Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1950

Broken Cisterns

J. A. McNutt, Paragould, Arkansas

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, acting as God's spokesman in the gloomy days of Israel's apostasy, said, "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jer. 2:13.) The prophet's contrast is so vivid in this striking illustration that the truth is impressed and stands out clearly.

The prophet has plainly painted a word picture of the futility of digression and the introduction of human innovations. When man turns from the Lord, the fountain of living waters, to seek spiritual satisfaction elsewhere, he is faced with the rows of cracked and broken cisterns "that can hold no water." Man has "sought out many inventions" but none of them has added to his peace and contentment for very long. Israel had forsaken Jehovah to turn to the broken cisterns of idolatry and sin, but her discontent was national, and her doom was impending.

God's handwriting against national corruption was just as clearly revealed in the predictions of Jeremiah, though not so spectacularly, as it was recorded on the wall of Belshazzar's banquet hall. Soon Israel was forced to weep over the penalties of idolatry in exile and slavery. The nation as a whole, or the individuals who compose the nation, may come under God's indictment. Hear the prophet again, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then will I repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." (Jer. 18:7-10.) The wise man truly said, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34.) A nation must serve God, or perish. (Isa. 60:12.) "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23.)

Ancient Examples

God's people, gathered together upon the plain of Shinar, felt their self-sufficiency, and purposed to build a tower whose top would pierce the very heavens. But God, recognizing the evil design of their plans, confused their speech and scattered them over the face of the earth. (Gen. 11.)

Jehovah granted unto Nebuchadnezzar great dominion, glory, and power. (Dan. 2:37.) But when the king became proud, and turned from the "living fountain" to the cisterns of idolatry and iniquity, God cut short his reign, and taught him "that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Dan. 4:25.)

Belshazzar failed to learn by the example of his father before him, and even excelled Nebuchadnezzar in the practice of intemperance and vice. God wrote his sentence upon the wall of the banquet hall, while the king, quaking with fear, cried out for help. But it was too late. That very night the sentence was executed, and death came to Belshazzar's dissolute kingdom.

The kingdom of Babylon is inscribed on the pages of history as a synonym of worldliness and corruption. Belshazzar stands as the type of a godless ruler's ultimate end. Let the dictators of earth who shed innocent blood, and slay the helpless, face the penalty.

Of Jehovah it is said, "For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light." (Psa. 36:9.) In his provision for man's welfare, and in the manifold blessings of the plan of redemption through Christ, he has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10.)

The blessings of the gospel were foretold by prophetic promises, clothed in symbolic beauty. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened...for sin and uncleanness." (Zech. 13:1.) "Living waters shall go forth out of Jerusalem," (Zech. 14:8.) and "The law shall go forth from Zion." (Isa. 2:3.) These prophecies have all been fulfilled in Christ. (John 7:37; 4:14.) Through Christ one may have complete remission of all past sins, all spiritual blessings, the hope of everlasting life, and that perfect law (Jas. 1:25) which is to guide his footsteps into that way of life eternal.

The Only Hope Of Men And Nations

World wide turmoil and strife, war, bloodshed, and violence are all directly traceable to one fundamental cause; the world has changed the fountain of life for cisterns of man's own contrivance. Man has forsaken God, and has sought to work out his own inventions for the saving both of himself and of society. Remember that Isaiah charged that Israel had "hewed them out cisterns" of their own devising. What Israel did then, the world has done now. The world at large has "hewed out" its own standards, turned away from God, and erected its own idols. The mad rush for physical pleasure and enjoyment, the frantic struggle for gold, the grasping after earthly power are but examples of man's vain search for satisfaction. His quest is hopeless. For he has turned from the living water to cisterns that have been broken and empty for these thousands of years. In them there is no lasting satisfaction.

Those who turn to Modernism will find that they are feeding their souls on the husks of a false and devitalized religion. The broken cisterns of ancient infidelic philosophy has been remodeled and presented under the guise of "modernism." But even one of its greatest advocates admits, "There was power and depth in that old fashioned Christianity which sometimes we modernists lack."

Denominationalism, with its multiplied divisions, mocks the Savior's prayer for unity. (John 17:20, 21.) Paul condemned such divisions as carnal, (1 Cor. 3:3) and pleaded for unity of thought and action among all Christians. (1 Con 1:10.) If it be argued that the denominations are but branches, then where is the trunk? Or, if they be regarded as streams of water flowing into the main channel, then where is the main channel? And where is the fountain? Why should the thirsty soul be content with anything less than the Fountain of Living Water?

Away with these broken cisterns! Let us get back to the first century gospel, and to the New Testament church. Let us follow Christ, and him alone. Then one day he will "lead us unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes."