17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:17–18, NKJV).
It is comforting to know the Lord hears the cries of the righteous in their time of trouble. Through the psalmist David, the Holy Spirit explains who the righteous are that God hears and saves. It is “those who have a broken heart…such as have a contrite spirit.” God’s deliverance from sin’s crushing weight is available to all of us (1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16). But God’s salvation from sin’s trouble is received by the person who approaches Him with a heart burst into pieces because of sin. Crushed and crumbling in spirit, this is the picture of godly sorrow that produces “repentance leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). The broken heart, the contrite spirit, no longer sees sin as desirable, alluring, exciting, and fulfilling. Convicted by its shameful disgrace against the Almighty, sin’s abhorrence and destruction are acknowledged (Ps. 51:3). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal son and realize the end of our sin is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today is the moment not to harden our hearts toward God and our sins against Him (Heb. 3:7-13). The Lord is near, wanting, willing, and waiting to save souls troubled by sin. Come to God with convicted hearts of faith, crushed in humble sorrow by sin, and obey Him. God will hear and save you (Acts 2:37-41).
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
To confess means to acknowledge, “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent…to concede” (Thayer, 446). Confessing our sins requires that we agree with God that we have transgressed His truth; we have sinned. God’s assurance of forgiveness to Christians “if we confess our sins” is bookended with “if we say that we have no sin” (v. 8) and “If we say that we have not sinned” (v. 10). We must acknowledge our sins to ourselves before we can and ever will properly confess them to God (Psa. 32:3-4). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal (Lk. 15:17). God’s word describes this process as godly sorrow producing repentance that leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). With contrite hearts, we admit our sins to ourselves, and with repentance toward God, we confess our sins to Him (Lk. 15:18-19). With such a confession of sins, we fall before the throne of grace seeking mercy, and God keeps His word to cleanse our defilement (1 Jno. 1:9; Psa. 32:5; 51:3-4, 7-12, 17). John says four things happen when we deny our sin: 1) We deceive ourselves, 2) The truth is not in us, 3) We make God a liar, and 4) His word is not in us. God is faithful to forgive us when we trust Him and confess our sins to Him.
13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
This man knew his sins and what they had done to his spiritual condition before God. He was not bold to move close to the presence of God at the temple. Standing “afar off” from the sanctuary in the court of the men, he recognized his unworthiness before God. With lowered eyes of contrition, he beat his chest in shameful sorrow for his sins. His only hope was in God. He believed God to be a merciful God, ready to forgive a sinner like him. And so he pleaded for mercy, and God heard his prayer. Jesus declared the man’s humility before God resulted in gracious exaltation. The contrast is profound between the tax collector and the Pharisee, whose self-righteous pride prevented mercy from the throne of God (Lk. 18:9-12). Both were sinners, but only the humble was justified. We must confront our sins with honest humility when we approach God for mercy. By doing so, we will find His mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16).
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.
1 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)
Men’s view of God is very often far too small and finite. The true and living God is not contained in the walls of temples made by human hands. All things were created and are sustained by His word. He is Sovereign over heaven and earth. Yet, God will give attention to every soul who acknowledges the impoverished nature of the soul and utterly depends on Him. The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:6). While billions of people turn their attention to religious temples and shrines made by human hands, God turns His attention to those who “tremble at His word.” God is not impressed by architectural feats. He is impressed by hearts and lives that reverence and obey His word. Let us be among the number who hold God in complete reverence, who tremble at His word, and willingly obey Him in all things (Matthew 7:21; Colossians 3:17).
12 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— A grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? (Joel 2:12–14, NKJV)
The southern kingdom of Judah faced the “great and very terrible” “day of the Lord” – God’s approaching judgment against her sins in the form of an invading army of locust (Joel 2:11; 1:4-7; 2:1-11). Joel’s prediction of imminent judgment is followed by this call to repent and return to God. The prospect of judgment is a reason to repent and turn back to God (Acts 17:30-31). It is not easy to repent. One must turn the heart totally back to God. To accomplish this, the heart must be crushed by the weight and gravity of its own sin: “fasting…weeping…mourning” indicates the contrite heart that is ready to change and fully turn to God. Only with a contrite heart can we “return to the Lord your God” and expect His gracious mercy to replace judgment with blessing.