Response to Brokenness
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,
A reminder of where we were last week in this series. I had entitled the sermon “Recognition of Brokenness”. Verse three tells the tale of walls and gates of Jerusalem being in a sad state of affairs. Nehemiah acknowledges that he understands this in verse four when he says And it came to pass, when I heard these words. We then looked at what brokenness was and its effects on mankind.
We determined that mankind, since the fall in Genesis 3 has been in a constant state of brokenness. As a counter to brokenness we looked at what God had intended man to live like. Genesis 1:31 says that all that God created was good and can logically infer from that man was intended to live a good life. Backing up to verse 1:26 we see man was also intended to rule (have dominion) over all the things of the earth. As we turned back to Nehemiah we saw, the report he gets is they (the Jerusalem Jews) are living a broken existence. One not in line with God’s plan, for they are in great affliction and reproach.
Before I move on to today’s theme I do not want anyone left with the wrong impression. God did not have a plan A for mankind and a backup or plan B if man failed at plan A. God is sovereign and in complete control of all things. John MacArthur says of God’s sovereignty: “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
Ok let’s look at Nehemiah’s Response to Brokenness in verse four. He says when I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned certain days. Nehemiah is moved to tears. The bible is full of stories that describe folks weeping and or mourning for a variety of reasons. Let us look at a few:
Death – especially the death of a loved one Gen 50:10 And they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days
Disobedience – Ezra 9:4-7 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice 5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,
6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. 7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.
Desolation – Joel 1:9-10 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lord’s ministers, mourn.
10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
In Defeat – Rev 18:11 10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
When Diseased – Job 2:28 7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
When we lose something valuable – Gen 27:34-38 34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? 38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
We are naturally sorrowful when the above events occur. Many of us like Nehemiah are moved to tears when we hear of the suffering and tribulations of saints in lands around the world. But there is no greater event in our lives that should move us to tears than when we come to the realization that our life is a broken mess. Like Nehemiah’s realization of broken walls and gate the realization of our broken lives; is a cause for weeping and mourning.
I have often stated that man cannot fully appreciate the Love of God until he understands the Depravity of Man. One can easily substitute brokenness for depravity. This may seem a hard statement but if you are not brought to tears and your knees with that realization you do not fully comprehend it. Some of your authority, your superiority complex is still alive and kicking.
Lest I leave you thinking all tears are because of sorrow and brokenness there is more to the story. Our old self must die a mournful death in order that we may shed new tears of joy. Again the Bible is full of these stories too:
Hard work has joyful payoff – Psalm 126:5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy
Depending upon God – Jeremiah 31:9-13 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble : for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say , He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11 For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
Joy in knowing the God of Love – Ps 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Reunions are times of joyful weeping – Gen 33:4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
“The catalysts for brokenness don’t have to be huge, tragic or devastating, though sometimes they are. Suffering comes in all sizes and shapes every day of our lives. And when it comes, we often bury the pain of it somewhere deep inside us where it simmers and stews and gnaws away at our peace, faith and health, turning our hearts even stonier, compounding our pride and unbroken- ness layer by layer.”
Mark Buchanan wrote in his book Your God is Too Safe, that there is one soil that usually withers pride. It is brokenness. He goes on to write that broken- ness “molds our character closer to the character of God than anything else. To experience defeat, disappointment, loss—the raw ingredients of broken- ness—moves us closer to being like God than victory and gain and fulfillment ever can.”
Frederick Buechner in his book Whistling in the Dark “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling the secret of who you are, but more often than not of the mystery of where you have come from and are summoning you to where you should go next.”
Ken Gire wrote in Windows of the Soul, “In each tear is distilled something of eternity, something of love and compassion and tenderness, all things that originate in heaven and come to earth as a sacrament to the soul, if only I am willing to take and to eat. The closest communion with God comes, I believe, through the sacrament of tears. Just as grapes are crushed to make wine and grain to make bread, so the elements of this sacrament come from the crushing experiences of life.
“So much is distilled in our tears, not the least of which is wisdom in living life. From my own tears I have learned that if you follow your tears, you will find your heart. If you find your heart, you will find what is dear to God, and if you find what is dear to God you will find the answer to how you should live your life.”
I had planned on closing tonight’s sermon with the joyful knowledge that our victory is won and are tears are temporary. Then this morning’s devotional from the Institute of Creation Research said it all better than I:
Tears in Heaven
“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8)
It may be surprising to learn there are tears in heaven, but there are three places in the Bible where we are told that God will wipe away our tears there. This promise appears first in the Old Testament in our text—a text which is quoted in the New Testament as applying to the events of the second coming of Christ. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). The graves will be emptied and death itself will die when Christ comes again! But there will still be those tears, even after death, which God must wipe away.
The other two occurrences are in the last book of the Bible, both again in the context of the return of Christ, “[who] shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Finally, in the new Jerusalem, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 7:17; 21:4).
But why should there be tears at all when death has passed away? The Scriptures do not say specifically why, but it seems probable that these may be tears of regret at lost opportunities and tears of sorrow for unsaved friends and loved ones. It does say that in the new earth we shall somehow “look upon” the lost (Isaiah 66:22, 24) and that even some of the saved “shall suffer loss” when their works in this life do not “abide” in the judgment (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). But then, after these tears are shed, God will graciously wipe them away, and there will never be sorrow or crying anymore. HMM
Institute for Creation Research;
Days of Praise devotionals: http://www.icr.org/article/8315
Next time Response to Brokenness continued, Fasting and Prayer
In HIS Service