Broken Cisterns: 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.
– Jer. 2:13

While in college, I took a class on Spiritual Formation. We read a book by Larry Crabb on the subject, and he suggested, as part of a commentary on this passage, that we try and do the same thing as the Israelites.

In this passage, the Israelites are being castigated by Yahweh’s chosen prophet, Jeremiah, for forgetting the warning in Deuteronomy 8:11-19:

11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”

I was watching the snow fall last night, after the clouds had swept in and covered the Ouray sky like a thick woolen blanket. There is a soft silence, a stillness and a peace that attends snowfall. I took a short walk and I let my thoughts wander. In the midst of the falling snow and stillness, my heart called to mind this warning:

“Beware, lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”

What wealth, you ask? The wealth of my condition. The wealth of my body (I am able bodied), the wealth of my possessions (I live like a king by comparison to many), but most importantly: the wealth of my soul. I have been ransomed out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). In what ways do we live out our gratitude to Yahweh, that he has, at great – indeed, unimaginable – cost to himself, purchased us back by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ into the Kingdom of Heaven?

The question runs deeper though. God in Jeremiah’s prophecy metaphorically refers to himself like a spring of running, pure, clean water. He says that His Chosen People have cut themselves off from him (they have literally rejected him). Instead, they pursue new life by digging for themselves wells, putting reservoirs in the ground to try and hold the water that they scavenge.

Are we so independent that we think we can live without the source of our soul’s life? Jesus says in John 4:34, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” So I ask myself, and we might wish to ask ourselves, is this true in our lives?

When we are feeling weary and dry, like travelers in a desert, ought we not to seek out the source of eternal life that flows from the fountain of the Spirit born into our hearts? Ought we not to turn our gaze again to the Lord? What wells have we dug; broken wells that cannot hold the meager sustenance we forage from the ground of our lives?

The water of my own achievement has the brackish taste of human weakness. The water that flows from the heart of Christ satisfies eternally.

The first step in spiritual formation is to recognize our eternal dependence upon the Fountain of Living Waters – Yahweh. Jesus calls on us to return and to drink deeply of the stream that flows from the Throne of God (Rev. 22:1). We do this through worship, meditation, prayer and communion.

As I look out the window, the snow of last night is melting away. Let us not permit the moments of God’s wisdom and insight melt away from our hearts. Like a child longs for the next snowflake to fall, let us eagerly pursue God’s wisdom, eagerly longing to drink from the Fountain of Living Waters.

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