Broken Cisterns | Tomorrow's World

Broken Cisterns

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Are you holding on to God's Truth in your life?

"Going green" is all in vogue, as struggling economies and fragile ecosystems around the world face the need to conserve and recycle. Nowadays, people in wealthy Western nations often repurpose or recycle items that they once would have thoughtlessly discarded. At every level, more energy-efficient means of meeting our basic daily needs are being sought. Careless wastefulness just does not make good sense.

Recently, as I was helping friends install rain barrels to catch the rainwater runoff from the gutters of their home (a practice that was very common in earlier years before modern urban plumbing was routine), my mind turned to a Scripture that can hold much meaning for those who will pause to ponder it.

In about 635–605bc, the ancient prophet Jeremiah—sometimes called the "weeping prophet"—wrote a stern warning to the "house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel" (Jeremiah 2:4). He outlined the sins of the nation, and prophesied of terrible consequences if the people refused to change from their sinful ways. He wrote: "'Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,' says the Lord. 'For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water'" (vv. 11–13).

What is a cistern? It is a receptacle for storage of water, usually underground. In using this analogy, what was Jeremiah saying to those people long ago? Does he have a message for us today?

Clearly, the people of Jeremiah's age were ignoring God's plain instructions on how to live their lives. They were not keeping God's commandments; they were not concerned for each other. Their leaders were leading them astray, and they willingly went along with it.

Their loving God was richly providing them with "living waters"—spiritual truths and blessings—but those living waters were not being retained. Rather, they were being kept in broken cisterns, where they leaked away and did no one any good.

We still have that expression today, in a common English-language idiom. When we hear about some unfounded scheme or some unworkable idea—sure to fail—we may say, "Why, that just won't hold water!"

What about you? Will your beliefs, values and actions "hold water" under the scrutiny of God's words, as found in the Bible? Are you storing up God's truth, and His blessings, through faithfulness and obedience as a repentant follower of Jesus Christ? Or have you, through neglect or rebellion, failed to focus on what is most important in life, and hewn out for yourself "broken cisterns that can hold no water"?

God's word to ancient Israel, delivered through the prophet Jeremiah, still has meaning for "spiritual Israel" today. In Jeremiah's day, God lamented, "My people have forgotten Me days without number" (v. 32). How much more this is true today, when most of the "Lost Ten Tribes" of ancient Israel have entirely forgotten their roots! (For more on the modern-day identities of the ancient Israelite tribes, write for our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy).

But you as an individual can remember, and can reap the blessings God intends. You can learn the life-changing truths of Scripture. You can practice a Way of life that does "hold water"—the living water, which pictures the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit, repentant Christians have God's help in bringing genuine change to their lives, as they begin to live God's Way and receive not only the blessings that come in this life, but also those that will come in the Kingdom of God, at Christ's return.

We at Tomorrow's World want to help you learn and grow. All of our literature is provided absolutely free of charge. Have you considered enrolling in our Tomorrow's World Bible Study Course, available in print or online at absolutely no charge? Contact the Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 30), or go to to learn more. Check it out today!


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