All The Wrong Places
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
In 1980, the song by Jonny Lee entitled “Lookin’ for Love” was as ubiquitous as the Rubik’s Cube, the Brat Pack, and big hair. It played on all the Country radio stations and served as the main sound track for the movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta (who traded in his white disco suit for a cowboy hat and a mechanical bull) and Debra Winger. The first line of the chorus famously said, “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” and spoke about the quest of finding a love that truly satisfies the heart.
As cheesy as this might sound, there is actually something pretty profound in the concept of the song. The fact is that the tale of the human race is about trying to find that something that truly satisfies the heart, and all too often, as the song quips, we are looking for that something “in too many faces.” Like the misguided lover in the song, it seems that mankind is destined to kiss a lot of frogs, and, all too often, still miss our real Prince altogether. There seems to be no end to the list of things in which we’ll try to find some sense of satisfaction: success, money, relationships, sex, alcohol, narcotics, fitness, eastern religions, and hobbies – just to name a few.
After winning his first Wimbledon title at seventeen years of age, Boris Becker found himself feeling empty and contemplating suicide. Harry Patterson, known by his pseudonym, Jack Higgins, author of The Eagle Has Landed, famously stated that the one thing he wished someone would have told him is that when you get to the top, there is nothing there. Again and again we hear the tales of the rich and famous who found themselves feeling empty and alone, though they enjoyed what the world calls “success.” The long list of celebrity suicides is a grim testimony to the reality that money won’t buy you love, meaning, or lasting satisfaction.
The Children of Israel, however, started with the real thing. God has given them a land of their own, blessed and sustained them, and even called them to a special covenant relationship with Himself. Despite God’s beneficence and loving kindness, however, the nation was chronically unfaithful, committing idolatry with the false gods of the nations surrounding them. This constantly brought them to ruin, and ultimately they found themselves in exile in foreign lands, captives of the nations that conquered them. To say they learned the hard way would be a tremendous understatement, since they seemed to have to regularly relearn their lesson, as their constant infidelities with other gods continually brought them under the yoke of their neighbors from whom God would deliver them whenever they turned from their sin and called upon His mercies.
Rather than being satisfied with the “well of living water” that God represented, they continually endeavored to create false wells or “broken cisterns” that could never give them what they were looking for. If this sounds familiar, it is because it’s the story of every restless generation of mankind since the beginning. Regardless of what we are blessed with, it is never enough, and the endless search goes on for that ultimate and elusive something that will bring everlasting fulfilment and cause all of life to cohere. Yet, it may be worth asking ourselves a reasonable question: “If every generation keeps finding frustration after having searched the world over for what will satisfy, might not the answer be that what we’re looking for is not of this world?” Even Solomon, whose resources as Israel’s richest king were vast, said that true fulfillment could not be found in what this world offers, though he conducted his search thoroughly. His conclusion was, “And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (see Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).
One day, Jesus, wearied from his journey sat beside a well while his disciples went into a neighboring village to find food. As providential occasion would have it, a woman came to the well to draw water. What ensued was a beautiful exchange between Jesus and this woman who had literally been “lookin’ for love in too many faces.” Instead of coming to the well early in the morning as most of the women would have done, she was there at noon, an outcast due, no doubt, to her reputation. The story of her five failed marriages and current live-in boyfriend could be the story of anyone in our time. It might be your story. Though Jesus was the first to ask for a drink, it was soon revealed that she was the one who was truly thirsty.
“Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:13-15).
I don’t believe for one minute that she was just saying that she didn’t want to have to trot out to that well for water every day. What she was really saying was that she wanted a drink of that living water Jesus offered that she might end her fruitless search for satisfaction in the broken cisterns to which she had kept returning. Not only did she find her thirst quenched at that well, but her discovery led her entire village to find satisfaction at the same fountain of living waters.
Water is a very conspicuous image, for it is the one thing we cannot live without. It is the source of life, causing even the deserts to bloom when the rain falls upon them. Water represents the answer to those most fundamental needs of the human heart, such as belonging, meaning, and worth. They are all found in the Person of Jesus, who is that fountain of living waters. He, and He alone, meets the deepest needs of the human heart. The choice is ours to either continue drinking from our broken wells or to drink deeply of the life He offers us in Himself. Those who have tried have found that one cannot mix these living waters with any other, for they satisfy only when we leave our broken cisterns behind, once and for all, and choose the life only He can supply. These waters are life. These waters are clean. These waters are free, and, as Jesus said, these waters are for “whoever.”