Have you ever been hiking or biking or just active and been really thirsty? In times like those, you might have a water bottle with tepid water you've been carrying around all day, and that takes the edge off, but does it really satisfy your thirst? What you really want is fresh, ice cold water from a spring. That's the kind of drink that cools you down and truly refreshes, isn't it?
Often such refreshment isn't possible; we're stuck with our lukewarm water that tastes a bit like plastic. But when fresh, cold water is available, most of us would pass up what we've got for what really satisfies.
Sadly, in our spiritual lives we don't always make that same, wise choice. Our souls long for living water that only Jesus can provide, but we often settle for the spiritual equivalent of lukewarm water and are left with an unsatisfied thirst.
Read: Jeremiah 2:12-13
12 Be appalled at this, you 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."
The Middle East is largely an arid land. Rains come from October until April, but a good six months of the year there is no precipitation. Towns were built near a good water supply - a spring or a well - but even those could run dry. Often families and communities would build large cisterns to store rain water that could be used during the dry times. Even today if you visit the Middle East you will find buildings with water tanks on top storing water for the families inside.
One problem with cisterns is the water often did not taste very good and was rarely cold. If there was a spring or some sort of moving water, it was always preferred. The other problem was that the cisterns would leak. They did not have water-tight materials to keep the water from seeping out of them. The water was rarely clean as silt and sediment, not to mention algae and other things, would creep in. No one would drink from a cistern if fresh, spring water were available.
In Jeremiah, God says his people have sinned in two ways: 1) They have forsaken Him who provides living water; and 2) They have built their own leaky cisterns. Even though God had cared for the people and provided for the people and blessed the people, time and time again they had run off after idols. They had left God and pursued gods they made for themselves. They preferred tepid, disgusting water to the living water God provided. Maybe they wanted to be in control. Maybe they didn't like all the rules God set up. Whatever it was, God condemns their actions as sin.
Before we shake our heads and condemn these folks, let's be honest. We do the same thing with our souls. God has made us to yearn from deep within for intimacy and connection with him. Nothing else can satisfy. And yet we try to fill up our longing with work, sports, relationships, food, alcohol...any number of things we think will give us meaning and purpose. Even good things like Christian books, music or even church and family can become a cistern taking us away from the living water if we aren't careful.
Maybe we don't want to admit our weakness. Maybe we don't want to lose control. Maybe we're afraid the "living water" won't really satisfy. Maybe we like the momentary pleasures of our cisterns too much and fear the cost of giving them up...
What are the broken cisterns in your life?
What are the things you've put in place of God hoping they will fulfill the longing of your soul?
Where have you allowed 'gods' to take the place of God in your life?
Take time to ask God to help you find your satisfaction only in the living water Jesus provides. Ask him to show you ways to reorder the rhythms of your life so you drink deeply from his living water rather than the broken cisterns in your life.