Recognition of Brokenness
That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
It may seem evident but before one can rebuild something one must recognize that something is broken. Building upon the previous two weeks, especially last week’s sermon on the persecuted church I would like to take a look at what I am entitling Our Recognition of Brokenness.
The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” would seem to apply. You would not waste your time tuning up a brand new 2015 vehicle with 25 miles on it. Neither would you put a new roof on a just completed home. The same applies to the Gospel. If the whole world was good and proper (as God intended) there would be no brokenness and no need for the Gospel Good News. But as we all know the world we live in is severely broken.
Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 describes Brokenness as: A state of being broken; unevenness; as brokenness of heart. Charles Stanley says: Brokenness is the Lord’s method of dealing with our self-reliance—that desire within us to act independently from Him. God wants us to bring every area of our lives into submission to His will, and He uses our trials to lead us to a point of total surrender.
The bible is full of stories of broke things. It starts out with the glory of God in creation and quickly erodes to man breaking God’s covenant in the Garden of Eden. There is the story of Pharaoh who must be broken step by step in order for God to be fully glorified. The story of Joseph recounts many broken moments from a fathers love to a faithful servant falsely accused. Of course we could go on but suffice it to say there is no shortage of similar stories throughout the Bible. The common thread in every case is man’s depravity, his broken state. His inability to do good of his own accord and the evil he can generate towards others. As I preached for the first time this past Jan (2014) in jail, one cannot truly appreciate the love of God (John 3:16) until one really understands the unbridled evil in man (John3:19).
Here too in Nehemiah we see this in verses 2 and 3. Nehemiah asks about the Jews who had previously left Persia with Ezra and returned to Jerusalem. I want to emphasize these words in verse 3 that describe those in Jerusalem they: are in great affliction and reproach. Their lives are broken.
Think about this for a moment how was man intended to live? Genesis 1:31a gives us a hint And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. We can see that all of God’s creation under the heavens and earth were good. It is not a farfetched leap to think God intended man to LIVE THE GOOD LIFE.
The Hebrew word translated good is Towb a partial list of its meanings should enlighten us:
good, pleasant, agreeable, [No bad stuff here]
good, excellent (of its kind) [cream of the crop]
good, rich, valuable in estimation [worthwhile]
better (comparative) [as compared to after the fall should be obvious]
glad, happy, prosperous (of man's sensuous nature)
good understanding (of man's intellectual nature)
good, kind, benign [no evil intent]
good, right (ethical) n m [capable of making right decisions]
welfare, prosperity, happiness [ for ones benefit]
good things (collective) [creation individually and as a whole]
Not just a good VERY GOOD. Again it is the choice of the emphatic Very that makes this so compelling. It was not just ok good it was the best of the best.
The second thing to consider here is man’s intended role in the Garden. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth Gen 1:26 God gave man dominion or rule over all the earth. Not just bits and pieces but all the earth. He entrusted man because He created him good. But man had other ideas.
Back to Nehemiah, the report he gets is they (the Jerusalem Jews) are living a broken existence. One not in line with God’s plan, they are in great affliction and reproach.
According to Josephus, Nehemiah, while walking around the palace walls, overheard some persons conversing in the Hebrew language. Having ascertained that they had lately returned from Judea, he was informed by them, in answer to his eager inquiries, of the unfinished and desolate condition of Jerusalem, as well as the defenseless state of the returned exiles. The commissions previously given to Zerubbabel and Ezra extending only to the repair of the temple and private dwellings, the walls and gates of the city had been allowed to remain a mass of shattered ruins, as they had been laid by the Chaldean siege.
The walls of the city were left in disrepair, broken and a disgrace to the citizenry there. It is important to recognize the broken state of folks around us. We should never be surprised at the brokenness around us. I often hear comments like “how could someone do such a thing” from Christians and stand amazed at their ignorance. It amazes me even more, how someone who is completely broken does not do far worse.
We can look upon Nehemiah’s situation as symbolic of our own lives apart from God. Without Christ where was your life headed? It has been my experience that very few folks have come to Christ without first being completely broken in need of a complete renovation.
There are many things that get us to that point (thanks to In Touch Ministries for the following list with my comments in italics)
A. Pride - How many of us thought we could go it alone?
B. Ignorance – Maybe stupidity would be my choice we knew better than God?
C. Fear – Afraid be seen as Broken therefore afraid to change leaves us broken,
D. Worldly entanglements – Here we again, loving the dark side of life.
E. Unhealthy relationships – Personal, Business, Social, who are you hanging with?
F. Rebelliousness – Resisting the truth; afraid to own up to our failures
G. Strongholds of Satan – He can’t make you do it but can plant the seeds to sedition.
Often times this broken state is not as apparent as the words told to Nehemiah. We must always be on the lookout for family, friends, co-workers and even those who in authority over us who are broken and in despair. As a prison chaplain I am constantly on the lookout for signs of new brokenness if you will in the men women and staff I minister to. Some are easy to spot. They guy who is normally boisterous lying on his bunk with his head wrapped in a towel is a dead giveaway something new is wrong. Or the officer who grunts a greeting instead of their normal smile sets my alarm off. I constantly hear gripes from the inmates regarding the staff (and yes sometimes the other way around). The lack of control over their own lives (brokenness) leads them lash out at those God has appointed over them. Rarely justified it goes to the total depravity of man. I often try and pint out to those complaining that not only did they put themselves there, they have no idea of the (broken) state the staff member maybe in.
Why is living in a state of brokenness so bad? Let us look at some of the Consequences: (Again thanks to In Touch Ministries)
A. We hinder our relationship with the Lord. (We can never make things right)
B. We delay the fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. (God will not work with junk)
C. We hurt those who are closest to us. (Our brokenness affects others)
D. We limit what the Father can do through our gifts and talents. (SOS mode all the way)
E. We are “put on the shelf”—unused by the Lord and prevented from experiencing His blessings and future rewards. (God wants representatives that glorify him not the devil)
God uses the humble the willing and the broken of self for His kingdoms work.
· Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor [humble] in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. We are drawn closer to God as we acknowledge our brokenness
· Psalm 32:9a Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. WE must yield to the Holy Spirit as we recognize our brokenness
· 2 Timothy 2:20,21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. We must be broken to be restored in the inmage of God.
Recognition of our broken state is only the beginning of the process of rebuilding. Next week we will look at Responses to Brokenness.
In HIS Service