Take Another Drink

Back to those “holes” in your backyard (please see previous blog: Take a Drink); those “cisterns” you’ve been drinking from in hopes of being refreshed. If you don’t know, a cistern is not a well. A cistern is a dug out reservoir to hold water; water directed to it from a nearby spring or more commonly, rainwater. Where a well generates its own water; a cistern is nothing more than a tank.

Very few people had a well in ancient Palestine; but virtually every home had a cistern. Jerusalem, in particular, had water issues. It is built mostly on a rock mount. Excavation into the rock and then often built up with stonework above ground gave the cistern the look of a well. But it certainly was not. A well replenishes itself; a cistern has a limited supply and often goes dry. In ancient Israel, a broken cistern was a common problem; the water simply was used up, evaporated, or more commonly, just leaked out the bottom.

This is the imagery God uses to charge unfaithful Judah with neglecting Him and chasing after other gods: “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). They turned away from God (“the spring of living water”) and went looking for other gods to satisfy—false gods (“broken cisterns”) that were useless and empty.

Now back to your backyard. Over the years, most of us have dug a few “cisterns” ourselves. We don’t see them as idols, but that is what they become. When a bottle is used to calm or a joint or pill to sooth; we have granted them deity status. When a relationship becomes the basis of our worth or our job becomes our “chief end”; they have been given the role of a god. And when a friend’s approval becomes of first concern or “secret sins” become our source of pleasure; then we are bowing to a foreign alter. What also complicates and confuses is that “good things” can easily become “broken cisterns.” A growing church for a pastor or beautiful and successful children for a mother can become little idols, too.

In ancient Israel, empty cisterns were sometimes used as prisons or places of confinement. Joseph was cast into one by his brothers (Genesis 37:22). Those who did not like God’s prophetic voice “lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud” (Jeremiah 38:6). And that’s another problem with broken cisterns; they become prisons. Are you in one?

The exhortation is the same as the previous blog. Stop looking for water elsewhere, my friend. Jesus is enough. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Put down the shovel, get out of the mud, and drink from the only well that never runs dry.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

December 8, 2011

1 comment

  1. I have been rereading Idols of the Heart (a womens’ study we did a few years ago), and your blogs have lined up perfectly. Thank you.