August 23, 2015

Broken Cisterns

I watched as she tried with all her might to piece it together again. She closely examined each piece looking at the sharp ragged ends, being careful not to cut herself. Judiciously and meticulously she performed the task and I was certain she was going to call for me within the next minute and like clockwork, she did.

"Mom, can you come here for a moment, please," she yelled.

I pretended I hadn't been spying on her as I sauntered over.

"Yes?" I inquired.

"Mom, I broke my favorite toy and I tried to call you before I fixed it, but it's broken, Mom," she said as she looked at me sheepishly.

A mom knows the right words to say to her child, and at this moment, no words were necessary. I knew a replacement would not work. Nothing could replace the original, so I held her in silence and muffled her cries in my chest.

I had to tell her the truth, that the toy was cracked when I bought it - it was on clearance so how could I resist?

As I told her the harsh truth, I was reminded of Jeremiah delivering a harsh truth to the Israelite's, though in a compelling sermon o f how they, too, were broken from the start. Yet they were not toys; they were broken cisterns.

There are many Biblical references to cisterns, and though an antiquated word in today's society, cisterns served an important purpose during those times. A cistern was an artificial or make shift reservoir that was dug into the earth to collect and store water, and were very important in the land of Israel because it was arid and humid.

So how can a cistern be a bad thing? Jeremiah gives us the answer when he condemns Judah for its sins: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). 

Here, cisterns are metaphorical for orifices with no purpose beyond making an idol out of sin. Sin that leaves us devoid of the true living water because we depend on self or sin to satisfy ourselves instead of Jesus. Thus, we are looking to other things to quench our spiritual thirst. These cisterns were not broken due to prolonged use; no, they were broken from the very start. They were never whole.

The story of  Joseph also houses a cistern. Joseph's brothers kidnapped him and "[t]hen they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it" (Genesis 37:24). Thank God it was cracked, for if not Joseph could have drowned because it's not like his brothers checked to make sure it was empty or dry before throwing him inside. A broken cistern saved Joseph's life but Joseph's faith was never in "things." His faith was in God.

Are we like Joseph? Or have we made our own cisterns  like the Israelite's in chasing the fulfillment of what this life offers? Are we not seeking the true Fountain of life to replenish our souls? Have we journeyed on to find other fountains to drink from only to find that we are still in a spiritual drought? Do we get more enjoyment in the things of this world than the word of God? We can enjoy life, but we should always retain a balance as Christians. God has to win over sin.
Maybe you're struggling with a sin today that has cracked your foundation. No matter what pretty picture the world paints, Jesus did not die so we could sin all we want. He told the
adulteress woman in John 8:10-11 at the well to, "Go forth and sin no more, " and not go forth and sin all you want. Jesus stood in the gap for our sin and every time we willingly give into sin, our cisterns crack because of our disobedience. Over 2,000 years ago it was foolish to put hope in a broken cistern that would fail you, and in 2015, the broken cisterns of sin is still a foolish hope.

Our cisterns may be broken or cracked, but we serve a God who has a continual flow of water that guarantees we will never be thirsty. We will receive an overflow every time we drink from His fountain. Maybe it's time we paid the true Fountain a visit - to drink from it instead. Say with me today, "I walk away from the broken cisterns and I walk to the Fountain of God." Start walking. He's waiting.


  1. Wow....this is the 2nd blog I've read that has spoken to my current situation. If I can be transparent, my desire to sit at Christ feet has lessened due to my concern for work, finances, health, and all this other stuff that is temporary and unfulfilling. I know God is trying to get my attention with everything that is going on. He wants me to be filled by Him consistently. Thank you for writing this. Get well soon.

  2. Thank you - this assisted me in preparing a sermon based on Jer2:13.