The Heart of the Contrite

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” – Isaiah 57:15 (ESV)

I was reading John Piper’s Desiring God this morning and was in a chapter about worship. He wrote in that chapter:

…because we are all sinners, there is in our reverence a holy dread of God’s righteous power. “The Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13). “I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you” (Psalm 5:7).

But this dread is not a paralyzing fright full of resentment against God’s absolute authority. It finds release in brokenness and contrition and grief for our ungodliness: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). (Desiring God, 86)

Then the Isaiah 57 verse popped up. Piper had quoted a part of it earlier and I had looked up the verse and been encouraged. Then he quoted the entire thing. Obviously this is an important verse, one that I needed to look at further.

My favorite part of the verse is “to revive the heart of the contrite.” The heart of the contrite is something the Lord will revive. In my Bible’s commentary, John MacArthur wrote, “After all the years of Israel’s sin and backsliding, and of Israel’s punishment, God’s grace will prevail and spiritual healing and revelation will come.”

The only way that our heart and mind can be revived after a pattern of sin and disobedience is for us to be genuinely contrite. The Hebrew word used for “contrite” is “daka’.” Other uses of the word in the Old Testament include “crushed” (Job 5:4, 6:9, 22:9). Possibly my favorite use of the word is Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was “crushed for our iniquities.” His body was destroyed, His emotions were crumbling and His will was most assuredly shaken. Otherwise He would never have asked His Father to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was broken.

When we sin, we must be broken. We must honestly feel like a train has run over us spiritually and emotionally for God to revive us. Psalm 51:17, as Piper quoted earlier, says, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” We must be “broken and contrite and trusting in the Christ,” as Lecrae said in his song “Desperate.”

To do it honestly? We need to have the Holy Spirit working inside of us to feel that way. Our sinful flesh will not respond negatively to sin that “satisfies” or “pleasures” us, for “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

That same verse tells us that “the spirit is willing.” The Greek word for “willing” (which is prothymos) is only used in this verse, in the same story in Mark 14:38 and in Romans 1:15 where Paul tells the Romans that he is “eager to preach the Gospel” to those that are in Rome. Our spirit must be shaped by God’s will and be broken by the sin in our life.

Contrition is a conscious decision of our mind to feel bad or convicted about something, but our minds must be shaped by the Holy Spirit to truly feel it about our sin. In those circumstances, God will “revive the heart of the contrite.”

Working here at Snowbird this summer has taught be a lot about contrition. I’ve been broken about so much in my life that it gets to the point where I almost live in a state of contrition. While conviction and contrition are great things and necessary to be revived by God, we need to be accepting of His grace and salvation because we serve a loving and holy God who wants to use us. Even though we struggle with sin and go through numerous trials, they’re made to strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4) and encourage us to love him more.

God bless.

A Ransomed Soul.

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