#30 When Broken is Good
I have a few broken or torn things in my possession that I do not want to replace because they have sentimental value or remind me of critical phases of my life. And, I have a rule that I won’t purchase a new item until the old one is useless (or too ugly to even look at). I try to fix broken things but am usually unsuccessful and must replace them. But I confess that I like new and have about five things in my Amazon shopping cart right now. But I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily, so my conflicted desires battle each other. Do you like new things and buy them often? Do you try to fix things, so you won’t have to replace them? We carry our views about old versus new and broken versus into every area of our lives. They are even here in our Bible reading and study. But the biblical concept of brokenness, especially when it’s a good thing, is counter-cultural. In the Bible, things and people aren’t broken because they wear out or are worn down from age. Brokenness is evidence of a need for God’s supernatural help, and an opportunity to be “remade.” In his psalms, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart. In Psalm 51:14-17, he writes, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Broken and Dysfunctional
God is not looking to replace us with something new because we become dysfunctional or useless—we’re that way from conception. Instead, he wants to remake us to be better than before, but of the same essence, like a potter reworks clay. Our transformation begins with our regeneration in Christ through God’s salvation. Then it continues in our sanctification since we have our old sin-nature as long as we are in this world. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to the potter’s house to illustrate his intentions with Israel. “So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do” (Jeremiah 18:3-4). The potter “reworked” the clay, that is, he changed it entirely, but with the same material. Some potters will leave their vessels alone if they are almost perfect, but God wants us to be “pots” representing his faultless character. He wanted Israel to be different from other nations and different from how she had been in her national idolatry and rebellion. David, Israel’s king, knew that every personal and national fault was an opportunity to be transformed into something better. Do we know that about our failures and flaws—that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10)? If so, we will move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness to praise Christ, our Savior.
Worshipping God Through Our Brokenness
In our Pastor’s sermon yesterday on Romans 5, he reminded us that sin wrecks everything, that “the world is the wreckage of Eden.” We are all born spiritually and legally guilty—the consequence of Adam’s fall, which we refer to as original sin. (1) In our Christian Ed. Class on the Westminster Confession of Faith after worship, our teacher noted that God displays many of his attributes and intentions through the world’s brokenness. David recognizes that he cannot worship God rightly as long as the guilt of his sin ensnares him. “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise (Psalm 51:14-15). Anyone “who has used this psalm to confess his sins and to receive God’s assurance of pardon is the one who can genuinely worship the gracious God of the covenant.” (2) In our hymn of grace during worship, we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” When I reflect on its words, I wonder if David would sing the third stanza first: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” Having received God’s unique, loving grace, drawing us back to him, we remember that “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” That is why we want God to tune our hearts to sing His grace; “streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” (3)
The Best Brokenness Leads to Repentance
David knew he needed to be “sensible of sin, repent of it, acknowledge it, and ask for mercy…[his] lips were shut with a sense of sin, with shame of it, and sorrow for it; and though they were in some measure opened in prayer to God for the forgiveness of it, as appears by various petitions in this psalm, yet he still wanted a free spirit and boldness at the throne of grace, which the believer has when his heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ; and especially his lips were shut as to praise and thanksgiving; the guilt of sin had sealed up his lips, that he could not sing the praises of God as he had formerly done; and only a discovery of pardoning grace could open them, and for this he prays.” (4) After all, Jesus taught that “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, quoted from Hosea 6:6). “Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it.” (5) So, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart, to sing aloud and declare praise for the God of his salvation. “These verses seem to make sacrifice and burnt offering relatively unimportant for the faithful, even replacing them with the inner disposition (a broken and contrite heart). However, since verse 19 goes on to speak of offering physical sacrifices, it is better to take these verses as implying that the animal sacrifices look to the worshiper offering himself to God as ‘a living sacrifice’ (Rom. 12:1), and without this they forfeit significance.” (6) “The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit…[we are] humbled under a sense of sin; have true repentance for it; are smitten, wounded, and broken with it, by the word of God in the hand of the Spirit, which is a hammer to break the rock in pieces…broken and melted down under a sense of it, in a view of pardoning grace; and mourning for it, while beholding a pierced and wounded Saviour: the sacrifices of such a broken heart and contrite spirit are the sacrifices God desires, approves, accepts of, and delights in.” (7)
“The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender and pliable to God’s word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not.” (8) Will we see our old motives, habits, and desires to have them “reworked” by God? Will we move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness, to praise Christ, our Savior? “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry…When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:15, 17-18)
Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 66:18-20; 103:1; 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 16:23-34; Mark 12:33.
- Witten, Pastor Kevin, “Grace Abounding, (Romans 5:12-21),” https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-07-18/grace-abounding
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 51:14–17, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” words by Robert Robinson
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 51:14-15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-51.html
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalms 51:16-19, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-51.html
- ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.
- Gill, Psalms 51:17, Ibid.
- Henry, Ibid.
July 22, 2021