Wringing out the Scriptures (#2) Broken Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:13 “…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 cannot hold water.”

What an indictment against the people of God who have tasted the goodness of the Lord. Think carefully about this. These words need to be spoken still to this day.

Are there any evils worse than these two?

  1. To forsake the God who saved you from sin and slavery.
  2. To turn to another god that is not god at all, and serve it.

We often think that to be God’s people means that God cannot be displeased with us any longer. It is true that we’re loved, and that nothing can separate us from that love in Christ, but we’re wrong if we think that God loves ALL our behavior. He doesn’t.

Just look at the previous verse in the text.

v12 “Be appalled, O Heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils…”

When the heavens are appalled at something we need to pay attention.

Who had Israel forsaken? “The fountain of living waters”

Consider this: If you’re on a trail in the mountains and you thirst after miles of journeying on foot, and you come upon a fresh spring of water, what do you do? You lean forward and drink deeply. You drink long until you’re satisfied, savoring the cool water. From that day forward you will remember the exact location of the spring that quenched your thirst. You will tell your friends who hike that same trail to look for the living water, for it will save them much trouble. How absurd it would be to forsake that fountain for a broken cistern dug by your own feeble hands. Sure, you could say “I dug this. I found the stones, and laid them out.” But look what happens. It soon fills with the filth of the earth. As you drink you are poisoned. It is utterly inadequate. There’s no fresh nutrients and the pool of stagnancy cannot satisfy you. The water that is there one minute, is gone the next. It cannot even hold the water.

Oh church! Don’t reject this warning. The nations of the world are corrupt and walking away from truth. Is there light shining from God’s people, declaring to the world who He is, what He’s done and how He satisfies?

Jeremiah 2:11 “Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?”

The fountain of life is Jesus Christ, the only God who satisfies deeply to the inner most needs of the soul. Look, He says so himself. “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

When we forsake the living water for broken cisterns what are we saying? We’re saying that the cisterns, inadequate as they really are, are more lovely, more beautiful, and more able to rescue us from our sinful plight than God is. So, what are these cisterns? Look no further than the Samaritan woman herself, who spent a lifetime drinking from cracked cisterns. Her cisterns were relationships with men in hopes to find her identity there. She was never satisfied. The longing to love and be loved fell short every time, and in her despair she lay at the bottom of her cistern, parched. Then she met Jesus and drank His living water by faith. She believed that He was enough and never went back to the broken cistern again.

What is that cistern for you and me? Is it a relationship, like with the Samaritan woman? Is it your pursuit of accomplishment and success that has you digging a career cistern week after week? Perhaps it is a pursuit of fulfillment in a vice, a drug, or a quick fix of pornography. So you dig, and you dig, and you find water for a moment. But when you return again you find the disappointment of a dry well again and again.

It is time to return to the Living Water! You’ll find that when you do, God is there. Consider these merciful words to Israel from Jeremiah. Hear them in your heart, and if need be, repent and return.

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the LORD.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the LORD;
I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the LORD your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children,
declares the LORD;
for I am your master; (Jeremiah 3:12-15)

Published by Joel Littlefield

I am a husband, father of four, church planter and the pastor of New City Church in Bath, Maine. My desire for writing is that many would respond in love and faith towards God, and bring glory to Jesus.

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