Busted Boats and Boxes; the Beauty of Brokenness
“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” – Judges 7:19-20
Have you ever broken anything? If you are like me, I am sure that you have. Usually when I break something, I will cast it aside and throw it out. And I am sure you do the same. But why do we discard broken things? We do so because we see the broken item as useless. But that is not the case in Scripture. Oftentimes, God intentionally uses something broken by His grace and for His glory. Let us ponder together the beauty found in God’s use of broken things.
Do you remember the story about the man who could not walk and was brought to Jesus while lying on a cot? Four dedicated friends broke up the roof of a home in effort to lower their paralytic friend to Jesus (Mark 4:2). And how could we forget the classic example of a broken vessel? Mary in worship to our Lord broke an alabaster box of precious ointment to anoint His feet (Mark 14:3). Jesus even demonstrated the beauty of brokenness when He broke five loaves of bread to feed a hungry crowd gathered on a hillside (Matthew 15:36). And when He instituted the Lord’s Supper in the upper room with the disciples, He said that the bread symbolized His body which was given for them (Luke 22:19). Furthermore, when Jesus was crucified on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom – something that could only have been done by the very hand of God (Matthew 27:51). And as God the Father broke the veil, it symbolized that His Son Jesus Christ was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Now mankind could have direct access to the God Father through God the Son.
As we leave the gospels and go a bit further into the New Testament, we find other examples of how God uses broken things. For example, the apostle Paul and his companions survived a shipwreck by clinging to the floating debris of their broken boat (Acts 27:44). And in the book of Revelation, it was the Lamb of God who broke open the seven seals to reveal the coming Judgment of God upon the earth (Revelation 6-8).
But the beauty of broken things within the Word of God is not limited to the New Testament. There are many Old Testament examples as well. In our passage above Gideon’s army of three-hundred men intentionally broke their water pitchers as they confused their enemies and experienced victory (Judges 7:19). Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Yet despite Moses’ anger, God used that moment to accomplish His purposes (Exodus 34:1). In David’s great confession of sin in Psalm 51, he expresses a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), a reminder to us all that we must be broken over our sin to be in right relationship with God. Finally, how can we reflect upon the subject of brokenness in the Bible without considering that great messianic prophecy known as the Suffering Servant recorded in Isaiah Chapter 53? The Bible tells us that He was crushed (broken) for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).
From our perspective, the least usable tool in a toolbox is a broken tool. But that is not God’s perspective. Oftentimes more than not, God reaches His sovereign hand into His toolbox and intentionally chooses to use a broken tool to accomplish His purposes.
We must remember that God cannot use a dirty vessel but only a broken vessel. This truth is somewhat paradoxical in nature; for the more we are broken, the more usable we are to God. It means that we are much like Mary’s alabaster box; we can only be used when we are broken. Oh that we would be broken vessels spilled out in worship to Him!
– Pastor Eric