“… 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 2:13
A cistern is a pit dug into the earth and plastered to hold rainwater. I was a tourist in my city earlier this year and visited the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, built in 1926 to house 15 million gallons of water for the city of Houston. In 2007 a leak was detected and the cistern was put out of commission. A few years later this irreparable pit was turned into a work of art, with lighting and audio, for a unique underground experience. But the cistern is still useless for its intended purpose.
In the prophet Jeremiah’s time there were three known sources of water in Palestine. The best source was running water from fresh springs, called “living water.” The second source was groundwater, often contained in wells. And lastly, runoff or rainwater was held in cisterns. Much like the cistern I toured in Houston, if the plaster lining of these cisterns was damaged all the water would leak out and only muck would remain (and mosquito larvae!).
To knowingly refuse a drink from a spring of fresh running water and instead seek out muddy, broken cistern water seems ludicrous. And yet that is exactly what God’s people were choosing, spiritually. They chose to worship false gods that could do nothing for them rather than the One True Living God, who has the power to save!
As crazy as these people seem, I see myself choosing spiritual sludge over Living Water everyday. I dig cistern after cistern, looking for satisfaction. The cistern of beauty promises popularity and happiness but sends me into obsessive shopping frenzies, compulsively comparing myself to others and feeling insecure about how I look. The cistern of success and fame promises attention and acceptance but demands unattainable perfection and breeds crippling fear of failure when I inevitably take a misstep. The cistern of companionship promises unconditional love and avoidance of loneliness yet leads to devastation over unmet expectations and anxiously working for the approval of others. Broken cisterns.
These are all good gifts from God to be received with thanksgiving, but they are not the source of life everlasting. Christ alone is the fountain of Living Water that will forever quench our thirsty souls. Our yearning for beauty is more than satisfied as our messy lives are clothed in the radiance and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Desires for fame are overwhelmed with God's renown and the hope of our heavenly glory. And when it comes to companionship, there is no better friend than Jesus. Drink from this Fountain and thirst no more!