Authentic Broken Vessels

The Psalmist in Psalm 51:17 cries out, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, you will not despise.” If we think upon what God can use for His glory, we must remember that He can only use broken things and imperfect vessels reflecting His glory. Think about Mary’s box of ointment she broke open in order to anoint the Lord’s feet with very costly oil. (See John 12:1-11) Through her tears and brokenness, she serves the Lord and anoints Him for His upcoming sacrifice on the cross. In Judges 7, we read of the story of Gideon’s troops. 32,000 men were gradually reduced to 22,000, then to 10,000, then ultimately to three hundred men by the Lord’s command. God wanted to use this strikingly small number of men against the Midianites, who were numbered as “the sand by the seashore in multitude.” (Judges 7:12) God chooses to use this small, ragtag band of Gideon’s men, armed with earthen vessels, torches, and trumpets to defeat these mighty men, so that He might have all the glory and recognition for this amazing defeat. He could have armed Gideon’s 32,000 with classic military weapons, but the Lord chose to whittle their numbers down to scarcely anything, and then gave them seemingly harmless tools to accomplish this task. He used these broken, powerless vessels to create a memorable victory and bring glory to Himself!

Again, we see with Saul of Tarsus that God intends to use the brokenness of individuals for His service. Despite his persecution of Christians, God chooses him as His “chosen vessel.” (See Acts 9:15) Saul, becoming Paul later, even identifies himself as “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor and an insolent man” and a “chief” of sinners. (See 1 Timothy 1:13-15) On the road to Damascus, Jesus intends to break Saul into his servant, giving him an affliction in his eyes, which might have been something like blindness, then heals him of this with Ananias’ baptism with the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 9:10-19)

Later in his ministry, Paul refers to himself as weak, with a thorn in his flesh given to him by the Lord. This brokenness apparently enables him even more for his ministry. He says he pleaded for the Lord to take away his thorn, but the Lord replies to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then boasts in his infirmities, so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. He continues, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Despite these many biblical examples, the ultimate use of brokenness lies in our Savior Jesus. If we reflect upon the Lord’s human body, we know this was the exemplary model of brokenness accomplishing redemption of God’s people and glory to God. God used Jesus’ broken body to pay for the sins of the world, shedding his blood and suffering for the sake of His people.

We also can see this brokenness through tears shed over lost souls and grieving for the sin in the world. General Booth, the great evangelist and leader of his “Salvation Army,” led evangelists to spread the gospel and bring others to salvation. When two in his army became frustrated and weary from evangelism in a new city and shared their concerns with General Booth, he sent a telegram to them with two words: “Try tears!” This old-fashioned evangelist, broken in spirit, displayed this kind of fervency and soaked his pillows as he pled for souls’ salvation. Psalm 126:6 teaches, “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Andrew Bonar, another great minister from Scotland, used to weep and cry as he heard the crowds of people outside roaming the streets on a busy Saturday night on the town, “O God they perish, they perish!” His soul was wounded in thinking about the multitudes that did not know the Lord and he shed tears for their lostness.


Let us look in Scripture where we see evidence of brokenness and grieving for lost souls through the weeping of God’s people. In Isaiah, God commands the prophet to tell King Hezekiah he will deliver him and save him, saying, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears.” (Isaiah 38:5) In the book of Job, we see this godly man in his pain, grieving, and suffering, crying out, “My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God.” (Job 16:20) David tearfully laments in Psalm 6, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows old because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.” (Psalm 6:6-8) Jeremiah also laments for his people in despair, “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1) In Luke we encounter the sinful woman, who, overtaken by the holiness of her Lord and her own sinfulness in contrast, tearfully anoints Jesus’ feet and anoints them with her expensive oil. (See Luke 7:36-50) In Acts 20, we know that Paul has spent the last three years training up leaders and Christians in the church at Ephesus, and he says, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:31) In Hebrews 5:7, the author refers to the Lord’s crying Himself, grieved by the lostness of His people who He would die for: “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.” We see from these many biblical examples that tearless hearts can never be the heralds of the passion of Christ, rather we should grieve and weep for those who do not yet know the love of the Lord and salvation for eternal life.

Let us be aware, however, that our brokenness and tears should never be a feigned faith. As believers, we should never pretend. Ask yourself, are you for real? Are you what you appear to be? Are you putting on a show or masquerading as a spiritual Christian? Many are hiding under a façade or acting out their part well. We must be careful of this, because the Word admonishes us to drop the façade, take off the mask, and stop trying to impress others. Jesus, teaching before the scribes and the Pharisees, condemns them, quoting from His father’s words in Isaiah: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9) Stop covering up your coldness, lethargy, and sin and quit pretending to be spiritual and victorious. Let us demonstrate unfeigned, sincere, genuine faith and walk among men as a holy prince of God.