Wells and Cisterns


“Be astonished, 0 ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.

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” (Jeremiah 2:12, 13).

Having much mercy upon the author’s poor ability at mental artistry, let us all patiently gather ’round in an attempt to decipher the meaning of the following illustration.

Pastor, the next time you stand before your congregation, try to imagine the auditorium as an open field and each individual member as representing a hollow, sunken cylinder like a hand-dug well.

Please disregard the fact that they all look similar externally and consider that all of them fall into one of two distinctly opposite categories. Each regular member is either a WELL or a CISTERN.

There is an all-important difference between a well and a cistern which we shall hereby try to describe.

A WELL has a source within itself and flows ever upward and outward, bathing its surroundings in cool, refreshing, life-giving water. Jesus spoke of these wells saying, `. . but the water that I shall give him  shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

In sharp contrast, the CISTERN has all the possibilities of being a well except that the inward supply is gone. These empty souls have forsaken the ‘fountain of living water.’ Their walls are soon cracked by dryness, neglect and self-hewn philosophies so that even when filled by some External supply, as they must be if they possess anything at all, the water is lost into the black humus of their carnal hearts.
Indifferently these spongers wait in motionless satisfaction for some spiritual well to overflow and again moisten the thirsty abyss of their souls. Jude beheld these and with unbridled candor penned this searing rebuke: “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without
fruit twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 12, 13). “These be they who separate themselves (“They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water”), sensual having not the Spirit” (Jude 19).

Nor could the insidious spiritual crime of the cisterns be overlooked by the Apostle with the Keys; for Peter said, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with the tempest- to whom the mist of
darkness is reserved forever” (II Peter 2: 17).

“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2:2 1).


“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Psalms 46:4).

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19).

Out of the Wells … A River

Very little research is needed to arrive at the conclusion that a well is not dug for the mere pleasure of digging and that it was never meant to be a satisfaction to itself alone. No matter how elaborately the
well-cap may be fashioned or how elegantly the springhouse may be designed, the most worthy reason for a well’s existence is that it shares its water.

The previously cited scriptures in this chapter teach us that out of the tabernacles (temples, wells, and innermost beings) shall come a river driven by the force of many tributaries. Each source is a singular well, pouring its precious substance into a torrent of unity, coursing its way through the desert to the sea.

Waters From Under The Threshold Ezekiel was led in vision one day past the door of the house of the Lord (typical, perhaps, of our present church facilities): “.. and behold, waters issued out from under the
threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar (vs. 1).

Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold there ran out waters on the right side (vs 2).

And when the man that held the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles (vs 3).

Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins (vs 4).

Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over (vs 5).

And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river (vs 6).

Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other (vs 7).

Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed (vs 8).

And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and EVERY THING SHALL LIVE WHITHER THE RIVER COMETH” (Ezekiel 47:1-9).

Fish In Our Sea

After being spiritually enlightened by the prophet’s challenging vision, who among us would not humbly confess that there are multitudes of fish in our sea (city) who will never be reached by our present  mechanical witness or powerless presentations. They are longing, languishing and dying, waiting for the flowing of a river. Lonely executives, weary housewives, sensation-addicted youths and disgusted
church members, to name a few, though hiding behind a pretense of self-sufficiency, still unconsciously beg for living water. Isn’t it a shame, Pastor, that we can’t get this life-giving substance past our cisterns?

Perhaps now we can see why Jeremiah spoke fervently and with fear. The Lord did not anoint him to say, “the denominal people have made a MISTAKE,” but rather, “MY PEOPLE have SINNED.” To be a cistern is not merely a fault; it is evil (Jeremiah 2:13).


Well, the ladies are chattering and the men are swapping stories while their young’uns skip impishly through the aisles, scattering songbooks, or plucking choice morsels of used bubble gum from the underside of well-carved pews. Giddy young people zealously prepare many precious strips of paper on which to smuggle their romantic notes across the congregation. Sorrowfully, somewhere in the background, from a tiny Sunday school room, the faithful few send up a series of odd moans in an attempt to gain a belated spiritual victory. . it’s Sunday night the Wells and Cisterns have gathered!

The Thirsty Masses Wait

I wonder. . have we forgotten the thirsty masses beyond the empty wastes of pleasure and sin, eagerly awaiting the sound of rushing water?

By contrast as Ezekiel passed the door of the house of the Lord, (his church), a trickle of water issued out from under the threshold. When he crossed the first time, the water was ankle-deep. Upon returning,
after a time, the prophet found that the flow had risen to his knees; and again when he came, the water was to his loins. In the final crossing, the waters were risen until there were “.. WATERS TO SWIM IN,
a river that could not be passed over.”

Water In The Streets

It has never been the plan of God for His people to assemble only to get their ‘bucket full.’ The church has, since its birth, been intended to execute a particular PURPOSE in this world; the New Testament states it like this: “These signs shall follow them that believe. . and they went forth… everywhere the Lord working with them.” Pouring over the threshold of the upper room, into the streets, the first church filled Jerusalem with the river of their doctrine and turned their world upside down.’

It is inescapably our responsibility to produce enough water within the sanctuary to cause a flood to burst out the door, cascading into the streets, so that the Spirit of God may flow into every highway,
thoroughfare, alley and byway, preparing the way and convicting souls of their overwhelming need for salvation.

Cisterns Absorb The Flow

Since it’s service time, Pastor, we will again dutifully set out to produce some living water. Yet even while we prime a few faithful wells our enthusiasm is short-lived; for to our helpless dismay, as we view the field, we observe that all the painfully-gained substance we are managing to produce trickles only a few feet before splattering into the cavity of a gaping cistern that personally produces nothing.

Meanwhile, the steps of our church remain unmoistened by any spiritual overflow and every powerful act of the Spirit is completely absorbed by those who prefer spiritual feasting to spiritual conquest This tragic picture demands an honest answer to an honest question: of what lasting value are a few wells to a lost world if their most extreme effort in production is completely and selfishly devoured within their own sanctuary walls?

We often encourage ourselves by saying, “We had a wonderful meeting tonight” and it may be true that at the climax of the service, after pumping, priming and preaching we are able to say that all were blessed by the Spirit and everybody went home rejoicing. . but what about the next service night when we all congregate for good ole’ Bible study? The cisterns will have successfully soaked away their blessings and our tiresomely repetitious task begins once more. While the world waits longingly for the sound of water, we can’t get it past the door.

Increase The Wells

Pastor, you MUST overcome the balance of power. . -you MUST have more wells than cisterns! Do not despair, however; this can quickly be accomplished by the Holy Ghost renewal (as set forth in previous
chapters) of the long inactive spiritual fountainhead within the cisterns of your congregation.

After this welcome increase in pumping-power, those non-producing remaining few, as there seemingly always will be, can quickly be replenished by the rapidly rising surge. Waters then gush from our doors, terracing down the steps, plunging into the homes of hard-hearted rejectors, backslidden couples, unsaved husbands and spiritually starving church attenders. We have vaulted into the realm of the supernatural. The spirit of the Lord is going where we could not go before and doing what we could not do!

Our activity in the spirit is no longer an endless task of filling cisterns; the water now flows from one cylinder to another, but this time to be met by another similarly powerful force. These streams all join together, building a unified strength until suddenly, “. . there is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city. . .!”


In the past we have battled frantically, struggling against unbelievable odds, to spread this gospel. Our extreme effort to convince unbelievers and professional rejectors efficiently evading us personally has met with constant and bewildering failure until we have become satisfied with only the faintest motion forward.

The Healing Flow

But something new is happening now; out of the individual tabernacles of the Holy Ghost issue bubbling springs, merging to form a sweeping river. Those we could not convince before, though evading us
personally, are unexpectedly finding themselves sloshing through water they did not ask for. Whereas they could easily withstand the onslaught of our verbal bombasts, having managed to dispel each
convicting message, they cannot cope with water that seeps under their doors, flooding bedrooms and kitchens. They find no rest at night and are strangely absent from their places at dinnertime; the river has enveloped them.

Meanwhile, among the saints, chronic illnesses and afflictions are miraculously disappearing and a greater percentage of folks prayed for are healed. Testimony services yield up these exciting reports:  “Yesterday, my mother and father listened for the first time to my testimony.” “My husband is coming Sunday to find God.”

The pastor’s message is only minutes old when a young man rudely interrupts by screaming, “I must be saved tonight ” The molested service comes to a screeching halt as men repent, women weep and saints
team into prayer groups all about the auditorium. The enduring virus of infectious faith contagiously races through the congregation dispelling doubt and encouraging unpremeditated spiritual recklessness. Chronic seekers easily receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost causing spiritual riots at our congested altars.

Every Street A Stream

Revival has come: we have overcome the balance of power! The water has ” overflowed the hiding place” (Isaiah 28:17), and the church has found its apostolic unction. “hen those once immobile church members are sarcastically questioned, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth (THAT church)?”, they enthusiastically retort, “Come and see!”

Now we are not putting our blistered hands to the plow alone .. we are `laborers together with God.” “. . the Spirit AND the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Each consecutive service is not a repeat of the previous cycle of priming, but continues with gushing power where we left off. Our once dry sanctuary has become a pool of clear water and every street in our city is a stream.