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  • Joshua White

Broken Cisterns

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).”

I read this verse earlier today, and the term “broken cisterns” stood out to me. As I began to contemplate what the prophet was saying here, I could not help but wonder if there were any broken cisterns in my own life.

Most of us know Jeremiah and his story pretty well. He was a prophet of the Lord, who had a sustained and significant ministry to the southern kingdom of Judah. He was called as a very young man, and his ministry would last some 50 years. His message was a very unpopular one (there are even archaeological findings that reference him as a fatalist). During his ministry, Jeremiah would be persecuted, his life would be in danger, he would see the fall of the Assyrian empire and the rise of Babylon, as well as the fall of Judah. During this time He would confront Judah with their sin before God, and call them to repent, all the while being largely ignored. And yet, his message, the message given to him by God continues to affect God’s people in such magnificent ways.

Here in this verse we are confronted with two realities, two evils. The first is a turning away from God, and the second is the practical outworking of not trusting in God while turning to broken cisterns—in Judah’s case it was turning to false gods for help. The question I was faced with today is this “is there anything in my life that can be called an empty cistern?”

We often think of not trusting God as a singular sin practically displayed in our lives, but God, through the prophet, is saying that if there is a lack of trust in God, there is necessarily the sin of trusting something else. As Christians, we come together and profess confidence in the sovereign rule and sovereign grace of our wonderful and merciful God. We boldly quote Paul when he writes, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We find comfort in the truth that Paul writes to Titus, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” We love to sing songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “Not What My Hands Have Done.” But even with all that truth on our minds and on our tongues, how often do we progress through the various parts of our lives dependent on something other than God? How often was that the case even today?

There are so many examples that we can draw from the nation of Israel concerning a lack of trust in the Lord while looking to earthly powers for help. But what has come to my mind as an example for us is David. David failed to trust the Lord God to help in times of need, and looked to his own power and the power of his army to save them as he numbered them, even though in doing so he was being disobedient. This is but one of many examples throughout Scripture.

What is the big deal? The big deal is that like David, and like Judah in Jeremiah’s day, if we fail to trust God in all things, we are necessarily worshiping something or someone else. There is nothing and no one who can deliver us, besides the Lord. He alone is the fountain of living waters.


Think about how foolish it would be to try to gather water in a cracked glass, or cup with holes. Think about what it would be like to put out a fire with a bucket that would not hold water. It is just as foolish to trust anything and anyone other than our Creator and Savior, the fountain of all provision and grace. When we fail to trust God, we succeed only in misplacing our trust. This is idolatry.

Looking back to David as our example. He is one who had learned the hard way, but he did learn that God is the only One worthy of our trust. Take what he wrote time and again throughout the Psalms:

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee (Psalm 9:10).”

“O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me (Psalm 25:2).”

O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee (Psalm 25:20).”

For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me (Psalm 44:6).”

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me (Psalm 56:4).”

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me (Psalm 56:11).”

As we live lives that are fully entrusted to God’s wisdom and grace, it will be evident to all those around us. No longer are we putting our trust in money, our own power, influence, strength, ability. But we have given all these things we once trusted in, these idols of the heart over to the Lord in Whom we now trust.

For example, think about about money. When the saint of God has become worried about their ability to buy what is needed in their lives, they have failed in trusting that God will provide for their every need. What is the first thing to stop in our lives when we become consumed with worry over money? Giving tithes and offerings to the Lord through His church. A wrong relationship with money exemplifies a wrong heart toward God and when this happens, we begin to thirst and starve because our cistern is broken.

Christ said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” I know that there are eternal spiritual implications here, but don’t you know that what is going on spiritually absolutely does have physical implications? The Lord is living water, and we must drink from this fountain to be saved. But there is also a very real sense in which we must continue to look, continue to drink, continue to trust in the author and finisher of our faith. If we fail, even in the most minute details of our lives, to drink from the fountain of living waters, we will grow parched.

In light of what Jeremiah has written we must search and try our ways brethren. Let us, with purpose and drive, seek to trust the lord in all things. Committing to him in prayer all that burdens us.

I love this expression by David in Psalm 36:7-9How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

This should be our expression in all thing when it comes to this life lived in faith. May it be that if there are any broken cisterns that we have set up in our own lives, that the God of all grace and mercy would show us these things and that we might throw them on the trash heap where they belong. We have a fountain that ever flows, we have no need of broken cisterns.

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