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Personal Story & Scriptural Inspiration

Looking For Water In All The Wrong Places

Reflection on Jeremiah 2:13

Photo by Malik Osmonov on Unsplash

On the road to Bishkek

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jerermiah 2:13, NIV)

When I read this verse from Jeremiah, it often reminds me of a taxi ride I took from Osh (in the south of Kyrgyzstan) to the capital Bishkek (in the north).

It’s a beautiful mountain lined journey. In the summer, searing 40C (100F) heat on the flat is followed by a chilly -5C (23F) in the mountains all in the space of a day.

So thirsty I could drink petrol

For most of the journey, there is a barely discernable road. Speculations on whether the 20-year old Lada will make it to the end add to the fun.

As usual, I’d not taken enough water. But that was more than my companions. It wasn’t long before we were out of drink — with no shops for hours. I would have happily drunk petrol to satisfy my thirst.

After my constant whinging the driver finally stopped off. There were no shops in sight so I wondered where he was taking us. Maybe my mangled Kyrgyz and Russian had been misunderstood.

He pointed to an old man with a beaten-up old jug. It was water like I’d never tasted before — ice cold and fresh from the mountain stream. My thirst was quenched, my soul revived. No wonder Jesus, probably quoting from Jeremiah 2, used that metaphor to describe receiving the Spirit of God:

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit… (John 7: 37–39, NIV)

Clean well or polluted river?

Jeremiah 2:13 also reminds me of a story my wife told me about her time working for a charity in a developing country.

Photo by Gem Lyn on Unsplash

Cholera and other water-related diseases are common in many parts of the world. Outbreaks can be devastating, particularly where access to medical care is scarce — like remote villages. According to the World Health Organization, 50% of people with untreated cholera will die.

Providing clean drinking water is a key method of prevention. So the charity had built wells in several villages.

A follow-up visit revealed that people were not using the well. My wife asked, “Why?” Their reply surprised her. They were used to drinking from the river and preferred the taste.

Living water or leaky cisterns?

Choosing water from a polluted river over a clean well is hard to relate to. Yet most of us do this all the time. We are all spiritually thirsty, as Augustine famously declared in his Confessions:

Lord you made our hearts restless until they find their rest in you.

But we try to satisfy that thirst by digging our own cisterns. Containers that leak. Whether it be neglecting our families to chase career success, constantly seeking the approval of others, craving the perfect house or car, endlessly binge-watching the latest series.

Only living water will satisfy. Yet, this water looks unappealing to us. The river appears more tasty and interesting. We search for water in every possible place except where it may be found — in Jesus.

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Nick Meader

Nick Meader

I’m interested in the application of psychology to theology and Christian living.

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