I like succinct and to the point.
Take away the fluff and just give me the intended meaning. And it seems to always arrest my attention when I read something like “3 ways to better your productivity.” or “Get fit in 5 easy steps.”
Some years ago I was listening to a message on a couple of verses that have radically changed my perspective.
Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
I was struck by the fact that, though God is aware of all things, He says that He takes special interest in three things. And He does not beat around the proverbial bush – He names what they are. And so over the next few posts, we will look at what gets God’s attention. Today we will dig into the second: contriteness.
So what does it mean to be contrite?
I am not sure about your vocabulary, but I cannot tell you the last time I used the word “contrite” in a casual conversation. So what does it mean?
The dictionary definition is “caused by or showing sincere remorse; filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement; penitent.”
This particular Hebrew word is used only two other times outside the book of Isaiah. It is also employed in 2 Samuel chapters 4 and 9 when speaking about Mephibosheth, who was the son of Jonathan, the son of King Saul. If you remember, Mephibosheth was born unable to walk – he was born crippled.
When you read how this Hebrew word is used outside of Isaiah, it begins to give a glimpse about the type of response God values. Not only does God take special note of those who model humility, but God also notices those who are not always quick to defend themselves when sin is brought to the forefront.
My flesh only wants to “get big”
There have been times in my own life when I have had something pointed out and right away my flesh rises up, gets big, and wants to declare the top five reasons why I am not wrong or why I should not be blamed.
What does God notice with special interest? When my flesh is crippled or lame and rightness with God trumps me being right. In other words, I am unable to “walk forward” because my greater desire is to look more like Jesus than to continue to look more like the image that I want to portray to others.
Repentance is a gift
A quickness of repentance means I value the gift of repentance more than the gift of being right. It means that I am living out that the gospel frees me from being right and frees me to admit my brokenness.
I’ll confess…this is not easy. In fact, it is impossible unless the Holy Spirit is helping me and driving my responses.
There have been times in my marriage where my wife would point out something going on in my life that she was seeing, only to be met by all of the excuses why she was not seeing things correctly. And did that ever hurt our marriage. It drove my wife away and made her think twice before approaching me.
But over time, God has helped me to see the value of my wife taking note of those things to which I have a blind spot and just being willing to quickly repent, receive forgiveness, and move on.
Because the bigger picture is me looking more like Jesus, not me looking more like me.
To not be quick to repent means I do not want to be wrong. And in pushing more of me, I end up making me my own idol. And we all know how God responds to that.
I do not think that it is coincidence that humility is mentioned before being quick to repent. Why? Because I believe that a contriteness in my own spirit is simply an overflow of God working humility into my life. It is a by-product.
There is a reason that God takes note of a quick spirit of repentance. It illustrates our desire to be more like Jesus instead of continuing to be more like the “old us.” It speaks of dependency. It speaks of my need and Jesus meeting it.
Maybe it is time to begin living more in the freedom to which we are called. Repentance is a gift, not an obligation.