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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Jeremiah 2:13 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.

Most of us are familiar with cisterns. Although not used as much in current times, they were used extensively a few decades ago in more rural areas as a source of water when public water systems were not available. The same was true in biblical times. Cisterns were used extensively throughout Syria and Palestine. In current times, cisterns are usually constructed from cast concrete or from some other masonry building units. In biblical times,they were usually hewn out of the base stone that is common in the Syrian and Palestinian areas, lying just below a shallow layer of soil. The dryness of the summer months and the lack of natural springs and rivers made it necessary to rely on cisterns as a primary source of water.

The text for this lesson suggests that God's people had committed two evils. First they had abandoned God and His fountain of living waters. These living waters represent His rich blessings that are available to all Israelites that accepted Him as their God and Creator, and obeyed His will. Their second evil was hewing out cisterns that could not hold water.This is a symbolic reference to their idol worship - the worship of inanimate objects that resulted in no physical or spiritual blessings. These idols were so shallow in character that they were unable to accept and hold God's living waters. They were as broken cisterns that could hold no water.

Can you think of anything more useless than a cistern that cannot hold water? Of what value is an unusable cistern? There is evidence that they were sometimes used as prisons. Joseph was cast into a pit by his brothers until they decided what they were to do with him.This pit could very well have been anabandoned cistern (Gen. 37:24). Also, Jeremiah was cast into a dungeon having no water, indicating that it was once a cistern (Jer. 38:6). Other than these instances of possible secondary use, cisterns that could not hold water are useless.

In a figurative sense, are there children of God today that are considered to be useless cisterns? Are they hewn out cisterns that cannot hold the living waters that flow from the fountain of God? Jeremiah was referencing God's people - the Israelites, not atheists. The reference to God's people today is Christians, not atheists. Yes, there are many Christians today that compare to useless cisterns that cannot hold water.

Each of us can probably list a number of characteristics that could be classified as broken cisterns. One such broken cistern could be indifference! In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus relates the story of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite, both men of God, passed by the man that was injured by thieves and left half dead. Jesus used this story to teach what God expects of His people today - to love God with all thy heart, soul, strength and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself. When we say we love God but are indifferent to the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbor, aren't we comparable to cisterns that cannot hold water?

Indifference can also be the ineffectual use of our abilities. The parable of the talents is told in Matthew 25:14-30. The proper use of the talents is to cause them to multiply. Hiding talents serves no purpose at all. There is no benefit. Regardless of our lot in life, we all possess abilities that God expects us to use. When used properly, they bring good, charitable blessings to others. When they are hidden, they serve no purpose at all. Your talents have no benefit until you use them in a profitable way. Those that hide their talents, aren't they as cisterns that cannot hold water?

Hoarded treasures are spiritually useless. There is no spiritual benefit in worldly possessions until they are unselfishly shared with those in physical need. There is no spiritual benefit in knowing God's will until you share it with those in spiritual need. Our talents are useless until given away. Without sharing them with others, our talents are merely cisterns that cannot hold water.