I was recently studying the book of Jeremiah and when I finished reading Jeremiah 2, I read that chapter again and again and again. The verse that stood out to me was Jeremiah 2:13, “…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.”
In the second chapter of Jeremiah, we see that Israel had forgotten about God. They defiled their covenant with God by embracing false gods and rebelling against God’s rule with all manner of evil practices, including worshiping and prophesying in the name of Baal. To this, God said he would “contend” with Israel. The word “contend” introduces a lawsuit metaphor. The charges are that God’s people have done worse than idolaters and the heavens are called as witnesses.
Idolaters were faithful to their lifeless and powerless gods and Israel had fallen into the trap. They had forsaken God and His covenants. The heavens, called as witnesses in this “lawsuit”, are appalled by the evil. God accuses Israel of abandoning His living water for broken cisterns that can not hold any water.
To understand this metaphor, we have to understand where water came from at this time. Palestine had three sources of water:
- 1. refreshing, running water flowing from a spring or stream
- 2. ground water, much like well water
- 3. runoff water which was collected in a cistern (a pit made into the limestone and plastered to prevent leakage). These cisterns not only collected water, but contained silt and mosquito larvae. Yuck!
So, Jeremiah is saying that not only had Israel traded the best water for the worst, but their cistern was broken. All of its water had leaked out and the only thing that remained was sludge.
This scripture breaks my heart because this same infidelity can be seen in God’s people today. We have crafted idols that we can worship, that we feel comfortable with, that are not offensive and don’t require anything of us and we call it worshiping God. We have abandoned God’s instruction to us for what is easy and acceptable to society, as if our standards come from the world. We are forfeiting the fresh, pure fountains of living waters for broken cisterns, empty of their water, with only muddy sludge and bugs to offer a world thirsting to death for the gospel.
Lord, forgive us for our unfaithfulness. Forgive us for creating idols in our lives, for making You, a holy and righteous God, into our image, for breaking our covenant with You. We are ineffective, broken vessels when we go outside of You – when we choose only what pleases us, when we take you out of authority and when we treat holiness as an option.
Let us honor and reverence you once again and choose to be set apart to You alone! Fill us with rivers of living water – full of You, Your ways, Your voice, Your standards – so that life flows in us and then spills OUT of us for Your name’s sake and for Your glory!
The Pastor’s Wife