Jeremiah 2:13 (NASB)
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
That can hold no water.”
God’s people committed two evils. One, they had forsaken…abandoned…God. The other, they had dug their own cisterns.
To understand the full impact of this scripture, you must look a little closer at the historical context. Jeremiah preached and lived in a day when the people of Judah, the southern portion of the nation of Israel, had turned away from the Living God to do their own thing. And God, through Jeremiah, compared this to digging for themselves cisterns. A cistern was an artificial reservoir that was dug in the earth or hewn in the rock for the collection and storage of water…rainwater, runoff water, etc. Cisterns were very important in the land of Israel because of the long, dry season and the few natural springs. Rainfall was scarce during the summer months and it was important that water be stored during the rainy months for the upcoming dry season. BUT, a broken cistern was practically worthless! A broken or cracked cistern could maybe hold a small quantity of dirty water, but very little, if any! And notice that the cisterns did not become broken after some time of holding water…NO…they were broken from the day they were built…they never held any water!
Maybe we could try to excuse them for digging their own cisterns. Maybe they were just going through a tough time and been through some stressful situations and they just wanted to be sure their bases were covered. But that was only HALF of what they did wrong! Trying to construct an artificial reservoir for collecting spiritual water was bad enough, but to turn away and reject the water from the life-giving Spring was tragic! How could anyone in their right mind do such a thing? If no natural spring existed nearby, digging a cistern would be the best thing you could do. If a spring was nearby and you didn’t know it, you would be pitied for your ignorance, but at least you were trying to do something. BUT…if you did know that there was a good spring of running water readily available, and you deliberately turned your back on this life-giving source to construct a cistern, you would be incredibly, unbelievably insane!!!
Jeremiah used the illustration of broken cisterns to show the extreme foolishness of God’s people, Israel, who were no longer totally committed to God. No longer were they devoted to the Lord or depending on Him to meet their spiritual needs. And God used this illustration to show His people how utterly foolish and guilty they were when they turned away from Him. The surrounding heathen nations could at least be pitied when they ignorantly followed lifeless gods which could not meet their spiritual thirst. And it must be noted that unlike Judah, these pagan nations were loyal to their gods! But the people of Judah knowingly forsook their Source of Living Water to attempt to drink from self-made broken cisterns. No wonder the heavens are called on to “be appalled” and “shudder with great horror” (Jer 2:12) at such foolishness, such evil.
I was discussing these thoughts with a good friend, Daren Hicks, and he shared some interesting insight and revelation. In our text, the people had turned to idol worship and they were trusting in three things wrongfully:
1. Wallet- they were trusting in their own provision instead of trusting God for their provision.
2. Warfare- they turned to the gods and government of Egypt and Assyria (their enemies) for their protection and provision. They were no longer trusting God for their victories.
3. Worship- their worship was misdirected…they were worshiping idols.
Is it possible that some of God’s people today are guilty of the same two evils that the people of Judah committed in Jeremiah’s day? Is it possible that we’ve become so accustomed to the Living Water that we’ve wandered away from the Fountain to see if there’s some water available elsewhere? Have we foolishly gotten involved in constructing our own cisterns? Wealth, fame, recognition, honor, position, power, and pleasure…friends, props, traditions, merits…anything trusted besides God…they are cisterns at best, whose water will putrefy…or broken vessels which will leave you nothing but mud and dirt at the end. We try to bring fulfillment to our lives by things and stuff. Any of these things are not wrong in themselves, and are good and helpful when kept in proper balance. But when we find that we are looking to these things for satisfaction and fulfillment in life, a subtle form of cistern construction is probably going on. And you and I know better, but we do it anyway. We involve ourselves with every project that comes down the pike trying to fill the void that only Christ can fill.
The three things cisterns were used for:
PRISON – Jeremiah 38:6
GRAVES – Jeremiah 41:9
When we have misdirected worship… (Addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography, shopping, internet, sports, outward appearance, personal agenda, etc.)…at first they seem to satisfy – PROVISION. Then you find it is your – PRISON. Finally, it will be your – GRAVE.
God gave the nation of Judah chance after chance to return to the Lord, but they turned farther and farther away. In terms of the illustration, verse 18 indicates that instead of turning back from the broken cisterns to the Fountain of living waters, they turned to the river waters of the Nile and the Euphrates. In other words, rather than turning to the faithful God of Israel, they looked to the gods and government of Egypt and Assyria for protection and provision. As a result, the Lord declared that His people would reap what they had sown (v19). And so Judah was conquered and taken away into slavery in Babylon (on the Euphrates River) where they drank the bitter waters they had chosen. In Jeremiah 42-44 we learn that the survivors who were left in the land of Israel ran away to Egypt against the explicit counsel of Jeremiah, and there they died by the waters of the Nile.
When God gave the first commandment as “You shall have no other gods before me”, He was not just giving this only as a commandment, He was giving it for our good. How foolish it is to get involved in the evil of hewing out cisterns! God makes the fresh fountains of water and man makes the cistern! Cisterns have limited supply and God has a never-ending supply!
Isn’t it amazing that even in the New Testament, Jesus talked about living water to the woman at the well?
The woman came with an empty water pot and an empty heart. Jesus made the first move in asking for a drink of water from this woman. She was astounded that a Jew would ask someone like her, a Samaritan, for a drink of water. She responded by asking Jesus why He would even ask her for a drink.
John 4:10-11 – “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?”
John 4:13-15 – “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
God wants you to get your eyes off of the well that has been dug by man and get your eyes upon the Living Water that comes from God. As long as you go to an empty well you will leave with disappointment and discouragement. But every time you come to the Lord you will leave the old water buckets and go refreshed with a drink of Living Water.
John 7:37-38 – “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
Let’s make a decision today not to go back to broken cisterns for spiritual refreshing! Let’s rediscover the value of going to the well rather than the stagnate, dirty cistern!! It’s time to return to the Fountain of Living Waters!! Let’s let God do a NEW THING in us this year!!
Isaiah said in 43:19, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”