In the land of ancient Israel, there were several considerations to take into account when a people group decided where to settle. They looked around a prospective site and asked, “Is there a water source?” “Is there food here?” “Will we be protected?”
Water was the first consideration. Without drills and the equipment we have today, finding water wasn’t easy. The best source of water was a spring. On the farm where I grew up, our water was supplied by a natural spring. Water bubbled up from an underground source and pumped to the house. It was always fresh, moving and cold.
The second source of water was a well. Wells provided an excellent source of water when the water source was reached. It was dependable and fresh. The downside was the effort it took to reach the source. There are many accounts in scripture of interactions that took place by a well. Consider Abraham’s servant looking for a wife for Isaac by the well in Genesis 24 or Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4.
The final source of water was a cistern. In some situations, a natural water source wasn’t available so elaborate underground storage tanks were dug and lined with stone to collect water during the rainy season. When I visited Israel in 2005 I went underground and witnessed the marvels of ancient engineering. The water from the city would flow through the streets, directed into the cistern for use during the dry season. While a viable source of water, this was by far the least desirable. It was stale, not renewable and filled with the filth of the city.
Jeremiah was a prophet to Judah in the years leading up to their captivity in Babylon. At one point, the people didn’t like his message so it says “the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.” (Jeremiah 38:6) This must have been toward the end of the dry season as the water was gone and only mud remained.
Early in Jeremiah’s ministry to the people of Judah, God instructed him to give them this message . . .
13“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!Jeremiah 2:13
Take a moment to consider this vivid word picture. Water is absolutely necessary for life. Before you there are two choices — a fountain of living fresh spring water and a cistern that is cracked so it won’t even hold water. Which do you choose? It seems obvious.
Yet, the exact opposite of what seems obvious is the very thing God says his people are doing — choosing the cracked cistern that doesn’t even hold water. This is what it they chose when they followed gods other than Yahweh.
I don’t know for sure where this week will take us, but we start here. In what ways do you have before you a living fountain –> following God and a cracked cistern –> following your own wisdom? What are you choosing?