Broken Cisterns or Living Water?

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

“Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

“Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. “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 NIV).

PRAYER FOCUS: Living Water

We care deeply about the quality of our water.

In the developed world, the purity of drinking water is governed by strict laws and regulations. Contaminants are classified by type (i.e., inorganic, organic, bacteriological, and radiological; classes may be subdivided as necessary). Regulations specify certain maximum contaminant levels and require specific treatments. Commercially, we have flavored waters, electrolyte- and vitamin-enriched waters, carbonated waters, imported waters, even water that soothes our sense of global responsibility by contributing a portion of profits to clean water projects in undeveloped countries.

The World Health Organization estimates that every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making dirty water the leading cause of disease and death around the world. The medical journal The Lancet reports that impure water takes a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.

We care about our water because we need it to survive. We need it to grow. Our water should be pure.

If only we were as concerned about the purity of our faith.

The prophet Jeremiah lamented the same thing in his day (6th Century B.C.). The Lord spoke to him, saying the people—His people, the ones He loved—had forsaken Him and started believing in false gods and fake religions. He compared their faith to dirty cistern water.

Now this was not an insignificant choice of words. The cisterns of Jeremiah’s day would have been subterranean reservoirs either carved out of the earth, or carved out of rock and clay. The cisterns not only could not give forth an ever-flowing fresh supply as springs and fountains do, they couldn’t even retain the water poured into them. The stonework within was usually piecemeal and easily broken, unable to preserve the collected water, much less keep it clean and pure. Cistern water was muddy and filthy—more like the septic tanks of our day.

The Lord wanted His people to turn back to Him—to drink pure, fresh, true, living water straight from the fountain Himself. Jesus invokes living water in his conversation with the woman at the well in John 4:10-15. It is the same Living Water we need today, daily, in our lives.

Whether or not you are a Christian, our ordinary human experience reveals that we thrive when we are loved, when we are surrounded by beauty, when we live in a society permeated by justice, fairness, kindness and goodness. These things refresh us and lighten our spirits as though we’ve splashed in a cool, clear mountain spring.

But what we may fail to realize is that this inner yearning for clean spiritual water is not merely a hope for a more perfect society or a novel-esque love story. Our hearts crave and yearn for a relationship with the Creator-God who made us, the Eternal and Living God who gives purpose and meaning to life, our Father-God who himself longs to be at the center of our lives—and especially so at those times when human love deserts and human kindness fails.

Much like the bottled beverage aisle in the local market, we are presented with racks and rows full of alternative gods and competing revelations. Each one claims it can satisfy your thirsty spirit in whatever flavor most pleases you. Faith and truth are sold as a personal taste experience. But as our friend Evangelist Ravi Zacharias points out,

Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways.

If we accept that there is only one real iPhone, one genuine Versace, one authentic Rolex, why are we so easily convinced there must be many roads to spiritual truth?

The transcendent truth here, Christian, is that our broken cisterns are no better than theirs were. False at the bottom, they hold no water. When we come to quench our thirst, if we find any water at all, it is nothing but mud and mire with filthy sediments. Why are we so inclined to dig even deeper when all we have to do is drop our digging tools and walk to the Fountain and drink Living Water from the Wellspring of Life?

It’s Monday Morning. You will need water to survive this week. You will have a choice among the sources.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:17, NIV).

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