Recently I had a book with this title, Broken Cisterns, pass through my hands. Just the title reverberated in my spirit. Then I looked up the verses listed on the slip-cover, Jeremiah 2.13 (NIV.) Wow, what a depth of meaning and application! Here begins my reflections on Broken Cisterns and Jeremiah 2.13.
The LORD says,
"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
they have their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
First note the LORD says this.This all-caps word is the spoken title that honors the inutterable Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God disclosed to Moses on the Mountain of Revelation. His people Israel will not even speak it aloud out of reverencial fear. They change pens when they write it during creation of a new hand-written copy of the Scriptures. God uses this form of "I AM" when speaking of His covenant with His covenant people. God's personal, relational name reminds Jeremiah's hearers of His special, promise-based relationship to the ones He speaks to and speaks of.
In continuation of this idea of intimate, covenant relationship, the LORD addresses His people. People who connected to Him through a series of mutually-binding promises. For sure, like the suzerainty treaties of the area/time, the LORD make the first and largest promises. But these people, His people, willingly have bound themselves to Him by oath as well. They have a special closeness, favor and commitment distinguishing them from the other peoples of the earth.
The poetry of the Bible is parallelism. This rhyming of thought, as C.S. Lewis calls it, consists of two related lines or a couplet. These two lines work in tandem to emphasis a singel thought or point. This emphasis comes from repeating the idea in different words or using a direct opposite. It translates to any language because it depends on the thought, not particular words in rhyming relationship. Proper understanding requires treating the two as a single thought rather than separating the halves of the couplet.
Note that though there is a easy-to-see unity in the two branches of the couplet, the LORD specifically breaks this pairing by saying His people have committed two sins. He wants us to dissect this parallelism. This adds emphasis to the nature of the sins committed by a people covenanted to the LORD they sin against. This behavior must be extra bad, extra heart-breaking.
The people of the LORD have forsaken Him. They have abandoned their promises. They have cooled in their commitment, like a dissatisfied spouse. They have distanced themselves from Him.
The people of the LORD have dug their own cisterns. They have looked for life and love elsewhere. They have not just cooled in committment to their vows, they have actively persued others, like an adulterer.
How have I cooled toward my God?
Where, besides Him, have I sought love and life?
More to come...