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“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

WHO IS THE PERSON WHO RECEIVES GOD’S SPECIAL CARE? To those who worship self-confidence, the answer is surprising: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at God’s word.

A text very similar to Isaiah 66:2 is Psalm 34:18, where David said, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” When we hear this perspective expressed, we can’t help but think of the “Beatitudes” of Jesus in the New Testament: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3,4). While these words sound almost absurd to modern ears, the truth is still the truth. When it comes to the most important parts of life, the broken heart is not a problem; it’s a blessing. As long as sin is a reality in our lives, we will need to see it for what it is and, in godly sorrow, seek God’s forgiveness.

What we see in both the Old Testament and the New is that the door to God’s blessing is opened not by satisfaction with our lifestyles or a sense of our own fullness, but by a sense of how empty we are. If we humble ourselves before God, what we see is that in the presence of His holiness we are not wealthy; we are bankrupt. Especially in the so-called “developed” nations of the world, we need hearts that are more broken. To the self-satisfied, James put it clearly: “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:9,10).

It is true — and what a wonderful truth it is — that joy comes from God’s forgiveness (1 Peter 1:3–6). But who are the forgiven? It is those who come to God with their hearts broken (2 Corinthians 7:9,10). And we see no better illustration of this than the description of Saul of Tarsus grieving because of his new awareness of the need for God’s forgiveness. He had fasted for three days before the Lord knew he was ready to be told what he must do to have his sins washed away (Acts 9:8–19; 22:11–16). In this world, even in Christ, it will always be the penitent who are able to find true joy.

“The only things that are improved by breaking are the hearts of sinners” (Anonymous).

Gary Henry — +

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