Lounging in a fresh-water spring is a lot more satisfying when it follows a five-hour hike.
About seven years ago my dad and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. After getting down there we rested our tired, weary bodies in a refreshing, ice-cold spring. Our tent was pitched and we were preparing to settle in for the night. After half an hour in the water, though, we exchanged knowing, mischievous glances. If ever we were to get back out of this canyon, it might as well be right now.
So we repacked our tent and took off. We left the refreshing spring and filled our precious few water bottles to the brim. There were no drinking faucets on the South Kaibab Trail, however, and we quickly exhausted our supply of water. We were halfway up the trail with the sun setting when dehydration started setting in. If it weren’t for some friendly Germans—and language skills I learned from Hogan’s Heroes—we might not have made it to the top.
We didn’t make the wisest decision. We left our supply of fresh water and trusted in something finite and very unreliable.
God accused the Israelites of something similar in Jeremiah 2.
In verse 13 He says, “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.”
There’s a distinction made in the Bible between “living water” and “cistern water.” Cistern water is stale and stagnant; living water is pure, fresh, and brings life.
David longed for this living water throughout his psalms. And in John 4 Jesus offered to give away this living water. The Samaritan woman to whom He offered this water was confused, but Jesus said: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (vs. 13-14).
This Samaritan woman was looking for sustaining water in the wrong place. Just like her, we sometimes look for salvation in all the wrong places.
In Jeremiah 2, God accused the Israelites of abandoning Him and turning instead to the customs, traditions, and religions of the countries and people around them. Just as my dad and I relied too heavily on our quickly-depleted water bottles, the Israelites depended on broken cisterns. They weren’t enough to save them.
But we don’t have to die of thirst in the desert. God has provided us with His life-giving living water. We are free from our sins and we don’t have to face the punishment we deserve because Jesus has already taken care of everything for us. Our thirst has been quenched; we’ve been saved by the blood of the Lamb.
Let’s not abandon this incredible living water. Instead, let’s pitch our tent near the source and more deeply appreciate this gift we’ve been given.
Andrew Kneeland, a 2013 graduate of AFLBS, is a member of Atonement Free Lutheran, Arlington, Wash.