“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”–Jer. 2:13
There are many different dangers in the world, but the greatest of all is religion. Nothing is so deadly as worldly religion. It deceives and destroys. It promises much, but provides nothing of eternal value–like a broken cistern. Commenting on this text Stephen Davey wrote:
“If religion is a broken cistern—a shattered reservoir that can’t hold water—why do so many people try to drink from it? First Samuel 16:7 answers, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” That is, man runs to religion because it makes him look and feel better.
The heart is passionate about creating appearances, like a quartz that masquerades as a diamond, or “fools gold” which has false value. It gives people the impression that they are good, while veiling their inner evil. Religion is the greatest impostor the world has ever known.
Imagine stumbling into a run-down farmyard: windswept, barren, and nothing more than hard, dry ground. But there is a well, with a wooden platform and a rusty old pump. You are dying of thirst and step onto the platform, anxiously beginning to pump the handle. It squeaks and complains with every push and pull. After five minutes—nothing but air. After fifteen minutes of sweating, coaxing, pleading, there is still nothing . . . the well is dry.
Let me tell you what the institution of religion has done: It has scraped all the rust off the pump handle and painted it bright red. Better yet, it has replaced the old handle with a shiny brass one which gleams brilliantly as the sun strikes it. Flowers have been planted around the well and a pleasant path has been marked out through the farmyard so people can come from all around. People do indeed come; they gaze; they marvel; they rhapsodize; and they decide to build a platform, put up a pump, plant some flowers, and lay a stone path. But there is no water!
You may say, “But I know people who aren’t Christians and yet, are committed to their families, are ethical in business, and are moral, upright citizens. How can you say that their religion is devoid of the water of life?”
This is a fair question, but we must remember that religion focuses on the work of the hands, while ignoring the sin of the heart.
David says in Psalm 14:2-3, “ The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand , and seek God. They are all gone aside , they are all together become filthy : there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” God has seen what lies beneath man’s facade, and He is far from impressed. Are you satisfying your spiritual thirst with the living water of a relationship with Christ, or are you still painting broken pump handles?”