Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 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 can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:12-13 (ESV)
During the dry summer months in Palestine the people were forced to build cisterns to collect the rainwater or water from small streams. This was particularly necessary in places where there were no large streams or springs. Most of the cisterns were dug in the earth or cut out of soft limestone. They varied in size and shape. With proper care the water could be kept in good condition for a while, but often it became dirty. Sometimes the cisterns would break and the water would leak out.
In Jeremiah 2:13 God is defining evil and describing the spiritual condition of Israel. Israel had exchanged God for the idols of other countries that God called “broken cisterns that hold no water.” Israel sought to be satisfied by something other than God. They exchanged eternal satisfaction found only in relationship with God for a temporary satisfaction that in reality did not satisfy them at all.
Many in the church have worshiped the idols of self-gratification such as prosperity, power, popularity and prestige. Others have worshiped the institutional church loving the traditions, doctrines and programs of man more than God’s word or a fresh anointing of God’s presence. In many churches ritual has taken the place of repentance and righteousness; works have taken the place of true worship. Man pleasing has replaced God-pleasing.
Though we shrink back at the thought of this being evil, that is exactly what God calls it. He compares our worldly indulgences and religious toys to broken cisterns that hold no water. We can pamper our flesh thinking that these things will meet the needs of our heart. However, once we have indulged we find it is not enough.
Our thirst is only quenched in Jesus. Believing on and clinging to Jesus purges our old wells from the muck that has wrought defilement. In turn, faith in Christ produces in us rivers of living water (John 7:38) that give eternal satisfaction. Jesus told the woman at the Samaritan well, Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14 ESV)
God has promised to satisfy all who are thirsty. John wrote, And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” (Revelation 21:6 ESV)
Where do you turn for satisfaction? What are you looking toward to quench your thirst? Have you forsaken the fountain of living waters and dug out cisterns that hold no water? Are you thirsty for God alone?
Scriptures for meditation: