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Bad Water

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Bad Water

Ben laid the shovel down. He was glad to see his neighbor John. He was also glad for a break. He had been digging in this hole for over two days now. It was hot; he was dirty and he was very thirsty.

John gave him a hand to climb up out of the hole. Ben’s wife offered her tired husband a drink of water from her bucket. He sipped from the dipper. It’s coolness was instant refreshment.

“What are you digging the hole for Ben?” John asked.

“I’m digging me another cistern.”

“Another cistern? Sorry to hear that you’re having problems. What went wrong with the other two?”

Ben shook his head. “I don’t know. Either the soil is bad here, or I didn’t get it sealed right or something. The first two cisterns wouldn’t hold water very long. I spent all my time carrying water to them, trying to fill them up.

“Then the next thing I knew, most of the water would seep out and I had to go fill them back up again. It like to wore me out. I finally got tired of messing with the first two cisterns and decided to try it again in another spot. That’s why I’m digging this one. Maybe I’ll get it right this time.

John looked down by the tree line. He mentally measured the distance, trying to understand what would be harder, walking a few more yards to get water from the fountain or digging a bunch of holes in the ground. To John, it was a no brainer.

“It’s not that far to the spring inside the tree line, Ben. You sure could save yourself a lot of work. The spring water there is pure, it’s cold, there’s plenty of it and it’s free.” And it’s just bubbling up out of the ground like a fountain.

“Don’t you go to nagging on me too John! Sarah preaches to me almost every day. She says, you’ve dug a hole, and then you carry water and pour it into the hole and then hope it rains a lot to fill up rest of the hole.

“What water doesn’t seep out becomes a pool for the water bugs to swim in and Sarah said it’s dirty water and she has to skim the film off of top of the water every morning before she can get a drink. She hates the cistern’s water. She says it’s polluted. The woman just likes to nag.

“But you’re right, the spring has good water. I just got tired of walking over there to fetch water several times a day. I want my own water beside my own house. I don’t like being beholden to anyone.”

John looked at his neighbor and his heart sank. He remembered the words of the Prophet Jeremiah as he had stood and prophesied in their village recently.

Jer. 2:13 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.

Ben had stood beside John that day as Jeremiah had preached. He had heard what John had heard, but somehow, Ben couldn’t see the big picture. He couldn’t see past himself. For that matter, Ben couldn’t even see himself in the sermon Jeremiah preached.

Ben was one of those independent souls that liked to do things his own way. He was only interested in what pleased him. He was one of those people who always had to learn the hard way. This exercise was just a case in point.

“Benjamin, do you remember the day we heard Jeremiah in the village?


“I know it was a long sermon, but he talked about two evils that Israel had committed. The first one was that we had forsaken God. We have left Him who is THE Fountain of Living Waters and the second one was that we had dug our own cisterns. We had tried life on our own. We had dug our own cisterns in life and ignored THE Fountain.

“Then he prophesied that our self-dug cisterns would never hold water. Notice he said ‘cisterns’. He was trying to tell us that no matter how hard we tried on our own, we would never get it perfect. There’s always going to be failed attempts in any life that is away from THE Fountain!

“You and I both know that water don’t get any better than the cold clear water of the fountain that we’ve got here.

“Every time I’ve seen you carry buckets of water from the fountain and then empty them this dirt hole, I think of what the prophet said.

“It’s a lot more work to dig holes and carry water to pour in them than it is to just kneel and drink from the fountain.”

“And if you get too proud to go fetch water to pour in here you’ll have wait awhile for the rain to help you out. You will be a very thirsty man before long.”

“You’re probably right John, but there are several reasons I don’t want to go into, but a big one is, I can’t go and drink at that fountain anymore because of old man Naphtali. I hate what he’s done and how he’s treated me and my family, so I decided I’d dig my own cistern so I won’t have to look at him or drink from the same fountain he does. I think he’s a hypocrite.

“To me, my water is just as good. I got most of it from the fountain. Besides, it’s mine and if I never drink water beside Naphtali at the fountain again, I’ll die a happy man. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not hurting anyone and I don’t plan on being hurt again.

“Ben, we’ve been neighbors and friends all of our lives. Our fathers were friends before us. As your friend I’m sorry for your hurts and the pain others have caused you. But before you ever had a problem with Naphtali, you were always doing things your own way. Now you’ve let some rogue person be the reason you won’t drink at the fountain anymore.

“We both know that you are working harder trying to distance yourself from the fountain than if you just went ahead and had a drink at the fountain. In your mind, you are still drinking the water from the fountain, but in reality, you first pour the water into the dirt down there in that hole.  Then come back and drink it later and tell yourself it’s as good as always. It’s not the same and you know it. Your water is no longer pure.

“Your cisterns will never hold water. Your work will always come to naught digging cisterns.  When you get done with all your hard work, at best, all you will ever have is bad water. Everyone sees it but you. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, except to God.

“Come on man, put down that old shovel down once and for all and quit trying to do things your own way. Come on back and drink with me at the fountain. Don’t worry about Naphtali or anyone else. There’s just no water like fountain water and you know it!”

Old Ben looked at his neighbor and felt no urge to smile. How dare John criticize his hard work, his motives and all of his efforts. That’s not what friends did. Friends were supposed to support you no matter what you did. Friends were supposed to love at all times. This didn’t feel like love.

“I’ll say this as nice as I can John. You’ve spoken your mind. I thank you for your concern. But I would appreciate you never trying to preach to me again. I don’t need it, I don’t want it and I don’t like it.

“If all you have is criticism of me, then it might be better if you just stay quiet, stay away and leave me alone. Let me do things my own way. I’ve never been happier than I am now. I’m freer now than I’ve ever been. Your preaching just angers me. I’ll never go back to your beloved fountain.”

John nodded, shook Ben’s hand, then turned and walked away.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

March 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm