Building broken cisterns – Jeremiah 2

Imagine living in a hot country like Uganda – or Israel! You’re bound to get very thirsty. We all need 6 pints a day just to stay healthy. If you need water you could dig a big hole in the ground to catch the rain, patch the sides up with mud to stop leaks and drink the rainwater that has collected and stood there over the months. The problem with that kind of water tank is that the water is always cloudy and tastes muddy. More than that, in dry weather they have a habit of springing leaks and letting you down when you need them most.
Or of course, where it is available, you could always take your water from the same fresh spring that your village has always drunk from, a cool refreshing, never-failing stream of life-giving water. You have your choice – build a water-tank, or drink from the spring? Only an idiot would refuse to drink from the spring if it was available. Only an idiot would reject a spring and build a water tank instead!!

Jer 2:11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. 13 “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 chapter 2 is full of vivid pictures of the sins of Israel. The nation is under threat of attack by the Babylonians, because they have turned away from the one true God. God’s chosen people are worshipping idols and making alliances with their traditional enemies Assyria and Egypt. So Israel is pictured as a restless wife turning to prostitution, a choice vine running wild, a wild camel running loose, a thief caught red-handed. But perhaps the most memorable picture is here in Jeremiah 2:11-13. Israel is a nation obsessed with DIY, building water tanks instead of drinking from the springs of living waters.

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,

The Bible often uses water as a picture of God’s blessing. God had always been the source of Israel’s life, right from the beginning from the wanderings in the wilderness when water sprung out of the living rock.
1 Corinthians 10:1 Our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual
food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

Physically and also spiritually, Israel was always sustained by God the giver of life.

Psalm 36:5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast in the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Psa 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

God IS the spring of living water! And we know how this imagery is continued in our Christian lives.

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

Never, ever thirst again!!

John 7:37 Jesus said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

GOD himself is the source of life for His people – for Israel – and for the church!

There was once a well known doctor called Howard Kelly who had a unique and effective way of “witnessing”. He was never seen in public without a beautiful pink rose in his lapel. He wore the rose to give him an opportunity to witness about his relationship with Christ. Someone meeting him on the street might remark, “That’s a lovely rose, Dr. Kelly.” “Yes, it is,” he would reply. “Actually, it’s a ‘Christian rose!'”
“Why do you call it that?” he would be asked. The doctor would then turn back his lapel and display a tiny water bottle which held the stem of the flower and kept it fresh and sweet.
“It’s a ‘Christian rose,'” he would explain, “because it has a hidden source of life and beauty. When our Savior pardons our sins, He also unites us with Himself and thereby nourishes and strengthens us. His Holy Spirit becomes the secret reservoir of our joy”

These springs of living water sustain us in this life, and will sustain us into eternity.

Rev 21:6 (The Risen Christ) said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of
the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Only an idiot would refuse to drink from these springs of living water – but that was what Israel was doing!!! And that is what so many people in the world have chosen to do! Our own nation, once so strongly influenced by the church and the gospel, has turned away from God. So many of our neighbours and friends think they don’t need God, they can get by on their own. When we offer them living waters they would rather have the latest brand of fizzy drink which rots your teeth and rots your guts but at least it comes in a nice pretty bottle!

Sometimes even Christians too can turn away from the springs of living waters. Perhaps the first water tanks the Israelites built were to collect and store up water from the spring, “just in case the spring ever runs dry.” So they began to live on yesterday’s water and last week’s water – instead of today’s fresh supply. And Christians can so easily do that – living on yesterday’s experience, last week’s blessing, last year’s encounter with God, instead of drinking fresh every day from the springs of living water. Personal prayer and Bible study and regular worship and fellowship aren’t optional extras for Christians – without FRESH water we become parched and sick and eventually die.

Equally, some Christians get lazy. Instead of going to the springs themselves, drinking straight from the life-giving streams, they are content to let somebody else go to the stream and draw the water and bottle it up for them and sell it to them. So some Christians rely on other people’s experiences of God instead of their own, kept barely alive by an occasional blessed thought from one of today’s celebrity preachers, but too lazy to open their Bibles or get face-to-face with God in prayer and drink for themselves.

This is not a new problem. In 17th Century, Sir Thomas Fuller wrote this:
“I discover an arrant laziness in my soul. For when I am to read a chapter in the Bible, before I begin I look where it ends. And if it ends not on the same side, I cannot keep my hands from turning over the leaf, to measure the length on the other side; if it swells to many verses, I begin to grudge. Surely my heart is not rightly affected. Were I truly hungry after heavenly food, I would not complain of meat. Scourge, Lord, this laziness of my soul; make the reading of your Word, not a penance, but a pleasure to me; so I may esteem that chapter in your Word the best which is the longest.”

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water. Living on old experiences. Too lazy to draw fresh water for themselves. That was Israel’s first sin – is it ever ours?

But then Israel’s second sin was just as fatal
They have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

The Israelites were trying to make their own sources of water, worshipping false Gods that will never satisfy.
18 Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Shihor? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the River? 19 Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realise how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

So many people today are building their own water tanks – satisfying themselves with polluted muddy stale water. All the false gods of the New Age movement, the age-old deceptions of the occult repackaged for today’s world. Then there are the false gods of Money and consumerism with their Temples at Lakeside and Blue Water (how curious that they should both incorporate the imagery of water in their names) and so many other Temples now open 24 hours a day to satisfy the desires of people who think they need to spend, spend, spend.
And there is the false god of Entertainment, with not only television but now the Internet to distract people for hours on end from the important things in life. And there are so many other false gods, fame, power, popularity, all things which people THINK they need, THINK will make them happier, – all designer drinks which leave people even thirstier than they were before, and distracting them from seeking out the LIVING waters!

And we Christians are not immune to these temptations. Do any of us spend as much time as we know we ought to in prayer and Bible study?? Are we really always thirsting after righteousness, or do we compromise when it comes to holiness because a part of us is also thirsty for popularity or success or wealth or entertainment. Do we throw away our time and money building water tanks to give us these other things, because we think we need them to make us happy? We should be entirely satisfied drinking from the spring of living waters – so satisfied that we don’t need ANYTHING else to quench our thirsts!

Jeremiah 2:13 “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.

Israel’s two sins – are these ever our sins too?

Psalm 36:8-9 They feast in the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

You remember that advert ? “It’s the real thing?” One of the top 3 best known brand names in the world!! Annual sales worth more than £50 BILLION. But Coca Cola ISNT the real thing. GOD is the real thing! The springs of living waters – that’s the real thing! Here is God’s invitation for you and for me.

John 7:37 Jesus said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!”
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

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