For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water. – Jeremiah 2:13
A cistern is not a bad way to store water if it is properly constructed. It should be covered, not open and exposed. There is a flow in but there should be no independent flow out. It is fairly easy to get water out of a cistern either by drawing or pumping as the reservoir is just below the surface. There are, though, negatives. The inflow is dependent on external sources. The cistern cannot replenish itself. If the sealed reservoir cracks, it is best to let the cistern go completely dry before attempting to repair it. After that, one must wait on the rains for the needed refilling and restoration. We can get by with cisterns, but wells are better, and bubbling springs are better still.
A person is free to work hard and create a deep, dark hole in which to store a hidden reserve of that which makes life possible. He can build a clever means of channeling the general grace of God, as rains that fall on just and unjust alike, into that occult void. He can carefully hoard and preserve his precious store. The problems come with the seasons as the earth shifts and settles, freezes and thaws. The reservoir is prone to leaking under the best of conditions. Even more troublesome, what is one to do in case of a prolonged drought? The wisest of humankind have struggled for as long as we have been human to build better collection and storage systems. Some of them are very effective and nearly foolproof.
Still, anyone who has ever drunk from a cistern knows that the water tastes like, well, cistern water. It will quench the immediate thirst, but it is often stale. Even the very best systems are still limited. The bottom can always be found, and it is not wise to draw too much. A man might be able to share with his family and a neighbor or two, but he can’t provide for the whole community or water everyone’s livestock or irrigate a field.
There is one source of spiritual water that is unlimited. Once we are connected with Christ in faith, we have access to life that is fresh, pure, and everlasting. At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, there was a tradition on the last day of the festival that great jars of water would be poured out on the steps of the Temple so that the water would flow down in a rush as if a spring had suddenly opened. Ezekiel prophesied about it (Ezekiel 47) telling of a stream that flowed from under the threshold becoming a mighty river. In John chapter seven, we are told of Jesus attending the Feast and being moved by the Spirit to cry out: The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.
In Christ, our thirst is not merely slacked. Through Him, we are meant to be a source of this living water, springs in the desert, to bring life to all that is around us. There is no hiding and protecting this water under a cover to cautiously pump out a cupful at a time. There is no scarcity. Our source is not some cracked leaking, stagnant pool. This is the spring that watered Eden. This is the headwater of all the rivers of earth. It will never run dry. It lives because it flows ever outward.