Broken Cisterns

spigot

I am a city kid…. and the only understanding of water sources i have known are the sinks and spigots in my house…. Water comes as i turn the handle.  It is so very easy, and so instant, yet i know there is a complex engineering design behind those spigots.  And there are people employed to keep the pressure up, the purity of the water consistent, and the service constant.  Cold on the right, and hot on the left.  A ready water source is right there in our homes, works, schools and churches  in this modern age.. piped in, pumped in to us with ease.  I have never had to search for water, with the exception of a camping trip as a child, for fun.

The bible talks about water in many ways, including storage of water.  I have chosen to write this blog about a passage i was again reminded of as my husband and i listened to the bible on his cell phone. (we love the app uversion.  its is so handy, and always with us.)  He is reading through the bible in 90 days, and over the weekend he approached the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah always speaks deep to my soul but i must admit i would not have wanted his job.  He was called to preach the truth, and call for repentence to a people who were stubborn and unresponsive to God.  But the book that God called Jeremiah to write speaks to us, as warning, as call to repentance and as hope for the future.  In the midst of listening I heard the passage that took me back to my first days as a christian, and a teaching that i have carried deep in my soul because I can say I was guilty of this myself.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jeremiah 2:13

Throughout the bible God does not change.  In the new testament Jesus identifies himself as the Water of Life, and speaks of his word as water to wash the soul.  And here, centuries before he speaks through Jeremiah reminding us that he is the spring of living water.  For a people who live in arrid climates water is essential, for life, for refreshment, and for sustainability. In our modern age where water is readily available we may not think as much about the need, or the absolute blessing of refreshment that water is.

In this passage God is speaking to the heart of the matter, and that matter is a serious one.  His chosen people, whom he has seen through so much history with, have forsaken him.  Forsaken is a harsh decision – it is to abandon, to lay aside never to return, to give up on.  What a contrast in terms.  God is always calling, pulling, drawing, watching over, protecting, providing.  And his people, in this passage, have dropped him like a hot potato.  In itself that is very sad.  It is tragic.  But that is not the whole story.

The passage goes on to say that instead these same people have dug cisterns.  Not being so familiar with agrarian terms, i hit the internet and learned that cisterns are defined by wikipedia as:

cistern (Middle English cisterne, from Latin cisterna, from cista, “box”, from Greek κίστη, kistê, “basket”) is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. Modern cisterns range in capacity from a few litres to thousands of cubic meters  effectively forming covered reservoirs.  – Wikipedia

Cisterns are a planned attempt to capture and store water.  It probably took great skills to figure out how to create such a thing, which drives home the point.  It took ingenuity, engineering, planning and skills to execute the plan. They put forth great effort to make this plan happen.  They put forth great effort to abandon God and his living water.

But the plot thickens more.  God tells us that these cisterns were built, but they cannot hold water.  As men and women we have a limited capacity for somethings, and we need to discern what is beyond our scope.  The living water is freely offered by God… without requirements to design, engineer, build and test out cisterns.  We must look to him for the source of living water, and know that he will supply our every need for that water.

So maybe there was a time when you went it alone, decided that the source of water for your life needed to be something you created, designed, engineered, and tested.  If you a re like me you would one day realize how leaky the design is, and the water contained in that cistern was fouled, polluted, and far from satisfying.

But the water of life was that and more.

(Jesus said) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

The invitation is there.  Jesus calls us to repent of those broken cisterns, and turn to his living water.  I just love Isaiah 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

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