Earthy Vessels, Broken for the Lord

Earthy Vessels, Broken for the Lord

In John 2:23-25, the beloved Apostle makes an astonishing statement: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Of course we know that’s true!

The Courage to Pray Honestly

I love Psalm 139. I love the vulnerability of the Psalmist who lays himself on the anvil and asks the Lord to reshape him.

It begins with a declaration of God’s omniscience, but it is an intimate, personal application of what it means to be fully known by the all-knowing God.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

(Psalm 139:1-4)

And this intimacy extends far beyond mere knowledge; God is with him too!

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

(Psalm 139:5-12)

But my favorite part of this wonderful song is the last part, verses 23 and 24. I love the raw honesty of it. I admire the courage of it. How courageous a believer must be to pray these words and mean them!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139:23-24)

Question: If there were some grievous way within you, would you really want to know?

The Origin of the Species 

Despite rumors to the contrary, our race has not evolved from lower animals. We were created by a loving God, out from the dust. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground [away from/separated from the ground], and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7, brackets mine).

The original biological creation was constructed from elements extracted from the soil of the earth, not the soil itself (Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Grand Rapids, Michigan Baker Book House, 1984, pp. 216-239).

Interestingly enough, back in 1982 scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center “discovered” that the very elements found in the human body are also found in the earth’s crust. Even the mainstream magazine Reader’s Digest picked up on it. In their November, 1982 issue, it ran an article called, How Life on Earth Began, which concluded: “The Biblical scenario for the creation of life turns out to be not far off the mark” (p.116).

Indeed, the elements found in ‘dirt’ are also found in the human body. These are, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen calcium, manganese, phosphorus, chlorine, iodine, potassium, silicon, sulfur, nitrogen, magnesium, fluorine, zinc, iron and more.

Gordon Greenidge Godwin (M.Sc, M.Tech, MBA) puts it this way: “Science tells us that the human body is comprised of at least 59 elements – ALL of them can be found in the clay and dirt of the earth (really the earth crust) … So the Biblical claim that God created man from the dust of the earth is valid” (The Science in The Works Of God, Notion Press, 2017).

In their organic form, these elements nourish and replenish the human body. So, we are dependent upon what comes out from the soil to nourish our organic bodies, which also come out from the soil. In fact, many of these elements are found in our vitamin supplements. 

Amazing! Who could have guessed that the God “who makes all things” and “who stretches out the heavens all alone” is good at chemistry too? (Isaiah 44:24).

A Heavenly Turn

But the God who made our material bodies from the elements found in the dust also created our invisible parts – our soul and our spirit. Our spirits died with Adam’s fall, but God never gave up on us. In fact, He loved us so much that He found a way to reconcile us back to Himself. And now, the One who made us in the first place offers us a new nature that is only found in Jesus Christ – a … wait for it … heavenly nature.

Where Adam, the first man, was of the dust – let’s call him Dusty – the Second Man, Jesus, is from Heaven – let’s call Him the Lord!

1 Corinthians 15:47-49: “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” 

Earthy Vessels

Those of us who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have been born again, born anew. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself …” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a).

And these fragile, earthy bodies have now become the dwelling place of God Himself. “Do you not know, Paul asked, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

So, dwelling in our earthy vessels is a treasure of inestimable value: the very Spirit of the living God. The Apostle Paul tells us that “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, underline mine).

But how do we show it? How do we show that the power belongs to God and not to us”? By the breaking of the vessel, by brokenness – cracks through which the love and life of the Holy Spirit might radiate out from us to the watching world.

So, Paul goes on to say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

The treasure within us, hiding as it does in these earthy vessels, is released through brokenness. So, David sang, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The Release of the Spirit

One of my favorite books by Watchman Nee is The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit. In it, he writes: 

“The Holy Spirit has only one goal in all of His disciplining work: To break and dismantle the outer man so that the inner man can break forth. But the trouble with us is that we murmur as soon as we suffer a little hardship, and we complain as soon as we suffer a little defeat. The Lord has prepared a way for us. He is ready to use us. As soon as His hand is upon us, however, we become unhappy. Either we argue with Him, or we complain about everything to Him. From the day we were saved, the Lord has been working on us in many different ways for the purpose of breaking the self. We may or may not know it, but the Lord’s goal is always to break our outer man.”

So, we have this amazing spiritual treasure in jars of clay, earth, and dust – and God’s work in us is designed to bring the inside out. 

He often does this by allowing us to go through trials and suffering so that the things that matter become evident to us – and to others through us!

God wants us to shine our light into the darkness of the world. He wants to use us as beacons pointing the way home to every ship that’s lost at sea. He wants us to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

Or as Jesus put it: “YOU are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The world – and, sadly, many Christians – value the earthy vessel more than they value the treasure within. They primp and powder and groom and brush and tone and perfume and style the outer man, but often spend little time on the spiritual treasure within.

But the world will only see this treasure in us if we allow our lives to be swallowed up by His life. For “if anyone would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). 

We can’t excuse ourselves or preserve ourselves. The Lord desires His people to serve Him in brokenness and that often comes about through trials and suffering.

Brother Nee reminds us that there is no shortage of earthen vessels, but what the world needs more than ever is to see the treasure that’s within!

He Loves Me, Anyway

In John 2:23-25, “many” were believing in Jesus when they saw what He was doing. “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about God’s love is that He knows me perfectly, and loves me anyway.

To consider

How honest are you in your prayer life?

Would you consider praying with the psalmist (Psalm 139:23-24):

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

If there were some “grievous way” in you, would you want to know?

Are you willing to act upon whatever He might reveal to you?

Have you ever experienced a deep sense of God’s presence in a time of brokenness?

Are you more aware of God’s working in your life in times of prosperity or in times of hardship?

Why do you think that is?

What do you think Jesus meant by saying, “Blessed are those who mourn” in Matthew 5:4?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 carefully. What do you think Paul means by saying, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”? (12:10)

How does our discussion of 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 above change your understanding of Christian brokenness? (Consider Psalm 51:17 as well.)



  1. I pray evey day and talk to GOD he hears my prays he no’s what iam going threw i pray for every one he listens to my pray .

Comments are closed.