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Out Our Way: Broken cisterns - Jeremiah 2:13


Last updated 9/4/2020 at 7:35am

Out our way, good water is precious. Up on the Tiger Ridge, we have reservoirs to hold the snowmelt and occasional rainfall, but by the end of summer, the upper pasture is overgrazed and the reservoirs are drying out. Thus, Charlie and I go up in early fall to move the herd down to the winter pasture, where the feed is lush and the water pure and deep. But sometimes the cattle refuse to go.

I have shared before the time Charlie and I tried to move the herd down to the good pasture but they rebelled — running in every direction except in the one they needed to go. Eventually it took five more hands and a lot more work to get them away from the drying out reservoir and down to where the good water was flowing.

Now, in Jeremiah’s day, as in our own — there were foolish folk who, like those bonehead cows, refused to pay heed and led the majority of the herd away from the good water they needed. Jeremiah writes of a foolish people being led to reject the living waters God has sent them for broken cisterns made with their own hands. What he is referring to is the big Lie first recorded in the story of Adam and Eve, in which the serpent whispers that humanity can replace God with self. Adam and Eve fell for the lie and disaster followed. As George Santayana warned, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and this observation has been proven true time and again. Over the centuries, that same lie has been told and believed by the gullible and the same predictable results have always followed. The living water is rejected in favor of broken cisterns.

In some ways, I think the prophets of old, like Jeremiah, resemble us “pokes” as God sent them to bring in the “strays” and move the “herd” to the living waters. But just as Charlie and I found, sometimes the herd is fooled and deceived into not going. The great lie whispered in the ear of the foolish and ignorant continues and the deception goes on. In every generation, someone bellows that the broken cisterns are superior to the living water and, in every generation a goodly number of people close their ears, eyes and minds to history and believe it.

Those were some mighty stubborn, boneheaded cows Charlie and I had to move that fall. But “Big Mike,” who sent us out, refused to quit and kept sending more hands up on the Ridge until we got them all down to the good water. And God is even more stubborn than Big Mike! The good news is that God never quits either. If you read history you learn that the boneheads, who think they know it all, always lead the gullible who believe them to disaster. But if you read history, you also learn that, as Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but never fool all the people all the time.” God never quits for He knows that no matter how popular and persuasive the boneheads may be for a time, eventually some folks will see through them and turn away. Thus God will keep sending His prophets into the hills to “round up strays” who are no longer blind, deaf or brain dead and guide them to the good water. In every generation there will be the foolish and gullible prone to being deceived, but in every generation there will also be those who will wake up, hear His Voice, and leave the broken cisterns for the living water.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Brother John


The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write “Out Our Way.”


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