins, He leads us to break this parallelism unit down, though the two are related. We will look today at the second sin. His covenant people "have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
This image provides a metaphor for the sin of idolatry. Many peoples worship gods other than the LORD. Idols strickly speaking involves an image set up for worship. It has been broadly applied to the worship of any thing, person or power other than the LORD. The prophets often call the covenant people to see these stone, wood and metal objects as deaf, mute and impotent. They are literally made in our image for our purpose by our hands and cannot be greater than ourselves.
The stone imagery echoes in the hollow hole hewn from the subterrainean rock that comprises a cistern. These man-made water reservoirs catch and contain run-off rainwater. They only have an inlet without an outlet. People construct cistern when there is no water source around.
People possess a propensity to praise. The human soul seeks something to worship. Anthropologists find fetishes, images, objects and ritual in every community inhabited by homo sapiens no matter where in time/space they exsisted. To be human is to worship. Only in rather recent times has atheism stood alone. And I would even argue that atheism worships human reason and is therefore a form of idolatry.
This sin makes up at least two of the Decalogue -- the 10 Commandments -- given by the LORD to His people. "No other gods before me" and "no graven image" specifically tell us this type of worship is wrong. This second stanza of the couplet deals with false worship and false gods.
What have I "dug" with my abilities? What is my source for life, love and meaning? How might I be committing this sin for which the LORD calls us to account?