When it comes to drawing water from underground there are two different sources to draw from, a cistern or a well. Cisterns are typically found in arid parts of the world and are typically man-made pits lined with cement to make them waterproof. They are built to capture runoff rainwater to create a reserve for times when there is no rain. Cisterns are typically shallow since they collect rain water from the surface. Wells on the other hand are dug to tap into subterranean water sources. Wells are typically deep since they need to get down far enough to reach the underground water.
In our lives with God, we must continually be able to draw wisdom, strength, encouragement, etc. from Him. Our picture of who He is and our relationship with Him determines whether we see His sustaining supply as a cistern or a well. A cistern is built out of the presupposition of lack. It assumes that the rain won’t be there when needed and therefore rain that does fall must be captured and saved to be drawn from later. A well is built on the assumption of supply. A well assumes that the deep source of water will remain whether or not there is drought on the surface.
Well water is fresh, it flows in from its source deep underground. Water from a cistern is stale. It has sat in the cistern, stationary since a past rain. The problem with cisterns is they leak. The prophet Jeremiah was very familiar with cisterns. When Jeremiah delivered a word from the Lord that was not popular with the rulers, his punishment was imprisonment in a cistern. Jeremiah 38:6 tells the story.
Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.
Notice that the cistern went dry, it contained no water. Given the choice between a relationship with God based on an image of Him that says He will not provide that tries to store up what He did before or a vibrant, alive relationship based on the knowledge that He is active and will come through when we need Him, choose the latter. Choose to draw from a well rather than a cistern. The final thought on this comes from Jeremiah 2:13.
For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
That can hold no water.