Our loving Father uses the breaking process and what is broken to transform, strengthen and bless.
BROKENNESS – Part 3
Last month, we looked at how God uses brokenness to prepare and purify us for His use. This month we’ll see how God uses brokenness to expose false security, weakness and thirsting for the wrong things.
Broken To Expose
“The plowed life is the life that has, in the act of repentance, thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. The urge of the Spirit, the pressure of circumstances and the distress of fruitless living have combined thoroughly to humble the heart. Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life.” — A. W. Tozer
“A true worshiping life is a life of brokenness and contrition, a life that sees sin and confesses continually.” — John MacArthur
Our wrong beliefs hinder what the Lord would like to do with us. Our holding on to worldly dreams either rock us to sleep or drive us to chase after worthless goals. In order to awaken us, to stop us and set our feet firmly on solid ground, the Lord may choose to break something. By breaking what we lean on, He breaks our misplaced confidence.
Broken Walls Expose False Security
In ages past, it was natural to build walls around cities to protect families against wild animals, thieves and enemies. With thick walls, sentinels and closed gates, those inside felt secure and slept in peace. We humans long for peace and security, so we build protective walls. Nehemiah wept when he heard that “the wall of Jerusalem is broken down.” Without those walls, the nation lacked security. “Come” he said, “let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Neh. 1:3; 2:17).
Peace and security are good and necessary. What God opposes is false peace and false security. We may sleep in peace because we have surrounded ourselves with health insurance policies, good investments, long term contracts or with loving and influential friends. But our self-made walls do not allow us to see danger, to see life as it really is. We are content as long as we feel secure. The Lord sometimes breaks down that which makes us feel secure to expose our precarious condition. Without His breaking we’ll never hunger for real peace.
Tyre was a secure and prosperous city, surrounded by walls and towers. The people relied on their walls and towers and not on the Lord. That offended the Lord and He set out to expose their weakness: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers … Your walls will tremble at the noise of the war horses, wagons and chariots when he enters your gates as men enter a city whose walls have been broken through” (Ezek. 26:3,10).
Things like bankruptcy, unemployment, divorce, cancer, death of loved ones, church divisions, etc. are all used by the Lord to break down our walls, to expose our false peace and false security. Why? As long as our own walls stand, we do not feel the need to fully trust the Lord. Like Jerusalem in Zechariah’s vision, because it no longer had a wall, the Lord was needed: “I myself will be a wall of fire around it” (Zech. 2:5). What causes us to feel secure and at peace? Isaiah thanked the Lord for His faithful promise: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3). Is our confidence really rooted in Him?
Broken Bows Expose Weakness
The sword and bow were weapons of warfare that represented military strength and power. Jacob gave his son Joseph some “land I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow” (Gen. 48:22). Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar – the father of the Arab race – was the first in the Bible to be called an archer (Gen. 21:20). He was strong. The Old Testament contains stories where God brought victory by making use of man’s sword and bow. But frequently the credit for such victories was claimed by the holder of the weapon rather than given to God. The Lord may choose to use our talents, abilities and skills, but how easy it is for us to take the credit. We want the Lord to bless our efforts, but subconsciously we believe we can do it without Him.
The Lord used Joshua to win many battles as Israel took possession of the Promised Land. Many Israelite warriors must have felt satisfied with their own military achievements. But towards the end of his life, Joshua felt it necessary to remind them of some historical facts: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says … ‘The citizens of Jericho fought against you … but I (God) gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you, also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow’” (Josh. 24:2,11-12).
In a real way, the credit should be given to the Lord. When this does not happen, the Lord sometimes chooses to “break the bow” (Hos. 1:5-7). He breaks that which feeds and bolsters our self-confidence. He breaks what we consider to be the tool of our success. The exposure of our own weakness can be very painful, but as long as our bow provides visible results, we hold on to it with both hands. The Lord knows that something has to break. It may take time, but it will happen.
The apostle Paul, a hard-working and intelligent communicator, learned that success did not depend on his talents. He was only a channel, a willing instrument through which Christ could bless others (Rom. 15:18; 2 Tim. 4:17). Paul learned by painful experiences that sometimes God must break a bow before He can manifest His power: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Broken Cisterns Expose Thirst
The Lord God was deeply disappointed with the children of Israel. Through Jeremiah, He described their problem: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13). It is evident that we thirst. Being thirsty is not the problem. God created us with legitimate needs. Our natural hunger and thirst move us to seek food and drink.
We have been made with a thirst for companionship, intimacy and significance. We have also been made with a thirst for God. This thirst is vividly pictured in a Hebrew song: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). Do our souls sometimes experience this thirst? The problem arises in how, where and with what we seek to satisfy our legitimate thirst.
Chewing the leaves of cocaine bushes is a common sight among the poor Indians of Peru. It takes away their hunger and renews their strength. Likewise, there are many things on the market to alleviate our longing for intimacy. It is clear that legitimate needs can be wrongly satisfied.
Cisterns are large cavities cut into the rock. If a crack is present, the collected rain water will soon vanish. Cisterns represent those “other things” we use to seek fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction. They can be good things, like a job, marriage partner, motorbike, music, sport or gardening. But God has ensured that all material cisterns will break. They can only provide limited and temporal satisfaction.
Even our service for the Lord, our ministry, and our local church are broken cisterns. If we need them to satisfy our thirst for acceptance, worth or significance, we will soon thirst again. In time we will demand water from our dry, broken cistern – and usually hurt others in the process – or we will dig another cistern. It is not that the Lord goes around breaking cisterns. He simply informs us that all cisterns are broken. At best, they can only hold water for a short time. What the Lord wants to do is break our dependence on cisterns. Why? So that we may genuinely turn to Him.
What should we do when we thirst for love, significance or acceptance? The invitation still stands today: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink” (Jn. 7:37). His promise remains true: “He who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (Jn. 6:35). Why then do Christians thirst? Because we get distracted, dig cisterns and forget to return to His fountain and drink. We can read the Scriptures without drinking. We can enjoy a good church meeting without drinking. To quench our thirst, we must drink His water.
What are we drinking? What is quenching our thirst? Moses shared his secret in a song: “Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14). We know that the Lord’s love is great, tender and unfailing, but do we drink in this fact? Has it reached our soul? Does it satisfy our thirst?
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org