“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.”
I was reading this in my Bible a couple of nights ago and this verse really stood out to me because it so accurately represents the world and the great majority of the modern church today.
So let’s dig in and have a look.
This verse is clearly addressed to God’s people. When the book of Jeremiah was written, this was referring to the people of Israel (more specifically to the people of Judah in the southern part of Israel) but it is still very relevant for the church of God today and the world. Therefore it is one that must be heeded and not simply overlooked and passed off as being irrelevant for today. I will go into more detail about how it applies to us a little later on in this article but let us start with a little background to this illustration.
During Bible times, a cistern was a man-made or artificial reservoir in the earth, in clay or in rock for the purposes of collecting and storing water. If you know a little bit about Israel, the Holy Land, you would know that it is very dry due to a long dry season. There is also relatively few natural springs from which to procure water.
And so the prophet Jeremiah used this as an illustration to point out the foolishness of the Israelites. A broken cistern is useless because it can hold no water. No sooner had you poured water into the cistern, it would drain out just as quickly because it is broken.
If you read the whole of chapter 2 of the book of Jeremiah, you will get the full context of what was going on when Jeremiah wrote this. The people of Judah had turned away from the living God and were looking elsewhere to fill that spiritual hunger and thirst… that desire in their hearts. These people were doing their own thing. They had dug their own cisterns of immorality and idolatry for themselves in the vain hope that it would satisfy their fleshly desires and somehow produce satisfaction and personal happiness.
But the people of Judah soon found out the hard way that the cisterns that they had created in their own strength were broken cisterns… broken cisterns that were not holding water.
Notice that these cisterns did not become broken after holding a little bit of water. They were broken right from day 1. I want you to know something. Self-made attempts, schemes, plans or whatever you want to call it, anything without the living God will inevitably result in failure and brokenness.
And so it is with many people today. They are to busy building their own cisterns or wells that can hold not water. It is pure emptiness. You won’t find true life, meaning, fulfilment, peace and happiness in drugs, alcohol, girls, music and anything else that your carnal heart desires. You won’t find it in new age religion, cults and all manner of other religions such as ‘neo-Buddhism’. Why? Because without Christ every effort of mankind is empty and worthless.
We are told that Jesus Christ is the fountain of living waters and it is only He that can quench the spiritual thirst of mankind. He is the only one who can fill those wells of longing and desire for something greater… for something meaningful.
John 7:38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
And so when the people of Judah turned away from the Lord, the one who had given them so much and blessed them, they were committing two evils. Not only had they constructed their own artificial reservoirs for holding spiritual water, they had also forsaken and rejected the One who gives life-giving water.
Let me put it to you another way. Let’s say you’re stranded out in the middle of a desert. You are parched, desperately thirsty and in dire need of water. You suddenly see an oasis in the desert. A reservoir filled with life-giving water. But instead you turn away and you begin to dig with your hands inside the sand to build your own cistern. Put simply, you had access to a life-giving source of water yet you were foolish enough to make up your own cistern which held no water. And so it was with the people of Judah.
The people of Judah were acting like the heathen nations around them. These heathen nations were ignorantly worshipping lifeless gods made out of stone and wood that could not meet their spiritual needs. How foolish it was of the people of Judah who should have known better to reject the living God and copy their heathen neighbours! Interestingly, these heathen nations were at least loyal to their many imaginary gods yet the people of Judah couldn’t even be loyal to the One true God who did satisfy their spiritual needs. In other words the people of Judah knowingly rejected God. Such foolishness!
Sadly this is what is happening in the world today and even among professing Christians. We are guilty of these two evils: forsaking the living God and making up our own cisterns that don’t hold any water.
The saying goes that “familiarity breeds contempt” and I think this is so true of the people of Judah as well as the people of God today. We are so accustomed to the living God. We take his grace, tender mercies and lovingkindness for granted. We reject Him and then we turn to making up our own cisterns. We foolishly wander off to see if there is water available elsewhere.
We think we can find living water and fulfilment in:
- a successful career;
- a relationship that is not of God;
- hobbies (fast cars, sports, gadgets, boats, planes, RC toys etc);
- other pursuits (books, magazines, TV, surfing the web, video games, DVD’s, music etc);
Even if we are “scouting” or just “having a little sniff” of these other things it can lead to forsaking God. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that having a successful career is somehow wrong. We all need jobs to pay the bills and God has commanded guys to be providers for their families. That’s a directive not an option. But what I’m saying here is that if Christians look for complete fulfilment in their vocations and are the sort who worship God only on a Sunday morning then that could be considered a form of cistern making.
What about a relationship that is not of God? Well it’s the same thing. I’m no expert at relationships but I think when you are so caught up with pursuing after that other person your focus on Christ can disappear totally out of the picture especially if that person is not Godly. Of course I could go into things like Christians not being unequally yoked and that sort of thing but I’m sure you get my point.
Meaningless hobbies? I have my own gadgets at home and I have a bit of an obsession with them, I have to admit. Other guys like fast or classic cars, sports, latest technology, boats, aircraft, remote controlled toys, video games etc. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these stuff but they have their place and we must not be so consumed with them or find fulfilment in them so that we neglect our responsibilities and also our relationship with God. I could also say that a lot of things have little profit in this life, they are time wasters, and so we must be very careful in what we select as our hobbies. If and when I become a husband and father, I reckon I will have to give up some of my hobbies because there just won’t be time for that. I will have other more important responsibilities to God. Sadly lots of married guys today spend a lot of time with their gadgets and toys and unfortunately that is one of the contributing factors to a bad marriage when the guy is so obsessed with his things that he neglects to spend time with his wife.
Other pursuits? Again, it’s the same thing. If we spend inordinate amounts of time on these things, they will eventually consume us and take away our focus on Christ and we will find fullfillment in doing these things. If books, magazines, TV, the web, DVD’s, music etc become more interesting than the Word of God then you may be guilty of the same sins as the people of Judah. Like hobbies, a lot could also be said about the type of things that you read and watch as well. Many of them are meaningless and contrary to what the Bible teaches so be very careful with which books and magazines you read and the things you watch and listen to.
So let’s apply God’s Word in our lives, families, churches and nation. This is a challenge for us all. It is a challenge for me. There are dire consequences for forsaking the fountain of Living Waters. This is why our nation is in the sorry state that it is in because the people and the leaders have forsaken God. They have gotten rid of the Bible and replaced it with their own flawed secular humanistic thinking. The Bible says that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). Let us not make the same mistakes as the people of Judah some 2500 years ago. Let us not turn away from the Fountain of Living Waters, let us look to Him for the satisfying of our spiritual needs. Let us fully focus on Him and not somewhere else!
May God bless you!