Lessons from a Dumpster - Broken Cisterns Part One

August 6, 2020

Let’s just admit it! We are not as good at living the Christian life as we would like to be. We all struggle. We are aware of some of our sins, but others are so deeply embedded in our hearts that we might be unaware of our habitual ways of living even though we might see the hurtful impact of those sins in our lives. We have all learned to try to find life in places other than our gracious heavenly Father. What can we learn about this?


If you think I'm standing next to a garbage dump, you are exactly right. This dumpster is going to be an object lesson. There are two reasons why I'm standing next to a garbage dump. Number one is secondary. I think I look good next to garbage, and I wanted to look as good as I could on this particular devotional. What do you think? I think I outshine the garbage…maybe not! But the primary reason I’m standing here is that I want us to think a little bit about garbage in this two-part devotional. Today, we will be in Jeremiah 2:12-13, and, then in the second part, I want to be in Isaiah 44. I want us to think about the directions that we might go in life—the people or things that we might turn to in life—rather than turning to the Lord. Israel had a problem with this, and, when we read the Old Testament, I want us to understand that we are actually looking at a mirror. This passage really helps us understand our lives. In Jeremiah 2:12-13, it says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this and shutter; be very desolate,” declares the Lord. And the point is: “Israel has turned away from me! Be appalled at this! How in the world could they look to another God?” And, then, it says, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the Fountain of Living Waters, to hue for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” They have turned away from the Living God, the Fountain of Living Waters, to pursue broken cisterns that really can't hold water…other gods.


Do we do the same thing? Yes, we do. I want to try to make this clear to us, and I want to think about it in two steps. Number one: I just want you to be aware that you do it – I do it. Yesterday, I had a difficult day. I had to walk into a number of issues and have some meetings that were a little heavy. I had to anticipate some more meetings today. Last night, I was at home, wanting some down time, my wife and I were talking about some issues and she was disagreeing with me. And it was kind of ticking me off. It was like: “Why can't you see it from my point of view?” So, I was just wrestling with that. Then I woke up this morning and went to the bathroom, and the drawers were open. Welcome to my world! I like things nice and tidy – so I'm pushing in drawers. I go into the kitchen, and drawers are open – I am pushing in drawers. There is stuff on the dining room table. Now, our house is really clean, but I'm pathetic when it comes to being obsessive about cleanliness. So, all these things are going on inside of me. And what the Lord wants me to do in the midst of all that is go to him, the Fountain of Living Waters. We have the opportunity to go to the Creator of the world and say, “Lord I need your help!” But, if you're like me and I'm assuming you are, we don't always do that. Oftentimes, we turn away and find cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water, and we look to those things for life instead.


Now, imagine I have all these things going on in my life, and I focus on one situation in particular; the relationship with my wife. (Sorry Joni!) I think, “Joni, I just want you to see things from my point of view; I just want you to affirm me; I just want you to think that I'm the man and have all the answers. And I don’t know why you are opposing me!” Think about all the things that are going on inside of me and think about, just for a moment, what I might do because I want to feel something different than my wife is giving me. I don't want you to just think about me. I want you think about your own life. What are you up against? And, instead of going to the Fountain of Living Waters, you find yourself bumping against thisdifficulty. What are you tempted to do? In what ways might you turn away from the Fountain of Living Waters? A good thing for all of us to do today is to recognize our tendency to turn to broken cisterns and say, “I do not want to do that today.” Let's just bring these things to the Lord. Maybe you could take the next few moments and bring them to the Lord and say, “Fountain of Living Waters, I want a nice cool drink for my parched soul. I turn to you right now.” That's what Israel needed to do. It was an evil for them to turn away from the Fountain of Living Waters. It was an evil for them to turn to broken cisterns. And it is evil for us as well. And you know what else? Not only is it evil, there's no satisfaction ultimately in that. And so, let's spend some time with the Lord. Take to him the things that you're up against because he's the Fountain of Living Waters. Ask him to help you today. Next time, we're going to look at Isaiah 44.

  1. Open your Bible to Jeremiah 2:12-13. You might want to read the whole chapter to get the larger context.
  2. Use your imagination to consider the picture that Jeremiah is trying to paint for us: a fountain versus a broken pot. Think of your favorite waterfall and the mighty waters flowing down. Never ending! Then, think of a cup of your favorite drink when the bottom of the cup springs a leak. It is soon gone! Maybe as a kid you did what I did. You put your lips on the table and sucked up your favorite drink as it leaked out. That is the image of a broken cistern.
  3. The Lord is that fountain! Bring him all your cares right now, in this moment. Open his word and read it. Take it all in to refresh your parched soul today. Invite others to join you.

About The Author

David Talley

David is currently a Professor of Old Testament at Biola University where he has served since 1998. He has his PhD in Theological Studies from Trinity International University. David’s life goal and what he describes as “God’s inescapable call on my life” is discipleship. Towards that end, in his career, Dr. Talley has served as a Professor, Pastor, and Board Member of several different missionary and pastoral training outreaches around the world.