Broken Cisterns

Haftarah Reading: Mattot / Massei (Jeremiah 2:1-28, 3:4)
Gospel Reading: John 4:1-26
Commentary by: Jenni Magee

What was Israel thinking?

The first question that comes to mind when reading through this passage is a logical one. What would cause them – or anyone, really - to turn from One who provides such goodness, mercy and understanding, to their own ideas of fulfillment and security?

Nothing logical.
So of course, the only answer is a lie.
One lie, in particular: “You need more.

It’s a fractal from the lie that drove a wedge of mistrust between us and Him in the garden in the first place. “He is not giving you what you need; you could be, and have, so much more.” That twisted, hissing, poisonous seed of doubt is still rippling across time and down generations. And we – Israel, His Children – have been listening.

We don’t hear much of His heart recorded at the beginning of Genesis, but here in Jeremiah, in the aftermath of Israel’s unworthiness, we come face to face with a raw, bleeding and heartbroken God.

What did your ancestors find wrong with me to make them go so far away from me, to make them go after nothings and become themselves nothings? (Jeremiah 2:5, TLV)

Yahweh continues to weave, through His heartbreak and confusion, in and out of all the promises that He outlined and fulfilled. For the caring of everyday needs: water, bread, unworn shoes. To the bigger, more apparent promises in us: breaking the hold of Egypt (lies) in us, healing us through barren wastelands, and bringing us to a safe land which we could have peace in. We called, He answered. We doubted, and He redeemed us despite our fears.

And yet His Children were still gripped by doubt and continued to search after their own ways to make them feel safe.

For my people have committed two evils:
they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water,
and dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water!
…Where are your gods that you made for yourselves?
Let them rouse themselves, if they can save you when trouble comes.
Y’hudah, you have as many gods as you have cities! (Jeremiah 2:13, 28 TLV)

We, now, as His children, have all encountered moments like this. We all have Israel in us. The lie that haunts us and drives us to make choices outside of Yahweh’s heart. Despite the love, the miracles and intimate care that comes as He moves through our lives, that lie hangs over our heads, waiting for a weak point. And it doesn’t take long for one of those to come around. “He isn’t meeting my needs. Life could be better, but it’s not. I cannot trust Him.” And so, if we’re anything like Israel, we heal our own hurts, we build our own walls, our moments of clarity and honesty disappearing with the rising sun.

Our broken cisterns and lesser loves are destroying us.

Fast-forward 4,000 years: Yeshua, our Deliverer, walks in tangible form the same weary dust we walk. And we encounter the same heartbreak, by the Well of the Samaritan that we all have come to know so well.

Here, Yeshua looks at the Samaritan woman and finds in her eyes the same longing – that emptiness that drives her through her own broken wells, her own lesser husbands/gods, to fill that void that can only be filled by the one who knows our every unspoken, pleading need. And he repeats the same heart of his Father to her:

Yeshua replied to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!” (John 4:13-14, TLV)

From the beginning of our time here on Earth, our entire history consists of Elohim proving two things: that He knows us, and is enough for us.

And may we all reply to this incomparable, relentless love, with her same words:

“Sir,” the woman tells Him, “give me this water, so I won’t get thirsty or have to come all the way here to draw water!” (John 4:15, TLV)


Photo Credit: Kumar's Edit