One of the joys of my young life was when my parents would pile us boys into the old Model A Ford and take us to see Grandpa and Grandma, way up in the hills in northern Oregon. They were European immigrants from the early twentieth century who basically still kept the old ways of their life in Europe.
These trips introduced me to the cistern. At the top of the hill where they lived, there was no source of water beyond whatever rain or snow fell. The rain that fell on the mossy roofs of the homestead and the barn was caught in gutters and diverted by chute to two underground containers. These were cisterns. One of the fun things to do during our visits was taking the bucket out to the cistern, lowering it by rope to the water level, and then drawing up some water and taking it into the house.
Today’s focus verse uses a cistern to paint a picture of the Israelites’ spiritual state. As God’s chosen people, the Children of Israel had special access to Him that most were not blessed with. They had an early knowledge of the one true God, were given the Law to tell them how to live pleasing in His sight, and their history was rich with examples of His faithfulness. Yet, they turned their backs on the truth and chose idolatry instead, worshiping fake gods that had no power to save their souls. To illustrate the absurdity of their choice, Jeremiah compared it to someone trying to get water from a broken cistern while ignoring a nearby fountain!
A cistern can be good when it works correctly, but the point here is that a false religion is like a broken cistern. It seems to have promise for supplying water, but in actuality it is empty and can supply nothing.
We have been blessed with access to the living waters, so let us not be tempted to look for something better. There is nothing better than the Gospel, only emptiness. Thank God that the living waters can meet our every need, and He gives it freely to whoever comes to Him!