“Be appalled, O Heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,”
declares the LORD,
“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.”
– Jeremiah 2:12-13
From the Golden Calf in Exodus, to the cycle of trusting and leaving God in Judges, and to the pursuit of Babylonian gods in Jeremiah, the Israelites constantly reject God for other things. In our eyes, the Israelites seem so fickle and ridiculous. How can they continue to reject God despite the obvious consequences that come with rejecting God? How can they continue to reject God despite seeing His miracles and wonder?
In the passage from Jeremiah, God brings attention to the Israelites’ disobedience. He calls to the heavens to show how the Israelites have once again rejected Him. They have “forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that hold no water.” Not only did they reject God, who is the sustainer and giver of all life, they traded him for something that won’t even hold water. Given the option between a fountain and a cistern that leaks, it doesn’t make sense to choose the cisterns.
Yet, it’s not that the cistern is better than the fountain, but the fact that the Israelites are making the cisterns themselves that makes it so appealing. It gives the Israelites agency– a sense of independence and control. Rather than relying on God, they trust their own hands. Though the cisterns are broken, the Israelites put their faith in themselves to make something better than what God can provide.
This problem isn’t just for the Israelites, but is a problem for us today. There are countless times when I decide my way is better than God’s way. Instead of looking to God for my help, I turn towards my own power and strength. And every time, I come up empty handed. I come up with a broken cistern unable to hold water. Although I may know in my head that God is greater than I am, I constantly reject that truth in my heart.
During this season of Lent, we are called to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us by giving up our own control and submitting to God’s control. This is especially relevant with the fears and panic from the coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of uncertainty, it’s easy to turn away from God and turn to what we think will bring us safety or satisfaction. That might mean downplaying the virus and abandoning all recommendations from the government, or trying to fight through the fear of the pandemic without a firm reliance on Scripture. Yet, as we try time and time again to hew out cisterns, we will find that they are broken and cannot hold water. We are humbly reminded that it isn’t our hands that save but it is God’s hands.
When we relinquish control and turn to the true living water, we find that this is all we need. Here, the water is freely given. The grace of God abounds and brings comfort in these times of doubt. When we thirst for answers, God reminds us to wait. When we thirst for comfort, God opens his arms wide. Since Christ has already died for us, we don’t have to rely on our broken cisterns anymore. Even when we turn away from this fountain, God will continue to provide for us. Praise God for bringing water to the thirsty and comfort to the broken!
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
– John 7:37-38
Joshua Hong ’23 is a freshman in Wigglesworth Hall.