Following the reference to Jeremiah with this post is very important to what I want to say. This post comes from a broken heart that has witnessed and experience the things I'll be describing in the firsthand.
The broken cisterns that are hewed out of the ground the prophet is speaking about were typically hewed out of limestone. The limestone was often porous and over time would give way and leak. While the cisterns could be filled they did not retain water for very long. The prophet makes it very clear here that the people were seeking after things to fill these cisterns with that which has absolutely no eternal value. They're cisterns were the idolatrous desires of their wicked hearts. Being deceived by their own sinful desire they had forsaken the Lord and turned to their own objects of trust.
Bookstores are often places of valuable information of which one can purchase literature, stationary, self-help, magazines, and neat little trinkets. Even the things that are available at secular bookstores can be found in the same fashion at your local Christian bookstores. These trinkets and other collectible nick-nacks and doo-dads can especially be found branded with a "fish-symbol" or some inspirational scripture (most the time ripped completely out of context). One can't help but walk into these stores and become overwhelmed with the attack of commercialism and materialistic pleas of 2-for-1 and Buy-One-Get-One sales that lead you to believe you are getting a great deal. While I will not say that I have not taken advantage of these sales from time to time there is a motive behind them. The main objective of a store's commercial push is to get you to buy their material. The more material, the more money they make. The problem here lies within the purpose of the visit to the store. If you go with a knowledge of what you need or want your visit will be short and purposeful. If you go with the purpose of browsing or looking for a gift to give to a friend, you may be there all day.
So in expressing disdain for the many established "christian" bookstores in this country that are in no way a reflection of true Christianity I would like to bring up the idolatry that is formed through the patronizing of these stores. When you walk through the book aisles, glance at the DVD selections, and browse the Bible display, you can't help but discern the heresy awaiting the next person's purchase. These materials pose themselves as inspirational, new insight, and uplifting material to help you walk with God. The self-help books found here are often the best as I could only imagine Jesus taking a stroll down that aisle and hanging his head in the thought that man has ultimately decided to reject the cleansing power of his blood, and sufficiency of his sacrifice on the cross. Maybe we can also illustrate the craziness that comes from these bookstore visits by the conversations had with those who profess Christ with their mouth but utterly and totally depraved in their thoughts and actions. Or the resultant rejection of his true word written in revelation through the scriptures over the preferred new "understanding" and re-interpreted, modernized, relevant messages of post-modern and new-age leaders? How about we think for one hot minute of the anger that arises within a person when you point them to scripture that contradicts their "bookstore understanding" of God? What does one think about those who honor God not with their mouths and lives, but with the nifty neon light-up cross they got as part of the $5.00 member deal they got with the last purchase of some emergent leaders latest book?
Idols are shaped and formed in many ways. Images can come by way of physical characteristics, and even by way of thoughts concocted in our own minds. Isaiah references some interesting information about those who do this...
Isa 44:9-22 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. (10) Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? (11) Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. (12) The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. (13) The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. (14) He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. (15) Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. (16) Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" (17) And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" (18) They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. (19) No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" (20) He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (21) Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. (22) I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
So can you say that you find your encouragement in the reading of His word? Have you truly experienced the saving grace of His final work on the cross? Does his truth bring joy to your soul in the midst of trials, tribulations, and persecution? Or does the hard truth of the Bible make you angry? Does the finality of God's revelation give you discomfort? Is it possible that you hate the very things that he has ordained for mankind's existence? Do you fill your broken cistern with the feel-good runoff that oozes from the front doors of the christian bookstore and forsake the eternal fount of life that springs from the Lord thy God?
Are you a bookstore christian?