Tag Archives: cistern

On Broken Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

 were in important element of life in the dryer parts of the country as they were throughout the dry parts of the world.  They are found in all sizes and shapes, but in the US were generally the size of a bedroom in a farm house.  To make a cistern, you need to dig a hole six to ten feet deep and about the same on all sides.  The walls have to be covered with concrete or something else that will hold the water in.  It’s a little like building a small swimming pool, except the top has to be covered as well.  Every roof needs gutters feeding rain water into pipes that run into the cistern.

You may know that the Temple platform in Jerusalem has a number of cisterns dug into the solid rock of the mountain.  They were used to store water for two purposes: to wash the sacrificial area and to supply the people with water if they were under siege, as they were in 70 CE.  But before you envision ten foot holes, the Temple cisterns could supply a million people water for months.

You may be wondering why this history lesson.  Jeremiah was told by God, “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.”

If, a century ago, you were lucky enough to live close to a brook, stream, or river, you had no use for a cistern.  If you choose to live next to God, you have a constant stream of living water, but if you don’t want to live near God, you have to build a cistern because living water does not flow anywhere else.

The image in Jeremiah is of building a cistern to catch the occasional drops of life that God allows everyone to have.  Those drops have to be stored and held because they are so precious, thus the hole in the ground.  But, as God says, “they are broken and cannot hold water.”  It is a futile exercise, yet another human delusion.  We think we can get along without God.

The Scriptures are filled with opposing images to represent God and not God.  Light and dark, loving God and loving self, being righteous and being greedy; they all yield the same message: life only exists with God.

Let’s look back at the first sin God listed: “They have forsaken me.”  Jesus explains that to the Pharisees at the Sabbath dinner.  “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”  If you live next to the living water, offer some of it to others.  It is a river that can never run dry.

God wants to share with us and he wants us to share with others, especially those who are outside the range of the living water.  The author of Hebrews writes, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  “Keep on loving each other.  Do not forget to entertain strangers.”

So, what do I do Monday?  How do I live my life close to God when I spend most of my waking hours taking care of the kids, going to work, keeping up the house, the car, etc.  All those things seem to leave no time for God.

Take God with you.  Yes, it’s that simple, and that easy.  OK, maybe not easy at first.  Work at it day after day.  Accept your failures as learning experiences and strive to do better.  It cannot be done overnight, but it can be done.  Take God with you wherever you go.  The really Good News is that you will have help every step of the way.  Remember that some of those strangers are angles.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence