Man-made Cisterns v The Fountain of Living Water

Dear Friends,

One Sunday morning back in September I preached on the following passage:    

11 Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all?  Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!  12 The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,” says the Lord.

13 “For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me - the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all! Jeremiah 2:11-13 (NLT)

God told Jeremiah, his prophet, to pass on his words to his people, the Israelites. Using the metaphor of water, God was describing the spiritual state of his people, the Israelites. 

In the parched land of Israel, cool spring water was extremely rare and highly valued. Running, living water, which flowed all year, was important to them. It provided them with the refreshment they needed and was deeply satisfying.

In contrast, cisterns were man-made holes dug in the ground. The Israelites collected rain water in wet weather so that they had water for their dry summers. However, these cisterns could become putrid and dangerous to drink.  The cistern walls would also often crack and then the water would drain out.

If you had the choice of these two different water sources, would you choose these man-made cisterns over a fountain of living water?

But this was what God’s people, the Israelites, had done. They chose to abandon God, their true source of life, the fountain of living water, the one who refreshes, who gives lasting satisfaction and fulfillment and instead they chose to worship man-made idols which were empty, worthless and dangerous.

It’s easy for us to read these verses and criticise them for what they were doing.  And yet, if we take a step back from the Israelites for a moment, we realise that actually we are not so different from them. God is the true source of life, the one who gives us real life, who refreshes us, who provides us with lasting satisfaction and he is available to us any time, all the time. 

But instead of going to God to be refreshed and satisfied, we replace him with other things or other people (man-made cisterns).  Even after we have chosen to follow God and to be committed to him, there is still something of our old nature in us, and sometimes we can still displace God by putting something or someone else in his place. 

The Israelites had chosen to worship other idols instead of God.  We do the same when we choose to make something or someone, other than God, the centre of our life.

There was a time in my own life when I put service – doing things for God - ahead of my relationship with him. The time I spent with him became less and less important. Without realising it I was no longer really relying on God, the true source of my life.  I was too busy going to church meetings, leading Junior Church, being a housewife, working as a part-time shop assistant etc. I was living an unbalanced life and I was not getting the refreshment I needed.  Drawing from my man-made cistern was breaking me.  I believe it was actually one of the factors leading to me becoming ill.

I became so ill with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) that I was no longer able to do all the things I had been doing.  Over time God graciously and gently revealed to me how my "doing" had become more important to me than anything else and that this needed to change. I needed once again to put God at the centre of my life. So that he was the one I went to when I was in need of refreshment, of encouragement, of comfort, of strength. So that he was the one I went to for approval, love and acceptance, rather than seeking it elsewhere.

No longer able to do all that I had once done, I was able, with God’s help, to begin to live a more balanced life. I had more time to be in a relationship with him. He drew me closer to him and as I drew closer to him, my relationship with him became stronger and more vital to me.  I learnt what it meant for him to refresh me.  By placing him at the centre of my life, I became more satisfied and fulfilled.  I learnt that he is more than enough for me and that my needs can only be met in him.  

Instead of going to God as your source of living water, have you been going to man-made cisterns to find refreshment, satisfaction and fulfillment? Perhaps for you it’s been something similar to service or ministry.  Or maybe it’s something else such as a relationship, employment, entertainment, hobbies, shopping, drugs, pornography, alcohol etc.

We need to stop going to our man-made cisterns.  We need to stop seeking satisfaction and fulfillment there and instead go to God who is the source of all that we could ever need. These man-made cisterns are no good for us.  They may appear so at the beginning, they may bring some satisfaction and fulfillment to our life, but none of it is lasting.  Eventually they will fail us and we will keep seeking other man-made cisterns to fulfill our needs, until we turn to God. 

Only God can provide lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. A fountain of living water is a never ending, limitless supply of water necessary for life.  God too is a fountain of living water - he is the source of everything, his resources are limitless and he gives us all that we need to live a full life.

To Think About:
Have you been going to a man-made cistern rather than to the fountain of living water?

Have you ever put something/someone in God’s place?What was it and what was the result of going to something/someone other than God to have your needs met?

Do you need to put God back where he belongs?

Will you keep drawing from him daily, moment by moment for all that you need?



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