The second chapter of Jeremiah is an indictment of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In these verses Jeremiah gives many images of their broken relationship. One of them stuck out to me. It says:

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

–Jeremiah 2: 13

For Israel, water is equated with life. That makes sense in a country with dry climate and not much rain. For Jeremiah, God is a spring that always flows and is forever fresh. We may trust that God will keep the tap on, bringing living water, every time we come back to get it. This image is an invitation to rest our souls in sustainability, even abundance.

The truth, as Jeremiah sees it, is that we have decided to dig cisterns of our own. A cistern is a large holding tank, often carved out of rock or any other hard surface. No doubt cisterns were important to contain water in ancient Israel. However, Jeremiah implies that people believe in their own way to get water—and that they can contain it. They spend a lot of time digging and working for something they already have—if they will go to God. Inevitably, their hard work develops cracks and holes. They find out too late, often at the end of their days, that all they built didn’t give them what they wanted.

Their lives could have had an easy flow, but they spent too much time and energy worrying whether they had enough. Their lives could have been at peace, but they fretted and fussed about piling up more. During their lives they could have passed life on to others, and found yet more in God, but they kept it to themselves and watched it drain away.  All their lives they worshiped at the altar of ego, self, and what they had done, rather than what God had given them freely from the beginning.

There is a spring, friends. It flows every day with life and possibility. You can’t capture it, but you can drink it, enjoy it, and let it flow through you into God’s world. Go ahead, take a drink.

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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana