By Pastor Tony Butler
“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.”
A cistern was primarily a receptacle for holding water. In Israel, they were carved out of solid rock near a spring for storage and easy access. They were also dug throughout the land to collect the rain during the rainy season for use during the dry season. They were usually large pits with a small mouth opening which was covered by a large flat stone. Sometimes the cisterns would crack, caused by tremors, or other forces, and new ones would have to be dug. At times, empty cisterns could be used as a prison cell, as they were for Joseph (Genesis 37:22), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:6). Cisterns were even known to be death traps, because they would gradually fill with quick mud, called mire, in which the victim would sink and perish (Psalm 40:2).
God’s indictment of Israel was twofold. First, they had forsaken the Fountain of Living Waters, Who was the Lord Himself, Who alone could satisfy their real needs. Secondly, they had carved out for themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water.
The difference between a continual spring and a cistern is obvious. A continual spring never runs out of refreshment or supply. Its water is always fresh and new. However, the cistern’s supply is temporal and can stagnate. There is no continual hope for supply due to leakage, which requires new ones to be dug and carved.
Jesus described those who truly trust Him as ones who possess a continual flowing fountain of life in their lives (John 7:38). Jesus, Himself, is that Fountain of Life that guarantees the believer eternal and spiritual refreshment. The person who does not truly believe in Christ with his heart must trust in the work of his own hands. He is ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. He must dig for himself flawed, leaky belief systems, and life styles that may bring temporary satisfaction, but no eternal hope. One day his cistern will run empty, and he will become entrapped in what his own hands have made, and very well may perish in the miry clay, lest he does as David did and cry out to the Lord (Psalm 40:2). Man cannot be saved, or his soul satisfied without Jesus Christ, the Lord (Ephesians 2:8,9). Augustine said it right, “The heart was made for You, O God, and must forever remain at unrest, until it finds rest in You.”
The Scripture says that, “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end of it leads to death.” (Proverb 14:12). Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
Israel had forsaken the fountain for the pit, the Holy for the hole, the narrow for the broad, and life for death. She had made alliances with pagan nations, and began to worship their gods. She became a harlot, and an adulterous wife. She had given herself over to every kind of sin, and had become incorrigible to the place that she killed God’s prophets, because she hated the truth. She had forsaken her God.
In Jeremiah 3:2, the Lord said to Israel, “…You have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me, says the Lord.”
O reader, return to the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, He will make you white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). He who comes to Christ, Christ will in no wise reject him. Come to the Fountainhead of the Living Waters and be saved. Forsake the cisterns you have dug in your life that cannot bring salvation or lasting peace. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord (Romans 6:23).
You are either on Holy ground, or holey ground. One will save; the other will destroy. Give your heart to Jesus today, and know the spiritual refreshment of the Fountain of eternal life.