Broken Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:1-13

Many of our older generation are familiar with cisterns, and may have used them.
Many of my relatives had cisterns.
I have drunk water from many cisterns.
Before we had city water, people caught rainwater from their roofs and the water would
flow into the cistern.
But there were problems with cisterns.
If it didn't rain, then, you had no water.
And, even if you had enough water, the cistern could spring a leak.

Cisterns were also important in Israel during Jeremiah's day.
Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of them.
The land was arid and they could experience long dry spells.
In those days the people would dig cisterns, and then line them with bricks and plaster
so they would hold the water.
But they would often develop leaks and the cistern would dry up, and they would have no water.
Catching the water was necessary for their lives and their livelihood.

Jeremiah says in our Scripture passage: "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).

Broken cisterns were a serious problem in those days, and it didn't make sense for people
to depend on old, broken cisterns when right beside their cistern there was
a continuous spring of living water.

It was ridiculous for people trying to fill broken cisterns, and then to scrape out the little bit
of stagnant water in the bottom, and yet, refuse to drink from the fresh spring water
which was flowing right next to them.

This was a picture of the people of Israel.
They laughed at Jeremiah's metaphor, but in reality they were laughing at themselves
because they had rejected the true God who was called "the spring of living water,"
and were relying on their own efforts to satisfy the longings of their souls and their urgent need
of water.
They had strayed from God whom the psalmist called "the fountain of life,"
and they went after other gods. (Psalm 36:9)
They had tried to find satisfaction in various sins and other futile attempts to fill their lives.

But their attempts were like trying to fill broken cisterns.
Whatever they were able to accumulate became stagnant, and they were not able to hold on to
much of what they could find.
They were trying to accumulate things, but they had nothing of real value.
There was a stench in their nostrils and their lives were empty because they were unwilling
to turn to the true God who could give them real life which was lasting and fulfilling.
They did not trust the Lord to satisfy their thirst.
Jeremiah said: We all are thirsty.
In other words, He was saying that there are thirsts and longings in our lives that are
placed there by God.

We need for our lives to have real meaning.
We are searching for a lasting purpose in which we can invest our lives.
We are looking for love and intimacy.
We want joy and happiness.
We want peace.
We want freedom.
All of these longings are a part of what all of us have.

We are created in the likeness of God, and these are the things that He wants us to have.
He has created us to have these hungers and thirsts, and the question is:
how can these longings and hungers be fulfilled in our lives.

It is not a sin to be thirsty, but satisfying that thirst in selfish ways can be sinful.
It is not a sin to desire love, but how we decide to meet our need for love can be sinful.
It is not a sin for us to want meaning and purpose in our lives , but if our life's primary purpose
and meaning is not within God's will for us, then it is sinful.
It is not a sin to desire freedom, unless we desire to be free from God, then it is sinful
It is not a sin for us to seek happiness, but when we seek happiness outside the will of God,
it is sinful.

All of these ways are like drinking the smelly, stagnant, diseased water at the bottom
of a broken cistern when we could be drinking from the springs of living water.
Christian, how are you responding to these thirsts and hungers of life?
We must acknowledge that these thirsts we have have come from God.
He is our Maker.
He has created us and has filled us with all the longings in our lives.
These are legitimate longings.
And we must realize that God has a way for these longings to be met in us.
So, we must not forsake the "Spring of Living Water" for our broken cisterns.
Our needs are real, but we must satisfy those needs according to God's way
rather than our way.

We know that we are inadequate to meet these needs.
We can build a cistern, but it will be inadequate, and there is no way that we can create
a spring of living water.
We know that God is in charge of the water, and our attempts will always result in failure.
We know that God loves us and wants our lives to be fulfilled.
And we must remember that Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink."
(John 7:37)
He also said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
(John 10:10)

God is not holding out on us.
He is not trying to frustrate our God-given inclinations and desires;
He is trying to show us how to meet those needs and how they have can be realized.
He gave us those needs.
He created life, and He knows how life is to be lived.
When we fully trust Him, we will experience that abundant life that only He can provide.
When we try to meet our needs our way, we will experience frustration and failure.
God wants only the best for us, so we must look to God for every need of our lives.
He wants the best for us.
Today, many are building their own cisterns which in time will leak.
Today, we have more "stuff" than we have ever had.
We are constantly seeking more pleasures and ways to satisfy ourselves.
We seek entertainment that will give us pleasure.

We are still trying to build our own cisterns while the streams of God are flowing
all around us.

God is inviting us to come and drink of the living water and never thirst again.
But people desire something that they create.
Many people have such empty lives when they are trying to keep up with people's lives
in the entertainment world.
They want to know what these people on TV and in the movies eat,and where they go,
and who are they dating.

Why would we prefer to do things our way rather than accept God's way?
Why do we insist on building broken cisterns rather than drinking from the spring of living water
that will never run dry?
Why do we run from one thing to another, never finding satisfaction, but never running to God?

Remember when Jesus was sitting at a well when a Samaritan woman came there to draw water.
He asked: "Will you give me a drink?"

In those days it was not acceptable for a man to speak to a woman in public,
and even more unacceptable for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan.
When she questioned him, he said, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink,
you would have asked him and he would have given you living water
" (John 4:10).

Jesus asked for a drink, because he had no way of getting water from the well,
and then, He says that if she knew who he was, she would ask him for a drink.

Jesus knew that this woman had tried to satisfy her thirst for life in all the wrong ways.
She was living with a man who was not her husband, and she had had five husbands before him.
But Jesus was not talking about water, he was talking about life.

He said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water
I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water
welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13 -14).

Jesus was inviting her to come to him as the source of the water of life.
All of her efforts to find a satisfying life had only brought failure and misery to her.
She had ruined her life and the lives of others as well.
Her life resembled a broken cistern.

She was alienated from her community, her family and herself.
All the life had leaked out of her and she was desperate and hopeless.
And then, Jesus came into her life.
He offered her more than water; He was going to give her real life – satisfying life.
She received that life, and it became flowing through her, and she couldn't keep quiet
about what God had done for her.
She began telling all her friends and neighbors so that many others began to drink of real life.
Pascal said, "Human beings are peculiar in that they pursue ends they know will bring them
no satisfaction, gorge themselves with food that cannot nourish and with pleasures
that cannot please
."

There are many people like that today.
They settle for pretend or fragile relationships.
They look for intimacy in pornography.
They seek vicarious thrills.
They try to escape reality.
Instead of living water they search drugs to anesthetize them.
They prevent themselves from really feeling.
They avoid thinking.
They live in fear.

Some years ago, a lady in our church came to me to discuss her problem.
She had a daughter who was also a member of our congregation.
She had been twice married and divorced, and had a succession of one night stands
with several men.

She wanted to know why every man in her life had physically abused her, and used her
for their own purposes.
After listening to her story and the fact that all of the men she met – she met at a bar.
The answer was obvious.
This woman was looking for love in the wrong places.

People like this whether they are rich or poor, whether they are prominent or unknown,
they are broken cisterns.
The Bible describes them, as "… clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees,
without fruit and uprooted — twice dead.
They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars,
for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever
" (Jude 1:12_13).

This is so tragic if that is your position.
The decision is yours.
You can keep on trying to seek for the desires of your life or you can turn to God
to have your deepest longings met.
You can continue do it your way or God's way.
You can continue to pursue your plans or God's plan.

Many are spending their life and their time with trivial things, and never consider eternal matters.
Many are so busy repairing and refilling their broken cistern that they give no thought
to the fact that they could drink of the living water which will bring complete satisfaction.

C. S. Lewis said, "The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.
It cannot be just one of the many things that you pursue.
It is the most important matter that you could ever pursue.


Most of you are busy, busy .
Your schedule is full, and your time is filled up with all your activities.
But your life is empty, and devoid of real meaning.
You say all the right things, but deep down, there is an emptiness.
You should be living a victorious life, but you're not.
You should be free from the consistent anxieties, but you're not.
You should be able to sleep soundly each night, being at peace with God, but you don't.

God is asking you to see what you have been doing with your life, and you will have to say
that you spent all your resources on yourself?
You feel like you have been wasting your life, and you have ignored many opportunities
to be used by God.
Instead, you have been living your life just to please yourself.
There are those here who have other people and things in the place where God should be.
Things such as: sports, art, sex, music, work, gambling, drugs, alcohol, TV, and even another person.
Because of that you are not enjoying the abundant life that God has been ready to give you.
God is ready to bless you with the abundant life that you can have if you would just ask Him.

When I was a teenager, I heard my pastor tell of several people in a revival service
who had come to the altar, and were on their knees praying.
He told that one lady cried out loudly: "O dear God, fill me with your Holy Spirit!"
She cried out the second time: "O dear God, fill me with your Holy Spirit!"
And a man on his knees prayed: "O dear God, don't do it for she leaks!"

Many Christians have developed leaks.
If you do not love God with all your soul, and with all your heart, and with all your strength,
then you leak.
If you are not putting God first place in your life, then you have sprung a leak.
If you are not obeying the great commission, then you have a leak.
If you are not witnessing to unsaved loved ones and friends, then your cistern is leaking.
If you have gone for days or even for weeks, and you have not even prayed for them,
then you leak.

If you can spend your day without feeding upon God's Word, then you are leaking.
If you can go day after day without spending time alone in prayer with God,
then your cistern leaks.
If you just attend church services when you have nothing else planned, then you leak.
If you are not obedient to pay your tithe to God, then you leak.
If you are always against everything that the church has voted to do, then you leak.
If you are always finding fault with your pastor and other church leaders, then you leak.
If you are gossiping, then you leak.

I believe there are those who are thinking:
"How could I have wasted my life after all that God has given me?
How could I have treated God's purpose for my life as though it was unimportant?
How could I have majored on the minors and minored on the majors
?"
Just think of all that God was ready to give, and yet, you have considered other things
more important to you than God.

Joseph Goebbels departed from his religious upbringing that taught him about Christ.
He later remarked, "It is almost immaterial what we believe so long as we believe in something."

For Goebbels that someone was the murderous Adolph Hitler who became Goebbels' substitute for God.
When Hitler was finally trapped and defeated, Goebbels killed himself and his family.
God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
"My people have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and [have made] broken cisterns
that can hold no water
." (Jeremiah 2:13)
They had turned from the one true God to worthless substitutes.
To abandon God means we risk being made "desolate" (v.12).
But obedience to Christ brings complete fulfillment that gives life, peace, and hope.

"All the springs my soul had tested
Failed to meet my deepest need;
Christ alone has met my longing,
He has satisfied indeed
. "
—Waggoner
God alone can satisfy the emptiness of the soul.:
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water
" (Psalm 63:1).

The invitation of Jesus is still: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37)

"I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that Life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him
."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White