Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 13 2019 - Jeremiah 2:1-22, 32 – Broken cisterns

A number of years ago, my wife went to the wedding of a work colleague who, along with her husband to be, were both Christians, though many others attending the wedding were not. One of the hymns they chose for the wedding included the memorable verse:

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
  But, ah, the waters failed!
E’en as I stooped to drink they fled,
  And mocked me as I wailed.

My wife wondered what on earth her non-Christian colleagues made of these very strange words!

The picture expressed in that hymn comes from today's passage. Jeremiah 2:13 reads:

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.

A "cistern" was a hole constructed to hold water, whether dug in the open ground or fashioned from an underground cavern. In dry countries such as Judah they would be used to collect water during the wet season and to store it for use during a dry season. Cracked or broken cisterns that could not hold water were useless and life-threatening. Through Jeremiah, God accuses his people of a double folly; they have turned their back on the Lord who is the source of life-giving, plentiful and unfailing water and have turned to to idols, broken cisterns of their own making.

God's reminds his people of their first devotion to him when he rescued them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness (2:1-2). We might argue that even then, Israel were a rebellious people, but now they have unashamedly turned to worthless idols. "What fault did your ancestors find in me" says the Lord, "that they strayed so far from me?" (v.5). Why have they turned away from the Lord who brought them out of Egypt, through the desert and into this fertile land? (vv.6-7). Even their leaders have abandoned the Lord and their prophets prophesy by Baal (v.8). Surely, says God, no other nation has "ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols" (v.11). The Lord's complaint concludes:

Does a young woman forget her jewellery,
    a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
    days without number. (v.32)

Let me return to the strange words of that hymn with which I began. The hymn is not as strange as it might seem from the verse quoted and is worth reading through in full. It has a wonderful chorus:

Now none but Christ can satisfy,
  None other name for me;
There’s love and life and lasting joy,
    Lord Jesus, found in Thee.

Jesus spoke of himself as the source of living water – of abundant blessings to satisfy the thirsty soul. How sad that so many turn away from Christ to seek satisfaction in what their own hands can fashion or the world tells them will bring satisfaction.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Keep our hearts from turning away from Christ. Help us rather to draw others to him who is our life, our hope and our delight.

Peter Misselbrook