The Blessings of a Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
God clearly shows us in His Word the mind and attitude of heart that is well-pleasing to Him. There are several Scriptures where the Spirit of God tells us what kind of behaviour pleases the heart of God and what blessings He has promised where there is such an attitude. It is our purpose in this article to meditate upon four passages in the Old Testament that show the attitude which is suitable to everyone of us in our days. When such an attitude characterizes our behaviour we shall enjoy the seven promises that God gives in connection with this mind that is so pleasing to Him.
"The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit" (Ps. 34: 18):
The mind and attitude that God desires to see in us and which is mentioned in each of the four passages we are considering is described in the following terms: our spirits and our hearts should be broken, contrite and humble. Our whole being, our whole attitude of heart is humbled in the presence of God. We submit our will completely to the will of God. We feel deeply our own failure and mourn the sorrow and poor condition of the people of God. Not only will we, weep and mourn certain days (Neh. 1: 4), like Nehemiah, but we will also continue in prayer, as did that faithful servant of the Lord. "And confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments which Thou commandedst" (Neh. 1: 6, 7).
When this is the way we approach our God we shall find His promises fulfilled in our lives. The first two of them are mentioned in our verse:
1) God is near to us
If the Lord sees such a broken heart, He says to such: "I am near." The disciples on their way to Emmaus asked the Lord: "Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent" (Luke 24: 29). Considering the condition of His testimony on earth, don't we have to say, "it is toward evening" and the day of grace is "far spent"? Is there not the same desire in our hearts, to ask: "Lord, abide with us, be near to us." This verse shows that the attitude of a broken heart has the assurance of His nearness.
2) I will save
When we see such a lot of sorrow and so many problems and trials, how do we react? Are we looking for a "solution" in a carnal manner? We won't find one. On the contrary-we may make things worse. But perhaps, like the apostle Paul, we are at the point where "we are perplexed" ("seeing no apparent issue." JND Trans. 2. Cor. 4: 8). If in such a situation we really have a contrite spirit before the Lord then He will save us, He will show us the way so that we can add, like the apostle, "but not in despair" ("but our way not entirely shut up." JND Trans.). The Lord will show us a way. This may not be the easy way-but we will have the certainty that it is His way.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51: 17):
There are two further blessings in this verse:
3) A sacrifice, acceptable to God
The verse quoted above is preceded by the words: "For Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering" (v. 16). Several passages in the Old Testament show that God did not delight in sacrifices that were offered in a wrong attitude of mind. A few quotations will illustrate this. "Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15: 22). "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High" (Ps. 50: 13).
In Malachi, where the low condition of the people of God was very serious, God said plainly, "I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (Mal. 1: 10). Against this background we can remember that in Psalm 51 God says that there is sacrifice which He will accept-the contrite attitude of a broken spirit. Not only should the body of the believer be "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12: 1), but our right attitude of heart is also most precious to Him.
4) I will not despise you
The kind of attitude we are considering is one that the world despises. Those that gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus alone, perhaps here and there literally "two or three," and who humbly mourn the humiliating condition of the Christian witness, are often in the eyes of the religious world only a poor, despised testimony. But the Psalmist could say, such a "broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." And is not His approval what we should really value?
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57: 15):
God introduces Himself as the high and lofty one, whose Name is Holy. And when He says that He dwells in the high and holy place, inhabiting eternity, we can easily understand this. He is the Holy One, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Tim. 6: 16). Solomon rightly asked the question, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee" (1 Kings 8: 27). Do we not bow in worship and adoration as we go on and read of another dwelling place of God?
5) I will dwell with you
"I dwell... with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." God promises His presence and fellowship. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples: "If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14: 23). Connecting these two verses we could say that where our love to the Lord manifests itself in obedience to His Word in the right attitude of mind and heart we will experience this personal communion with the Father and the Son. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1: 3, 4).
6) I will revive
This intimate fellowship of the soul with God results in joy and revival. If God promises to revive, faith can say confidently with the Psalmist: "Thou, who hast shewn us many and sore troubles, wilt revive us again" (Ps. 71: 20. JND Trans.). "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me" (Ps. 138: 7). The means God uses to revive us is usually His Word: "I will never forget Thy precepts: for with them Thou hast quickened me" (Ps. 119: 93). This very personal encouragement in fellowship with God will further the desire in our hearts that the whole people of God may be revived, and therefore we pray, always considering our own weakness and failure, "O LORD, revive Thy work" (Hab. 3: 2).
"But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word" (Isa. 66: 2):
Here we have an added characteristic of the mind that God looks for: one that "trembleth at My word." We have already seen that the Word revives us. Yes, we may rejoice in the Word "as much as in all riches"; "as one that findeth great spoil"; "for they are the rejoicing of my heart" (Ps. 119: 14, 162, 111). But on the other hand it is the holy Word of God that speaks with authority to our hearts and consciences. Are we "trembling" at His Word, and endeavouring to order our lives according to it? Or do we try to adjust God's Word to our behaviour when we have to some degree already departed from it?
7) I will look to you
So the Lord says, if there is the broken heart and the contrite spirit acknowledging the authority of My Word, then I will look to you with divine approval. "The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry" (Ps. 34: 15).
Let us once again broaden our view from our personal situation to the collective testimony for Him and the place where He has set His Name. Even Solomon, the king, had the desire that God would look at this place: "Now, my God, let, I beseech Thee, Thine eyes be open, and let Thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place" (2 Chr. 6: 40). Let us listen to God's answer to Solomon's prayer: "Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place... and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually" (2 Chr. 7: 15-16). Not only My eyes and My ears, says the Lord, but also My heart is at this place where the saints are gathered to My Name. This is surely a thought to revive us in these last days.