Living Water

April 12, 2023 | Phil Herndon

I fell in love with reading the moment I learned to read, "Run Spot, run" in my 1st grade reading primer. Though I love outdoor activities (especially hiking our beautiful TN trails) my idea of an ideal day is a rainy day with plenty of hot coffee and lots of books. My poor wife has endured 34 years of "Hey! Listen to this!" as I have read her passage after passage from whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.

There is a place in the Old Testament where God himself says to us, "Hey! Look at this!" but it isn't with the excitement and joy I experience when I bring my wife's attention to what I'm reading. It is found in Jeremiah 2:12-13:

"Be appalled O heavens at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water."

It's as if God is saying to the cosmos, "Can you believe this?? Look what is happening with my people...stop what you're doing and pay attention to this!"

The idea of cisterns and "hewing" might not be familiar to us, but to the original readers of this passage, God's metaphor makes a lot of sense. Most villages and nearly all cities had such a cistern that was maintained by the responsible government of the area and made available to the local citizens.

Some private homeowners built private cisterns, usually on the top of their houses, that were used to catch rainwater or to conveniently store enough for household needs. These private cisterns were rarely used for drinking water since they could easily be contaminated. But the “government cisterns” were constantly cleaned and routinely purged to provide fresh “living water” for the population.

William McClure Thompson wrote: "Even the best cisterns are strangely liable to crack and are a most unreliable source of supply of water. If, by constant care, they somehow hold water, the water is collected from clay roofs or soil. The water has the taste of the earth or the stable, is full of worms, and in the hour of greatest need it utterly fails. Who but a fool, or one gone mad in his love of filth, would exchange the sweet, wholesome stream of a living fountain for such an uncertain compound of nastiness and vermin!"

Who in the world would do this, he asks? Well...we would. We have. We DO.

Because life is difficult, we are prone to "digging our own cisterns" to try to make life work.

Digging our own cisterns not only shows us our tendency to attempt to make life work, it reveals our hunger and thirst for the living water (John 4:13-14, 7:37-38) in Jesus. It is calling us to "recovery." Our self-hewn cisterns are often alcohol, drugs, or sex and pornography. Our need for recovery is apparent with these cisterns. But what about work? (The YouVersion app has an “Addicted To Busy” reading plan). Power, rage, control, fame, accomplishment? "Cisterns" come in many forms, so we dig, and dig, and dig illegitimate sources to meet legitimate needs; the most legitimate of which are the need to belong (to be accepted for who I am) and to be significant (to be appreciated for what I offer).

Our cisterns offer counterfeit means to get these needs met through:

  • COUNTERFEIT COMFORT: Delusion of escape (I can get away from the struggle)
  • COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION: Our cisterns can mimic relationship by "delivering what we need" and raising chemical levels related to "bonding"
  • COUNTERFEIT CONTROL: Busy-ness, substances, rage, drugs...though the list is long, all the items on the list have one thing in common: when we use them for fulfillment, we experience the delusion of being in charge of how life goes.

We admit at FBC that we are a "broken, yet hopeful people," so you might be wondering, "where is the hopeful part?" The hopeful part is found in "recovery." That word is scary to some people, but what if it was simply a word that introduced us to the God who specializes in "re?" The God who is ultimately going to make all things new and has already given us new life in him?

What if we moved from understanding "recovery" as not just one word in a vacuum, but expanded it to be one in a "family" of words that point to the Living Water we are truly seeking with all our digging:

  • REnewal: we have been made new by his grace (2 Cor 5:17)
  • REstoration: we have an endless storehouse in Jesus (1 Pet 1:3-5)
  • REdemption: we can rejoice in the great exchange Jesus made on our behalf (Col 1:13-14)
  • REspite: we can rest in him (Matt 11:28-30)

REcovery...Webster's defines it as, "the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost." Satan's work is to "steal..." (John 10:10a) and Jesus has come to be the "RE" God we must have. We have recovery through his renewing, restoring redemption in which we can rest.

How do we rest well when we desire to drink Living Water and put down our shovels?

  • Reach out: Make the call. Send the text. Ask for help. (Below is a list of some available resources)
  • Expect opposition: The enemy of your soul will threaten and shame you
  • Speak truthfully (with a safe same gender person): Shed light on the cistern
  • Tenaciously continue: It's a process. Stay with it.

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

-1 Pet. 5:10


Celebrate Recovery Groups

Counselors/Counseling Centers 

Samson Society Meetings (Men only) 

Murfreesboro Samson @ Experience Community Church, 521 Old Salem Rd
(Go to for further instructions) 

Other Resources